In October, you were busy plotting your novel, or—if you’re like me—pinning motivational quotes on your Pinterest boards. Now it’s almost November, and the plot that seemed perfect a month ago reminds you of Harry Potter or Star Wars, and those motivational quotes aren’t as motivating as you thought.
It’s the 11th hour, and Doubt is paying you a visit. Giving Doubt a name is helpful. I call my unwelcome friend Ozzy because he sounds suspiciously like Ozzy Osbourne from one of my favorite bands, Black Sabbath. Whatever you call him, Doubt’s endgame is always the same: to keep you from writing. There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t write this book, right? Here are a few of the things Doubt whispers in your ear:
You’re too busy. You have a job, or kids, or a spouse, or a pet, or a pint of chocolate ice cream waiting for you. How can you possibly find time to write? So what if Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a typewriter during his lunch breaks?
Your idea sucks. Now that you’ve read over your idea a few times, it’s clear that your idea is worthless—and there is no way to fix it. Real authors come up with ideas that are completely formed from inception, and they never outline or rework an idea, or call a friend sobbing because they think their plot isn’t salvageable.
Your muse is MIA. Everyone knows that when real writers sit down in front of their computers, the words just pour out. Real writers have muses who whisper ideas to them in their dreams and solve their writing problems. There are, of course, a limited number of these muses—and to date, they’ve all been assigned to other writers who are not you.
You aren’t qualified to be a writer. You don’t have an MFA in Creative Writing; maybe you don’t even have a degree, which everyone knows is a requirement for successful writers. Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, and William Faulkner are the only exceptions to the rule. Or maybe you have an MFA, but now that it’s time to start writing, you don’t know how you earned that degree in the first place.
Here’s the truth, from me to you:
Most writers are “too busy” to write. We have spouses, or children, or dogs, or cats, or gremlins we’re responsible for. Some writers even have another full-time job that (gasp) has nothing to do with writing. Yet, they still write. Instead of finding the time to write, you make the time to write.
As far as having a plot that sucks, welcome to the first draft of every idea I’ve ever had. If you don’t believe me, ask one of my writer friends; most of them have endured at least one of my sobbing phone calls, during which I insist that my book is broken beyond repair.
And the muse? I have no idea who has one, but if anyone does, I’d like to know so I can stage a kidnapping.
While it’s wonderful to have an MFA, you don’t need one to be a writer. At the end of the day, the only thing you need to be a writer is an idea and a pen. Your job is to write the best song, poem, story, or book you can.
Here’s the million-dollar question: how are you going to write this book if you’re afraid to start writing? Give your friend Doubt a name, and then block his calls.
I’m not a fast writer. I type with three fingers, and there’s a video on YouTube to prove it. The way I finish my novels is one word at a time. Don’t focus on 50,000 words or 30 days. Just write one word at a time, and focus on hitting your word-count goal one day at a time.
So start writing your novel. I’m waiting to read it, and I’m rooting for you.