There are a lot of people who want to be writers. They call themselves writers. They walk around with heads full of ideas and hearts full of hopes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be something, and everyone deserves to dream big.
But far too many of these dreams die. Too many writers want to write but don’t, start writing but don’t continue, try to get published but fail. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you want to stand among your favorite authors and say you’ve written something worth sharing, but every time you sit down to make words happen, they just don’t.
Let me start by saying there is nothing “wrong” with you. Every writer has their roadblocks, and yours just happens to be that you, for whatever reason, can’t write.
To be clear, the reason you can’t write has nothing to do with the fact that you:
- Have never written before/Haven’t written in a long time
- Don’t know what to write about
- Don’t have any good ideas
- Don’t have any ideas at all.
Not knowing how to write or what to write about is an excuse, not a reason. And you DO have ideas — you just don’t think they are worth sharing.
So if these aren’t the reasons beginning writers don’t succeed, what are?
They either never actually start writing anything at all or they start but never finish. And there are many, many possible reasons for this. Every single one boils down to a few truths many “wannabe” writers don’t really want to hear, though. Such as:
- Channeling all their self-worth into their success or lack thereof
- Caring too much about what other people [may or may not] think
- Being unwilling to do the work required to achieve writing success
- Expecting instant gratification when that’s not how publishing works
- Comparing themselves/their work/their process to writers who are already successful.
All of these things — and more — often lead to feelings of disappointment, discouragement, guilt, frustration, fear, anger, hate … and we all know that all leads to the dark side.
Seriously though, most writers who are just starting out don’t know how to separate themselves from their work. As in, when their work doesn’t take off, it affects how they feel about themselves, and only when their work does well do they feel good about themselves.
To some extent, we all feel disappointed when we don’t succeed and celebrate when we do. But there’s a major difference between reacting negatively in the moment and letting one negative event change the course of your future as a writer (and not for the better).
New writers don’t know how to ignore excuses, dissolve doubts, or run headfirst into projects or opportunities that scare them. It’s possible they have never had to do these things before in other areas of their lives. So when faced with challenges, they struggle.
But the reason many writers succeed anyway is because they don’t turn away from the challenges they are faced with. They accept the high probability that they will fail the first, second, tenth, thirtieth time they try, because there is always a small probability they might succeed. Or learn something. Or, you know, get better at writing, because you can’t do that if you don’t write.
The number-one most important thing a new writer can do is write. It does not have to be good or “original” or publish-ready. It doesn’t even have to make sense or be grammatically correct or free of spelling errors. When you are first starting out as a writer, the only thing you need to worry about is that you are making an attempt to write something.
This is, after all, how all writers begin their journeys. They write. They write terribly until their writing becomes less terrible. They follow the plots and formats of stories they know and adore until they figure out how to craft their own. They do things wrong until they learn, by doing, how to do them right. They make mistakes. They question the quality of their work, the worth of their ideas. Their sanity.
But they just keep writing anyway, until the voices screaming “DON’T DO IT” get quieter and they realize that nothing makes them feel more fulfilled or whole than writing, regardless of how good or not good it may be.
Too many beginners quit before they get the hang of it.
Don’t be one of them.
Write. That’s the most anyone expects of you right now. Just do it. Tell your stories, learn as you go, and hope for the best, eventually.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.