Sometimes You Have To Try It And See
Especially if you want to be a writer
“You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
I love inspiring quotes and when I came across this one it felt very relevant to writing. I meet a lot of people who are “thinking” of writing a book. It’s something they have always wanted to do, they have a lot of ideas and yet they don’t start.
Writing is actually about getting on and doing it. Most of my ideas get developed when I’m in the act of writing and rarely arrive fully formed in my mind. Once I commence work on an article, ideas bubble up and sometimes lead to the kernel of a subject for another post.
Treat your writing project as an experiment
It is the nature of creativity that we can become emotionally invested in our projects. This ups the stakes, not only in any time or money we devote, but needing our project to ‘work’ to avoid losing face or tipping us into mental decline. If a project fails, the disappointment, and any practical fallout, can knock you off course for months or even years.
However, if you see a project as an experiment, this can take the pressure off, allow you to get started and just see what happens. By definition, an experiment might not produce the desired results. If this happens it is easier to shrug it off, learn from the experience and move on.
This whole year has been about experiment for me. I discovered Substack last December and wondered if it could be the vehicle to allow me to monetise my writing expertise and encouragement. I had no idea if it could work, if I could write a weekly newsletter or if anyone would like it.
The only way to find out was by trying it and seeing what happened. In doing that I learnt about the platform, how to network with other writers and have honed my routine to produce a weekly article. I’ve also gained hundreds of new followers and developed some fabulous writer friendships.
But all that happened because I took action.
The experiment continues. Even though I launched paid subscriptions three months ago, I didn’t get as many people sign up as I wanted (a huge thank you to those of you do support Gentle Creative financially) so I still need to tweak my offering and try out new things. Maybe they will work, maybe they won’t. Maybe I’ll conclude that this will never be an effective revenue stream. But hey, it’s just an experiment, so nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Do you need to prepare before starting?
Let’s go back to the analogy of the quotation, crossing the sea. Yes, you might need the right kit and to know something about navigation. But equally, even with the best boat and all the fancy equipment money can buy, you still have to get into the water and start moving.
It is easy to start writing with just the bare bones of equipment. All you need is a pen and paper or a computer with a word-processing package. Sometimes you can get so bogged down collecting books, tools or courses that you never actually get on and write.
You can figure out what you really need by doing. It’s a bit like when you are preparing to have a baby. You are given an enormous list of stuff which you really must have but when the child arrives, you discover that you don’t use half of it.
Beware of tomorrow thinking
Yesterday I read a brilliant newsletter by Jerine Nicole who talked about the term “tomorrow thinking”. It means creating a fantasy where you are waiting for a perfect time in the future when you will start. Jerine writes her take on this and the article is worth a read: Why Are You Making Your Dreams Wait?
Perfectionism is a manifestation of fear. You can get hung up on having a perfect manuscript or it’s not worth bothering, and have nothing. Or you can have an imperfect manuscript that actually exists, you can feel proud that you did it and you can learn how to make it better.
Some tips to get started on a writing project
If you’ve always wanted to write a novel
Make a rough outline or write one of the scenes. Try plonking your characters in a weird situation and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to start at the beginning of the story. You don’t even need the killer first sentence, yet.
As you start to write, you will find that your characters start to grow on their own and you will also get ideas of what happens next.
If you’ve always wanted to start a blog or a newsletter
Create a Substack now. It’s a very easy platform to use, it’s free, the staff at Substack are helpful and you’ll be part of a very supportive community of writers. Go to Substack.com and click the Start Writing button in the top right-hand corner. It will guide you through the setup. This article is also helpful: Setting up your Substack for the first time
If you’ve always wanted to write a non-fiction book
Start brainstorming an outline. Imagine the table of contents. Write down seven major topics that your book will cover. Under each of these write three subtopics. Under each subtopic write three bullet points of potential content, case studies or a diagram you could include.
It might take a while to do this exercise completely but if you have twenty minutes spare now, you could start it. Just write the seven topics and come back later and fill them in.
This will give you a blueprint for a well-structured book.
The outline doesn’t have to be perfect and it can change as you get going. You just need to start with something.
If you’ve always wanted to write a memoir
Briefly write a description of what it is about. Then write a paragraph about the kind of person you were before the experience and write another paragraph about what you learnt because of it. This will give you a sense of theme as well as what actually happened.
Now start writing. Again, it doesn’t have to be polished. You may need to start writing to get stuff off your chest. It can be shaped later into a more coherent structure, but you can’t shape a blank page!
It’s time to get your feet wet
It's time to get your feet wet, so to speak. There could be messy, scary moments ahead and you will get things wrong.
You’ll probably need help along the way, but don’t worry because you often find the right people when you’re actually on the journey. And they will be likeminded folk to whom you can relate.
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