If you write, it will come

Posted: 19 February, 2012 in motivation, writing

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. — Carol Burnett

I’ve had such a productive writing week thanks to hitting a goal I haven’t been able to reach for years.

I’ve been writing (on and off) a book for years that started as a hobby but has only recently become a serious attempt at writing.  It isn’t a book I can see ever being published but it is a project I would love to see completed. For years I put off even starting this book, even though the idea behind it hit me over a decade ago. I delayed because I had a middle and an ending but I had no idea how the story would begin.   I finally acted on some advice from experienced writers who suggested I start writing anyway, even if it wasn’t at the beginning.  So I started at chapter 2 (which will now be chapter 3) and kept on writing.

This week, I had a breakthrough. My perfect first chapter materialised.  I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t believe it.  I have written about 15 first chapters over the past decade trying to get it right and I believe the only reason it finally came to me was because I didn’t give up and kept on writing, regardless of how little I had to work with.  I’m also grateful for some well-timed advice from a participant in a recent writers’ workshop.  She reminded me how important it is to write and have my characters doing something to see where my story would go.  She said: “How do you know what your characters are capable of until you have them on paper doing something?”  I have read about notable writers who found themselves losing their story’s original direction because their characters started taking on a life of their own. I’ve never really understood what that meant until this week.  The more time my characters spend in my head, the less likely they are to ever come to life. They remain limited in what they are able to do. I have to put them on paper, give them a life, and give them a challenge to see what happens.  It’s only once I brought these characters to life that I was able to see where my story was going, or in this case, how it all started.

I’ve always struggled with this aspect of story writing, even at school. When we were asked to write a short story as part of our exams, my paper would still be blank after 40 minutes because I thought I had to get the whole story worked out in my head before committing anything to paper.  This is one of my biggest faults as a writer. The truth is, if you write, it will come. “It” may be a beginning, a character’s name, an ending, a twist, or a special insight that makes a real difference to your story.  But the only way this works is if you’re writing in the first place.

It feels so good to finally get rewarded for my perseverance. Even if it was 10 years down the track.


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