I spend a fairly significant portion of my time “talking” about writing.
When I started this blog 11 (!) years ago, I suppose I had several reasons for doing so — one of them being that, as I understood it at the time, authors had blogs. And if I wanted to be like my favorite authors someday, my best bet was to start posting on a blog. (This was 2009 and I was a little “late” to the game in many ways, but still, no regrets.)
Another reason I decided to start “talking” (writing) about writing was that I am a problem-solver, and the best way I solve problems is by writing about them. At the time, my blog didn’t serve the purpose it does now. It wasn’t “really” for other people. It very quickly became a blog other writers could benefit from, but at first, I really just posted about what I was struggling with as an aspiring writer and what I planned to do to deal with those problems.
One of the most important things I learned through my early blogging experience is also one of the most important things every aspiring writer should learn at some point: If you’re serious about “being a writer,” you actually have to spend a significant amount of time … writing.
We often talk and write about writing when we’re nervous about writing. This is something I figured out not through writing, but through my training as a vocalist in college.
I got along pretty well with my instructor — we had a lot in common, and it was easy to spend the first few minutes of each lesson casually chatting about life in general. But there was always a point where I found myself in front of my music, stomach twisting, thinking, “I want to keep talking, I don’t want to rehearse. Why is that? Aren’t I here because I like making music?”
It’s a common phenomenon for adults learning new skills in classroom and one-on-one settings to distract themselves with chatter, especially when they’re nervous about actually having to do a specific task they might not do well the first few dozen times they try it.
The same thing can happen to writers, and it often does. You decide you’re going to start a blog chronicling your journey to writerhood, but in the first six months you publish a multitude of posts about all the things you want to write without ever actually writing any of them. You’re excited. But you’re also worried you might fail. So you just keep writing about writing about writing.
I’ve posted plenty on this blog in the past about writing-related things I was hesitant or worried about. Or excited about, here and there. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, with talking about what’s on your mind related to writing. As long as you turn around and actually do something in response.
It’s easier to say what we’re going to do than it is to actually do it. I have a few friends who without fail, whenever they see or talk to me, mention a story they’re thinking about writing or “wish” they had time to write. I don’t mind this at all. knowing that people trust your experience enough to feel comfortable talking about their own ambitions in the same field isn’t a terrible feeling, I won’t lie.
But I have yet to see or hear about any of these same friends actually writing the stories they tell me they want to write. And while I don’t mind that they’re sharing their literal hopes and dreams with me — who knows, maybe it does help in some small way — it breaks my heart that they can’t get to a point where they’re able to take their ideas (they’re such good ideas!) and put them into words.
The truth is, most aspiring writers who talk a lot about what they want to write but never get around to actually write anything aren’t lazy, or lacking in skill or creativity, or anything that might imply they aren’t capable of achieving their dreams. Most people in this position are just scared.
And they have every right to be afraid! Writing is terrifying! There’s a reason I so often compare creative storytelling to parenthood. One second you feel completely in control of your life, and the next you have this thing you’re fully responsible for and that’s completely dependent on you for survival and what if you mess it up?!
But writing isn’t just scary. It’s hard. It’s work. So many people don’t expect storytelling to prove so challenging. Which is why there are so many unfinished stories started by so many hopeful people. Coming up with the idea is actually the easy part. Making Words Happen is a feat not suited for the weary.
You have to figure out what’s going to make you make words. People like me love giving writing advice. I’ll gladly give any advice I can to anyone who trusts me enough to ask (I know I’m very slow to respond to comments, and I promise, I’m working on it). But that doesn’t mean offering suggestions comes free of its own challenges.
The problem with asking for and offering writing advice is that different things work for different people. Every individual is motivated by something different. Everyone has a different process that works in terms of how they approach ideas, how they write, when they’re most productive.
This, then, creates another issue entirely. Because not only does an aspiring writer have to take full responsibility for putting their own ideas into words, but they have to also, in addition to that, put in the time and effort necessary to even figure out how to do that.
Many writers will not do that. They won’t, of their own accord, sit down and come up with a plan for how they’re going to make the time to write in-between all the other things they have to do. And even those who do aren’t always going to be able to stick to the original plan they create.
This is why writing is so challenging. It requires much more discipline than many dreamers are prepared for. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just takes a lot of work over many years to get to a point where “forcing” yourself to write is more like fulfilling your obligation to go to work every day whether you “want to” or not.
How do we bridge that gap? How do we get from “want to write more” to “writing more and not constantly struggling”? That’s the question on all our minds, isn’t it? How do you stop talking so much about what you’re going to do and actually sit down and do it?
Coming full circle, that’s what this blog has become. Helping you figure out how to Make Words Happen.
It’s time to stop talking about it and start doing it.
What are you going to start writing today? Right here? Right now?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.
5 thoughts on “Talking About Writing Isn’t a Substitute for Actually Writing”
Meg, I always appreciate stopping to read some of your posts. Being disciplined to write has been a natural progression from teacher to retiree to writer. My writing journey has added much value to my life.
Well Meg, I’m going to write a comment of course. I too spend a lot of time “talking” about writing. My brain never stops thinking it and sooner or later it filters down to the fingers. Great post. Thx for kick in butt.
Write right, or wrong, but write, and write again. Something, anything, everyday, in a place that someone, anyone, will see and read. That lays you bare before the world, even if it is a small world. It keeps you writing everyday even when you cannot be Hemingway. But he is dead, so be the only one you can be, you. You have a good story, and only you can tell it.
Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
Check out this post from the Novelty Revisions blog that reminds us Talking About Writing Isn’t a Substitute for Actually Writing