What I Tell Writers

People occasionally ask me what my best advice is for aspiring writers. My answer is: Don’t be an aspiring writer. Be a writer! Really—go ahead, start writing. Now. Don’t dance around your dream, saying things like, “I’m thinking about writing a book” or “I’d like to write a book one day.” If you do, you will never do it, you will only ever be thinking about doing it.

And where would the literary world be if that’s all Shakespeare, Fitzgerald and Angelou ever did?

It’s okay to be afraid to start. Fears are normal. But at some point you’ve got to let go of them. Really, that’s all it takes. You just have to LET GO.

I have found it helpful to use affirmations like this one: “I let go of all my doubts and fears.” Before I started writing my first book, I used to repeat this every day, as often as I could, while also symbolically brushing the negative thoughts off my body. It was a powerful combination—thinking, plus action—and I was amazed by how quickly the doubts disappeared and made way for the courage, passion and creativity that fueled my writing.

You must also have faith in yourself and in your Higher Power if you have one. Because, think about it, if God—or the Divine Source, or The Universe, whatever you want to call it—planted the dream in your heart to write, do you really think He (It) wouldn’t equip you with everything you need to succeed?

Remember, nobody is expecting you to write the Great American Novel on the first try, so why not ease yourself into it? Start by writing one paragraph, maybe describing a place or a character’s physical qualities, anything to get you in the groove of writing. Or, write a scene: A couple sits across from one another in a diner booth and discusses…what? Make it up.

You may need to do these exercises over and over again until a novel or short story idea germinates. But that’s okay. I had many false starts before my novel came together. I had a whole other set of characters, and a murder plot, that just never took off, so I had to dump them. And it took me seven years to finish my book when I finally came up with an idea. There were many writes and rewrites before I finally felt ready to show it to the world.

That was okay. It’s all part of the process. A process you just have to trust.

If the doubts come up—and they will!—just send them on their way. Just let go of that nonsense. And do not give up. If writing is your dream, go after it. Be brave. Be fearless. You deserve it. You can do it.

Are you hoping to write a book someday? What’s holding you back? How do you use to keep doubts and fears at bay?

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