After organizing, emceeing and speaking at writers conferences for more than twenty years and publishing 8 books with a variety of publishers, my #1 lesson is this … IDEAS IN YOUR HEAD HELP NO ONE.
Yet many people start their projects only to abandon them because doubts creep in. Who am I to write a book? Is this any good? Will anyone want to read it?
To them, I say, writing doesn’t come from arrogance; it comes from service. Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have experiences, expertise and epiphanies that could benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep them to yourself.
Writing is an offering. It’s a way of saying “Here’s something I’ve observed or experienced; something I believe, know or think. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”
Yet, many writers start with good intentions and then life intervenes. They get busy; overwhelmed, put their creative project aside and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.
Are you waiting for more time – for the right time – to work on your creative project? Face it. You’ll never have more time than you have right now.
Aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager said, “At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.”
If you want results instead of reasons, post these quotes where you’ll see them every day. They’ll keep your intentions to get your work into the world IN SIGHT – IN MIND instead of allowing them to drift out-of-sight, out-of-mind. They can help you focus on and finish your creative projects.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Nothing works unless you do.” – Maya Angelou
When Bryce Courtenay (author of The Power of One) was asked the secret to finishing his 600+ page magnum opus, he said wo words … “Bum glue!”
“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” – Lawrence Kasdan
“Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron
“I think writers are too worried it’s all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you.” – Asha Dornfest
“If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov
“You’ve got to be a good date for the reader.” – Kurt Vonnegut
“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle
“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVries
“If you are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, you’re thinking like an amateur. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, does his work, keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield
“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin
“I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Pachett
“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker
“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer
“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes
“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein
“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle
“If you want to be certain, you should never attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett
“When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton
“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong
“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson
“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler
“When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg
“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck
“Planning to write is not writing. Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow
“I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will look for some fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso
“There’s a trick I’m going to share with you. I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it … so pay attention. Don’t begin at the beginning.” – Lawrence Block
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
“I write because I cannot fly, but words can, and when they land, worlds appear.” – Susan Zeder
“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May
“Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency.” John Kotter
“The idea is to write it so people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” – Maya Angelou
“You know you’re on the ‘write track’ when the words flow out so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.” – Sam Horn
“Writing for me is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov
“Almost everything will work better if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.” – Anne Lamott
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso
“Think left, think right, think low, think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.” – Dr. Seuss
“Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the world.” – Rumi
“No joy in the writer, no joy in the reader.” – Robert Frost
“I’m not anti-social; I’m just pro-solitude.” – Grumpy Cat
“The world is not made up of atoms; it’s made up of stories.” – Muriel Rukeyser
“Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.” – Mickey Spillane
“It take an awful lot of time to NOT write a book.” – Douglas Adams
“If you don’t like my book, write your own.” – Rita Mae Brown
It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your work out in the world.
As Paulo Coelho says, “One day you’ll wake up and there won’t be any time left to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.”
What are ideas, observations, lessons you have that deserve to be shared? What is the story you were born to tell? What is a legacy message that could inspire or add value for others? What is a creative project you want to contribute?
As Dan Poynter used to say (Dan was a visionary on behalf of self-publisnging and spoke at MWC many times), “If you wait to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
Promise to sit down today, and every day, and dedicate time to move your project forward. Even if it’s proofing a chapter, writing a paragraph or two, or fleshing out a story you want to share; something is better than nothing.
Follow Walt Whitman’s advice. “The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote, wrote. By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”
Wow, “By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”
That’s the most important epiphany from my 17 years as Executive Director of the Maui Writers Conference. Our best-selling authors (e.g, Frank McCourt, Mitch Albom, Carrie Fisher, Dave Barry, Nicholas Sparks, Susan Isaacs) didn’t agree on everything. What DID they agree on? “Ink in when you think it.”
If you want to get in that lovely state of flow where your thoughts are coming so fast your fingers can hardly keep up, jot thoughts when they’re hot. Muse ’em so you don’t lose ’em. Draft, then craft. First get it written, THEN get it right.
As someone who’s helped hundreds of people write, publish and market quality books, I promise, “You will never regret getting your work out into the world; you will only regret not getting it out there … sooner. Write on!”