“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin
How long has the idea of a book been inside you? Did you imagine years ago you’d already have your book on your shelf? Is your writing award speech written, practiced in front of a mirror? In fact, maybe you have all the little details imagined—except for, you know, the book itself.
If so, you’re not alone. It’s easier to imagine all the fun parts—the launch parties, the moment you write “The End!” on the final page, the praise from friends and family. But to get to all the benefits of writing a book, you have to get the actual book written.
If you have been putting “write a book” on New Year’s resolutions lists or ten-year plans for yourself for a while now, maybe it’s time to reframe. It’s not just that life got in the way (though it does tend to do that), and it’s not that the spark is not there. You may be missing just a few pieces to get you finally starting page one and whipping through to “the end”:
1) Get in touch with the real book that wants to be written.
If you’ve been wanting to write a book but have yet to really get into the writing, maybe it’s time to think about what you’re actually meant to be creating. Chances are, the clues are right there beside you. Are you trying to write a “serious” book when your nightstand is filled with historical fiction? Are you agonizing over literary metaphors but retreating to your secret hoard of comics at night?
No matter how much you admire a genre, it may not be the one truly calling to you. Consider your book project—the one you’ve been busy not writing. What if you wrote it as a comic book? What if you dusted off that idea you dismissed as “too juvenile” and wrote a children’s book? Look for the pieces to fit together. You want to find a project that you look forward to writing (most of the time) instead of feeling like it’s something you have to do.
Writing is a long journey. Why spend it slogging through a book that doesn’t make you happy?
2) Find a tribe.
Sex and the City. I Capture the Castle. Moulin Rouge. All of these movies—and many more—feature writers who wait for inspiration, stare moodily out the window, and write all alone, letting the world fall away as they bang away at the typewriter or computer.
It doesn’t have to work like that.
Many writers work together with editors and other writers. They have friends and build support networks to keep them accountable and to make writing enjoyable. Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Hemingway, and many other writers hung out together, supported each other. Pick up a book by your favorite author and slip to the acknowledgments page; there, in black and white, is everyone who helped along the way.
Writing need not be a solitary sport, so find a tribe or at least a coach or editor to cheer you to the finish line.
3) Slay the inner monster.
Everyone has an internal critic, who slithers up to the writer’s chair just as you sit down (finally!) to start working on your book.
“Oh, I see you’re writing,” it hisses. “You’re terrible at it. Who do you think you are? There are so many more important things you need to be doing. . .”
If you let it, the inner critic will drone on and on, like your favorite cheesy villain. There’s only one solution: Tell your critic to take a hike. You might want to repeat “I can do this,” post a positive note to yourself at your writing desk, or even get a friend to send words of encouragement to keep the hesitation at bay. Whatever it takes to shut up that insidious voice and get words on a page.
4) Realize you can have a life and write.
You don’t have to take months away from parenthood, your spouse, and your work to write a book. John Grisham was an attorney when he started writing novels on legal pads. Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor who saw patients in addition to writing stories. You, too, can have a life (and even enjoy it!) while you write.
A little organization is all you need to carve out fifteen minutes or half an hour a few times a day to dedicate to writing a book.
5) Start now.
It’s so tempting to put off writing until next New Year (when you can make it a resolution), September (when the kids go back to school), summer (when you’ll have all that time at the cottage), or even next Monday (when you will have laundered your lucky writing socks). But there’s only one time to write and that’s right now.
You’ve already been carrying this book in you so long. It’s getting restless and starting to rebel. You better grab it and start writing right now, before more time passes. Before that book leaves you and finds someone else to write it.