“Well you always throw away the first pancake.” – Reba on Malibu Country
The other night I watched a movie called A Case of You about a writer (my favorite kind of movie!) and it got me thinking about my dream of being a writer. This thought frequents my mind, but it often gets pushed to the backburner.
I have almost finished or barely started reading so many books about writing with titles like Writer with a Day Job, The Right to Write, and No Plot? No Problem! (written by the founder of NaNoWriMo), not to mention On Writing by Stephen King. To say that I am slightly obsessed with being a writer would be an understatement.
The Fear of Starting
A Case of You begins with the main character (played by Justin Long) agonizing over the first sentence of his book: starting, loathing, deleting. Some of the sentences were mediocre, others seemed really good, but they all had one thing in common: they all got deleted.
I know the feeling of attempting to start “chapter one” of some crazy idea I dreamed up in my head. What if it totally sucks and I pour all of this time into it and then it ends up being nothing? This is my ego trying to talk me out of doing something that makes me happy.
As the movie progresses, our main character is shown moving forward on his project. At one point they show him starting chapter 9 of his book on his laptop. I thought to myself, maybe it’s not so hard. If he can get to chapter 9, I probably could too. And then, once you are at chapter 9 you have practically written a book, or are at least about halfway through.
After the movie, the first thing I said was that I want to give writing fiction a try again, but I have so many ideas and I don’t know which one to start with. Then I promptly corrected myself, and was glad I expressed this fear out loud so I could realize how ridiculous it was. Because it is not that I have hundreds or even tens of ideas to choose from. I have about three.
The Awkwardness of Starting
I have been hearing more and more lately that the first draft of your first book is probably not going to be that great, and will probably have to be re-written, if not completely scrapped altogether. Although this might sound discouraging, it is going to be part of my motivation to even get started (again) and finally finish. Even if the first book is terrible, it will give me a new starting point with lessons learned on how to improve.
It is totally and completely fear that has kept me from writing, not time; a perceived lack of time has only been a convenient excuse. In Writer with a Day Job, I read about countless authors who have written books while still working full-time, one who even used to go to my old Starbucks in Memphis early in the mornings before he started work each day to work on his book (which proceeded to be published and allowed him to eventually transition to life as an author).
I think back to when I started this blog, which was not too long ago. It is all the same feelings. I fear putting my own ideas out there out of fear that they will not be good enough. I fear that I will spend a lot of time on something that goes nowhere.
The Fear & Awkwardness Subside with Time & Experience
With my blog, I reached a point where I wasn’t all that concerned about success anymore, because I finally allowed myself to accept the fact that it would take time. At the same time, I came to a place where giving up was no longer an option. After putting a few posts out there, I realized that as much as I want it to be amazing, what’s the worst that could happen if it isn’t amazing? Actually, the worst that could happen is not starting, and not finishing. The worst that could happen is not believing in yourself.
I realize that not everyone dreams of being a writer, but I also believe that everyone has a dream. Some are already living them, but they had to do something to get there. Something, and then another something, and then another. Doing something and never stopping is what authors and dream-realizers are made of. Where does that leave the rest of us?
We all have a choice. We can choose to follow our dreams, or we can choose to shy away from them. Which outcome are you most interested in pursuing?
I must end with a quote that Wayne Dyer used to conclude his book Wishes Fulfilled, which I just finished listening to while walking the other day:
“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly!”