Posted by Wendy Aron on April 2nd, 2009
Image courtesy of BingBing
Whenever I tell a new person I’ve met that I’ve recently had a memoir published, the response is, invariably, “You wouldn’t believe my story. I should write a book, too.” And my response to them is, invariably, “Then, why don’t you?”
The gap between having the desire to write a book and actually sitting down to write one is quite large, but with some effort, it can be bridged.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is actually stopping you from sitting down at the computer. Most people procrastinate because of fear of failure. If you never do anything then no one can say that you did it poorly. Most procrastinators are their own worst critics. Putting off doing something that they have always wanted to do is their way of avoiding their own perfectionism and convincing themselves that they could have excelled if only they had the (fill in the blank) to write.
When it comes to writing, the first thing you have to do to stop procrastinating is to challenge the assumption that what you write needs to be perfect. Even bestselling and award-winning authors are never satisfied with the first drafts of their manuscripts. A professional author can write multiple versions of his or her book before ever letting anyone read it. The best way to approach this is to just sit down and spit out whatever comes into your mind. There’s time for analyzing and revising later, and you can do it as much as you want before ever sending your baby out to be critiqued. The important thing is to just get your ideas down on paper or on the screen.
If you’ve decided to write fiction, chances are you’ll need to do some research, and you can motivate yourself to begin the project by going to the library to do some investigation. There’s nothing like learning about a new world for stimulating the imagination. Make the project fun by going to the library with a friend or family member who is also doing research for their own undertaking. And share what you have learned with others who can give you ideas and suggestions for making your work stronger and more appealing.
Another helpful approach is to break your manuscript down into manageable chunks, rather than putting yourself under pressure to write an entire book. Divide your manuscript into chapters and set yourself short term goals for completing them. Writing a book becomes much less daunting when you approach it incrementally. Perhaps you can start by writing an outline or basic synopsis of your plot. That way, you’ll have a road map to guide you as you write.
Finding the Time To Write
Many people say they can’t write their manuscript because they have other obligations and just can’t find the time. I remember reading once that when John Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, he was still working as a lawyer and wrote one page a night for a year until he had finished his book. The point is, if you really want to write, you can find the time. If you’ve got a family, you can talk to them about giving you a certain period each day when you cannot be disturbed. A supportive family will understand.
Many people also believe that they need the optimal conditions in which to work, and that absent these conditions, they just can’t produce. This is another faulty assumption. No less an author than the late Pulitzer-Prize winning John Kennedy Toole wrote his book, A Confederacy of Dunces, in his bedroom in longhand on a legal pad. You do not have to be in the perfect surroundings to write a book. And if you do have a favorite place to write, there’s no reason you can’t make yourself as comfortable as possible by arranging your workspace to please yourself.
Final Thoughts on Writing a Book
Don’t get me wrong; writing a book is no easy proposition. In fact, I once read on a publishing Web site that for every thousand people who aspire to write a book, one of them actually does it. But just think how great you’ll feel about yourself once you have a completed manuscript. You can be that one person, so start writing now!