Writing can be lonely and filled with many challenges. How to get started? What to do when the words just won’t come? How to motivate yourself and clear your head of self-doubt? When you are in those moments, turn to the authors who have been there and have the best advice to offer.
Getting words on paper (or screen) can be one of the biggest challenges. The discipline comes from just getting it done—sit and write. Get out that story word by word, sentence by sentence, and eventually that will turn into a chapter, and later, an entire book. Here are some wise words on getting that first draft out:
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”. Jodi Picoult
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Margaret Atwood
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Anne Lamott
“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” Barbara Kingsolver
Another way to keep momentum is to think about why you want to write in the first place. After all, there are many other easier ways to make a living or lighter hobbies to pursue. Most authors write because they just can’t imagine not writing, but they don’t always love the process.
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” George Orwell
“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” Roald Dahl
“It fulfills me. There are two things about it I like: it makes me happy, and it makes other people happy.” Stephen King
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” Gloria Steinem
When the words just won’t come and the feeling of being stuck is all encompassing, one of the best things any writer can do is read. Deconstruct some of your favourite books and learn from the masters or simply read for pleasure.
“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” William Faulkner
“I always kept two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” Robert Louis Stevenson
“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” Annie Proulx
Writing is not easy. A writer reveals some of their innermost thoughts and puts them out there for the world to judge. It takes discipline and it can be a slow and solitary process. The most successful writers make it appear easy but it’s sometimes comforting to realize that they struggle too, and they manage to get through their challenges to create beautiful and important books.
In the future, we’ll look at some of the best quotes from writers on editing and handling rejection. In the meantime, if you find yourself stuck, consider our Manuscript Accelerator workshop to help get your project started.