The start of a new year is a good time to finally commit the time and energy to write a book. But first, ask yourself one important question to find out if you really have what it takes to be a writer.
When people ask what I do and I say I’m a book editor, they tell me they’d love to write a book some day, once the kids are grown up, when they have more time, or if only they were good enough. Some people have already given up trying. They say, “I suppose if I really wanted to write, I’d have done it by now.”
But that’s just another excuse. That argument assumes we all fall naturally into what we want to do, when in fact it’s much more natural to find an excuse not to do it.
We all makes excuses. It’s a part of what we do. And the first step to making a commitment to finally writing a book is to recognize the excuses and to stop them getting in the way of your dreams.
Writing is an adventure
Inventing excuses is your mind’s way of protecting you, from keeping you from taking risks or using up too much precious energy. In evolutionary terms, that makes sense, but the excuses your mind invents can also keep you from enjoying some of life’s greatest adventures, of which writing a book is surely one.
Writing a book can be a hugely rewarding experience full of discovery (of your characters and yourself), creativity, and imagination. You can someday experience the thrill of seeing your name in print, and it can even – if you’re talented, hard-working, and can find a touch of luck – lead to fame and fortune.
In fact, many people are inspired to write by their well-known authors, those who have already made the journey. The life of a published author is an appealing one to many people. Many see it as days of daydreaming in a picturesque cottage, dressed in pajamas, intermittently hammering out perfect prose when the muse strikes.
In other words, many people like the idea of being an author, but they might not like the reality of that life.
Writing a novel takes a lot of time, and that’s time you could be using to pursue other things that are important in your life: looking after your family, taking care of your relationships, working to pay off the mortgage, striving to get that next promotion.
Some of those excuses might be legitimate reasons why you can’t write. Writing takes commitment as you need to sit down and write regularly, even when you don’t feel like it. You will suffer rejection and even harsh criticism from strangers and possibly even friends and family too.
Test your commitment to writing
How can you tell if you are someone who loves the idea of being an author with someone who really wants to be an author? How can you spot the difference between an excuse and a legitimate reason? There is one simple question that can help.
Whatever your dream, there is one question you should ask yourself before committing to it. For potential authors, it’s the one question that will find out if you really have what it takes to write a book. Answering this one question honestly will help you determine whether you genuinely want to be a writer or if you simply enjoy the idea of being a writer.
Instead of asking if you want to be a writer, to which it is easy to answer yes, a better question to ask is: Are you prepared to suffer?
Writing has many benefits, and as much as the idea of a tortured author might be clichéd, there are definite drawbacks too.
You will have to sacrifice precious time with your family and friends to write a book that maybe no one will ever want to read. And if anyone does read it, they might hate it and tell you so and tell you that you cannot write, that this goal you’ve been pursuing for months, maybe even years, has been pure fantasy.
You will have to commit to writing regularly, ideally every day, including your birthday, your children’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s and any other hungover, flu-filled, team-in-the-finals or just a regular can’t-be-bothered day. If you balk at the thought of having to write on any of those days, then maybe you don’t really want to be a writer.
As George Orwell said, “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.”
If writing is what you really want to do and you’re prepared to go through that struggle, then now is the time to make that commitment to write, and if you really are prepared to suffer, it will be so much easier to keep that commitment.
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