How to Write Even When You Don’t Think You Can

Writing a book is a choice you have to make every day.

I’m a couple of thousand words into my book, but I’m still in the discovery process. I’ve yet to uncover every piece of the setting or have gotten to truly know my characters.

This is a part of the process. I understand that. However, just because I understand doesn’t mean it’s not stressful or overwhelming at times.

The problem isn’t the difficulty of the challenge. The problem is whether or not I can handle it.

Doubt is the big bad in this situation

You can write a book. I know that for a fact. You can write a good story that draws us in. It merely takes practice.

But you don’t know if you can show up every day. You know writing a book is possible, but is it possible for you? Can you handle it? Are you talented enough? Who are you to invent a world as intricate as Harry Potter?

Our insecurities are the hardest issues that come along with writing a book.

We can handle the learning process. We can handle the challenge of creating an exciting story. But if we let them, it’s the doubts and the fears that will drag us down. They will be the reason we quit.

Writing a book is a choice you make every day

You don’t decide you’ll write a book and then spend the next months of your life writing it. It’s not that easy.

Every day, you need to choose to write. Not work on your book, and outline, and all of that, but to actually write. Then, you sit down and do it.

You’re going to put your hands on the keyboard, and the attacks on your ego and confidence will begin sooner or later.

You’ll wonder where your current problem will lead your character. You’ll ask if your scene makes sense and how it will affect the story pages down the line.

You’ll wonder and doubt and feel afraid and want to give up.

Choose to keep going.

There’s one quote you’ve probably read at least a dozen times that keeps me sane.

“Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow

This quote motivates me to continue writing. Let it slice and hurt the doubt that says you don’t know what you’re doing.

You don’t need to have all of the answers right now. Let that thought comfort you.

You need a daily writing goal you won’t skip

Photo by Burst on Unsplash

I set a goal to write 200 words of fiction every day. So, each night, even if I don’t believe I can do it, I say to myself, “200 words, Itxy. Just write 200 words.”

I write them — and the process is never as terrible as you believe.

I think it’s important that every writer, especially if you’re working on your first book, has a goal like mine.

Shaunta Grimes suggests writing for ten minutes every day. I took a different route, but this is excellent advice.

The point is to pick a small goal and do it every day. It needs to be challenging but not so intimidating that you don’t follow through.

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

When you write, focus only on what you’re writing at that moment.

Get those words out, and you will have done your job. Your demons will be there to remind you that you need more answers, but you have to quiet them.

Don’t think about what happens after those 200 words or those ten minutes. You can worry about what you’ll write tomorrow tomorrow.

Here’s another quote that will provide the same comfort your parents gave you when they held your hand as you walked into a room full of strangers.

Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t — and in fact, you shouldn’t — know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing. — Anne Lamott

If Anne Lamott says you shouldn’t worry about what your writing right now, then don’t worry.

Get your words onto the page

Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

Sometimes, I’ll reread the first draft of an article, and I’m genuinely appalled at how terrible, unclear, and disorganized my thoughts are written.

First drafts suck.

That means that the first draft of our novel will be just as shitty. If we know this, why are we trying to make our book’s first draft equal to a third draft?

Our first attempt at writing a story won’t be right; no matter how hard we try. There might be good moments and beautiful paragraphs, but in general, the first draft will be shit.

While that sounds scary, I’m learning to look at it this way: This is the first draft. It’s supposed to be bad, so have fun.

I take my book seriously because I want to a full-time writer, but I also have fun. I use cliché phrases, and my characters say stupid lines sometimes, but that’s okay. No one’s going to read the first draft.

You can erase, fix, and edit the ugly and messy parts later.

You can’t let your doubts ruin what’s supposed to be a fun experience for you. Write a little bit every day and enjoy it even when it’s tough.

If this process is grueling, and if you take it much more seriously than you should, then you’re never going to want to write a book again. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t kill the love you have for writing.

Final words

Commit to completing your first novel. You have to swear to yourself that you won’t stop writing your book when you hit a wall.

Every time doubt tries to suffocate your brain say, “Screw you. I can do this.”

Writing a book is a choice you make every day. So, choose to create. Write. And never fucking stop.

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