Don’t wait for all your ducks to be in a row before you start ticking off the items on your bucket list, because the time is now! And there has never been a better time.
How many years have you been saying,
- One day I’ll write my story
- Maybe I should write that poem?
- I’d love to write a book but I don’t know where to start
Most of us have that little spark in the back of our subconscious mind that floats to the surface enough times to be annoying. And most of us keep suppressing it because we lack the confidence to start.
I should know… I’ve wanted to write a book since I was about eight years old. I wrote lots of essays, and even won prizes for them back in the Fifties, but somehow that optimism didn’t carry through to adulthood.
So What Went Wrong?
I was afraid of snakes when I was young, but I wasn’t afraid to write.
When I picked up a pen and held it over a blank page, words came tumbling out and effortlessly filled the page.
I imagine every child in Primary (Elementary) School had the ’what did you do in the holidays?’ stimulus thrust at them on the first day of a new term. Now that was a hard topic for a kid growing up on twenty acres in a semi-rural area.
Where did I go in the holidays? Church on Sunday.
What did I do in the holidays? Same as every other day.
There wasn’t much to write about, but somehow I could turn the mundane into some kind of readable adventure.
Then College happened.
The marking protocol lost the warm and fuzzy feel of my Primary School teacher, gently pointing out ways to improve. The pressure was on to research every thought; reference every quote, and paraphrased idea; write technical jargon that only an academic would understand. My ability to write creatively about a given topic disappeared into a ‘grade-point’ score, where my future career hung on every word.
My teaching career didn’t provide much yield from the rigours of college writing. Reports had to be concise and factual accounts – although some poetic license could be pursued in the comments section of a child’s report: “Johnny has a unique way of solving problems” (read: Johnny is the class-clown).
I had to re-learn creativity when I retired from teaching a few years ago. I’m not there yet, but I am making progress.
After all those years of being told what to write, I now find myself saying “I don’t know what to write about…”.
It’s kind of like coming up with fresh ideas of what to cook for dinner.
I can remember driving home after a long day of teaching when my family was young. My mind would rehash the day for the first part of the drive, but then snapped back into the present with “Oh Heck!, what will I cook for dinner tonight?”. The hardest part of parenting was coming up with interesting ideas for meals. And I hated cooking, which didn’t help at all.
So coming up with ideas of what to write about is a bit like the cooking-dinner routine. If someone had told me what to cook, the battle would be won before it even started.
Writing is the same. Give me a topic and I’ll happily pound the keyboard for hours, producing something reasonably readable at the end.
Are there Sign Posts along the way?
If you are like me and need a road map for writing, there are lots of options available.
If you have a website and blog, the Ultimate Blog Challenge is a great way to hone your writing skills and boost your website at the same time. And you’ll meet a whole lot of new friends from across the globe in the process. You will be inspired and guided by the writing of others on the Challenge, because part of the deal is to comment on other people’s blogs as well as writing your own. And the feedback from others is invaluable.
Start from where you are at…
You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare to get online and share your writing. Writers from all levels of experience and expertise share their words in order to improve their skill. And by reading the work of others, we can refine our own techniques.
One of the online forums I used when I started my blog was ‘A Word a Day’ forum. Each day we would be given a word or phrase, and our blog for that day had to include that word/words.
There are thousands of online sites that will supply a daily stimulus for writers, but you can just as easily make your own.
- Put words and/or phrases in a jar and select one each day to write about
- Use photos from your collection – choose a different one each day and tell the story
- Ask a friend to send/give you a topic each day
- Select a time from your childhood and write a short memoir – it could be: starting school; meeting your best friend; dating in high school; sibling rivalry; etc.
- Select a photo or image from Pixabay (copyright free) and make up a story about it
The time is now…
It sounds daunting but it is much easier than you think. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
An athlete starts out as a novice, and becomes a professional after hours, or years, of practice. Writing is no different, so don’t beat yourself up over those awkward early attempts.
I cringe when I re-read my early writing attempts, but I treasure them as the yardstick to measure how far I have progressed. And then I read someone else’s writing and realise I still have a long way to go.
My writing muscles are getting stronger with practice, and so will yours.
But it won’t happen unless you start.
So don’t put it off for another day. The time is now, and there has never been a better time.