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The thing that pushed me over the edge and convinced me to purchase my first violin wasn’t an expected catalyst.
No one talked me into it. Watching and listening to violinists didn’t convince me. Nope — it was the fact that I started writing violin music in my head (because that’s totally normal …) and couldn’t do a single thing about it. The only way to write violin music — to get it out of my head and onto paper, so to speak — was to learn to play the instrument first.
As you can imagine, playing the violin is much harder than humming snippets of melodies into a voice recording app on your phone. When I first started learning — practicing at least five days a week to keep myself motivated — I knew it would be hard. I actually didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it was, and still is.
There’s a reason we tend to struggle so much with shifting from the idea stage of a project to the execution stage. When it comes to writing, idea generation is sometimes, seemingly, effortless. Stories and plot points and characters sometimes just appear out of nowhere.
But if you’re going to put any of your ideas into words, you actually have to figure out how to act on those ideas. You actually have to … write.
And for some reason, that seems to be the toughest part of it all.
Is writing supposed to ‘feel’ like work? When you hear other writers talk about their writing experiences or even just read books written by people you admire, it’s extremely easy to assume writing will “never feel like work.” Especially with all those “experts” always talking about how you “no longer have to work” when you’re finally doing something you love.
Writing is absolutely worth the time and effort if you’re truly passionate about it. But it does still take time and effort. It’s still work, or at the very least, it feels like it. Yes, writing can be fun and rewarding and you should do it if it’s what you want to do. But it’s not going to be easy and effortless. That’s not how creativity works.
The reason so many writers never get past the “idea stage” is because they too readily assume putting an idea into words is never going to pose any sort of challenge. It absolutely will. and that’s a good thing.
Why are ideas easy and exciting until you actually have to write them? Because writing is hard! Writing doesn’t come easily to everyone, especially in the beginning. It takes years to build up your skills and refine your craft, and I’m not exaggerating about that. Writing involves constant work if you’re going to improve over time. The question is this: Are you ready for that kind of commitment?
Of course you are — you wouldn’t be reading this post right now if you weren’t, probably. But it really is a commitment. You can do it, if you’re really set on making it happen. Just know that it’s going to be challenging, and you’re going to have to step up to that challenge every (small) step of the way.
Let your ideas come to you in waves. Don’t be shy. Don’t be picky. But do be smart about how much you try to take on at once. Try to limit yourself to trying one thing (story, project, etc.) at a time. Take things slow. Give yourself time to figure things out. This is possible. It’s just going to take a lot to get from start to finish.
The key to achieving your writing goals is to set small and simple goals. Beginning aspiring writers often make the mistake of setting their writing goals too high. Let’s be clear — it’s OK to have grand ambitions. You are absolutely allowed to dream of all the things you want to publish and accomplish. Go for it — dream big. The limit does not exist.
But the same way I couldn’t even play Mary Had a Little Lamb on my violin right out of the case — let alone a full composition or something of my own creation — you can’t sit down to write for the very first time and immediately write, for example, a bestselling novel.
Not because you won’t eventually be capable of doing that, but because you’re learning. The best way to learn is to start small and work your way up to the bigger accomplishments you want to reach for.
You have to start small. Like setting a goal to write every weekday for the first few months, or trying out a short story. Taking a writing class. Reading a book about writing. Eventually you’ll be able to do all the things you want to do with your words. But you also have to give yourself room to work your way up to where you one day hope to be.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
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.