Lately, several people have told me they want to write. They want to take a class or something before they can actually begin. Bless their hearts.
“Don’t wait!” is my advice. I put off writing for decades because I thought you HAVE to outline before you write. Sure, if that floats your boat, go ahead. Outline.
When I threw that idea away is when I began to write.
Classes are great. Learning how to construct a plot or a succinct and powerful sentence is an accomplishment and you have to learn to do it at some point. Same with comma placement and when to use a semicolon. You’re going need to use all those skills eventually. And a bunch more you thought you had or never even heard of.
But what classes can’t help you get over is your fear of putting yourself on the page. There is an inner barrier to cross. It pops up when you think you want to be writing and instead go do some other task that needs or doesn’t need to be done right at this minute. When you finally sit and stare at a blank page and the thoughts tumble in your head, but your fingers on the keys or holding the pen freeze. The words don’t flow like a dream, like you desperately need them to.
Your fear is in the way.
Fear of feeling feelings you’d rather forget.
Fear of writing shit.
Fear you can’t say things eloquently.
Fear your thoughts won’t form into coherent statements.
Fear someone else will read what you wrote and won’t get it. Or even worse, laugh.
Even fear you might actually be good at it.
It’s time to get over yourself. As a writer, you can’t take yourself too seriously. On the other hand, you have to take yourself seriously.
I took a fiction writing class in college. I’m not sure I learned anything from the actual class. But I did learn about that barrier that kept me from the world I was trying to create. I was afraid to live in that world. Maybe I was afraid of what I would find or that I would love it so much I wouldn’t want to leave it. (Yeah, I’ve been to both those places since I started writing. Several times.) I never got very far with the story and it was a good 40 years before I attempted to write anything again.
So, if you have the desire to write but haven’t been able to bet started, here’s my advice: Put your ass in a chair, activate the implement of your choice and put down words.
Goo goo gaa gaa. It might come out as baby talk. When you were a baby, you learned speech by making noise with your mouth. You listened to the noises other humans made. You learned to control the sounds and mimic what you heard. You learned the sounds had meanings and using them had consequences like getting what you wanted. Then you learned how to string the sounds together to express your ideas. And a few years later you learned the symbols to put the sounds on paper.
And here you are. You found your voice as a baby by using it. You’ll find your voice as a writer by writing.
Don’t wait. Sure, take a class. Wash your windows and iron your sheets.
Just write something first.