“I’ll write it when I’m ready.”
We’ve all said this to ourselves too many times.
When you’re ready, you say, you’ll take the leap. The chance. The risk. But then you stumble upon a new problem: How do you know when you’re ready?
The answer is that you don’t. And that’s the real problem we’re dissecting here.
The truth is, if you wait until you feel ready to do something big, you might wake up one day and realize you’ve waited your whole life for a feeling that was never going to arrive.
The year 2020 is bound to go down in history as one to remember … and it’s not even technically halfway over yet.
I know, I know. You don’t come here to read about “that stuff.”
But keep in mind that writers are very often incapable of passively experiencing the world. We can’t help but absorb the things going on around us because, whether we realize it or not, we pour it all back out into our stories. It’s how we navigate the world. It’s how we survive.
So I’m not going to keep this blog going pretending there’s not a pandemic, pretending that people all over the world aren’t watching the Black Lives Matter movement progress in ways it — unfortunately — never has until this moment.
If you’re feeling drained and can’t figure out why, it’s because you’re a writer and you’re a sponge and you’re taking everything and Y’ALL IT’S A LOT. It’s a lot for a lot of people.
We’re all experiencing a lot right now, one way or another. As a writer, you may find yourself in a situation you’ve never been in before — unable to write even though you want to, not feeling like words, your lifeline, could possibly ever be enough to express how you’re feeling at the moment.
You may even find yourself mostly at peace with your decision not to write … right now, anyway. Which is very, very unlike you.
And still, you might be thinking to yourself: “Will I ever be able to write about this — even if only so I don’t one day forget what I’m seeing and feeling and doing?”
“I’m just not ready yet,” you decide. “It’s not the right time.”
And yes, that may be true from a mental health standpoint for many of us. It’s OK not to write right now, if you need to process what’s happening in a different way.
But know that there is never a “right time.” Life is unpredictable. If you need to write something, write it. It doesn’t have to be good. You don’t have to share it with the world. You can write it, even if you don’t “feel” ready.
Sometimes that “I’m not ready” feeling is born purely out of fear. You know you want to write about the trauma you experienced at a pivotal point in your life, but you’re scared to do it. “I’m not ready” is just another excuse, one that tries well to disguise itself as otherwise.
Write it. Even if you don’t feel ready. Why? Because doing it will erase the fear, the doubt, the uncertainty, and replace it with raw emotion. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, positive or negative, but emotion all the same.
And that, fellow writers, fellow humans, is how words heal. Not by simply writing them, but by feeling them.
Feelings are so much more overwhelming than we always expect them to be. They’re just feelings, after all! But we don’t just feel with our brains. We feel with our entire physical bodies. Feeling takes way more out of you on a daily basis than you might even realize.
But it’s so, so important to feel, not just as a reader but as a storyteller. Because that’s how we understand. It’s how we understand what the world is like for other people. It’s how we understand our place in a particular fight for justice. It’s how we, in some cases, understand that we will never truly understand.
If telling stories is how you cope, then don’t hold yourself back. Don’t wait.
It’s never “too soon.” Because you are allowed to write something and put it on a thumb drive and never look at it again, if that’s what you need to do. It’s never too soon to do what you need to do to process and compartmentalize something.
Don’t wait until you “feel” ready. You never will.
Write that story you aren’t ready to tell. Chances are, it won’t be as difficult or scary as you thought.
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.