One of the nicest things about my career change from HR to writing is that these days, when I tell people what I do, their eyes will sometimes mist over and they’ll tell me that they’ve always harboured dreams of becoming a writer, too.
(When I was in HR, nobody ever used to tell me that they’d always harboured dreams of preparing a lacklustre pile of P11Ds, or listening to Chris in Finance complain about his colleague’s bad breath. It’s a step up, trust me).
These people will tend to continue that they’ve been thinking for ages about starting a blog, or writing a book, but they just can’t find the time to get started. Then their eyes will gleam with faraway romance as they imagine the accolades they’d almost certainly win, once they’d got all those wonderful ideas coherently down on the page.
If this is you (it used to be me), you’re going to have to find that time if you want to make your writing dreams any kind of reality – accolades or none.
Not only that, you’re going to have to keep on finding that time, and then you’re going to have to deal with quite a lot of frustration and disappointment over things that nobody ever asked you to write in the first place. The actual process of writing is often hard, always anti-social and occasionally downright boring. To be honest, it isn’t for the faint-hearted.
If you’re still with me, and you’re still determined to get those things written, here’s how you can get started!
Keep showing up
The first rule of Write Club (sorry) is: if you’re a member, you have to keep turning up. What this means is that you’ll need to create a writing schedule, and then you’ll have to stick to it.
Be specific about what you actually want to write – whether it’s a blog with one new post every month, an article about growing tomatoes, or a book about self-confidence in business - and then decide when you’d like to have it finished by.
Schedule your time accordingly, but make sure you can stick to it. Planning for half an hour every other day doesn’t sound like much, but if you can confidently squeeze that in and stick to it, you will be amazed at how much you’ll have managed to do by the end of week one. Even if it’s not very good. Which brings me on to…
Deal with being a bit rubbish
When you start writing, don’t be afraid of not being very good. Not being very good, knowing you’re not very good, and then being open to getting better is how you actually get better.
I joined feedback groups when I started writing, and I’d recommend it to anyone. You’ll hear comments and critiques about your work that will infuriate you; so little did these tedious people really understand it.
Later on, when you’re consoling yourself with your drink of choice, you’ll get a niggling feeling that there might have been something in those comments, after all. Trust that feeling, and use it to make yourself that bit better next time.
Create the right environment
Not all writers are introverts. You just need to know what sort of environment suits you best. If you thrive on a Russ Abbot-style ‘atmosphere’, all buzzy and talky, go to a coffee shop or co-working space to write. If you need silence and solitude, find that instead.
Stick with a few experts
There are far too many blogs, online articles and books about writing (yes, I’m aware of the irony). Don’t fall into the trap of reading about writing, but never actually doing any.
Choose a few writing experts whose styles you like, catch up with their insights every now and again, and then get on with your writing.
Get used to trapping ideas
You probably overhear countless conversations every day. You’ll have a million and one thoughts pass through your brain every few hours. Some of these will be worth writing about. You’ll know which ones these are, because they’ll announce themselves with a tiny little spark that will light up the inside of your mind for a split second.
When that happens, write that thought down. If you don’t, you will forget. There’s a reason all the great scribblers carried notebooks around with them.
Don’t do it if you don’t love it
If you don’t love writing, you’re probably far better at other things. Go and do those, and leave your book or article in the safe hands of someone like me instead. Because I do love writing, and I’m willing to sacrifice my time, energy and sanity in the name of it, every single day.
Can I help you take a lengthy writing project off your weary hands? If so, let’s talk.