“Oh, I’ve thought about writing a book too. It seems easy enough.”
I’m not sure I can sum up the fury that this response garnered when I told someone that I write and self-publish. Over the last six months I have been opening up to people a little about my erotica writing and my slowly growing library of dirty books. Sometimes I tell people I write, other times I tell them what I write about. If people do ask what my books are about, I can certainly recommend responding with ‘porn’ as a one word answer. Try it sometime, the looks you’ll receive are some of the funniest I’ve ever seen. It also has the advantage of telling me who I’m likely to get on with depending on their response.
However, what has been amazing has been the number of people who respond with a statement along the lines of the one above. There’s certainly a lot of people out there who like the idea of writing and may even have sat down to write a few thousand words or two on a subject and certainly, at points in my life, that would have been me too. The difference is though, is not quitting. If you were to take a look through my ideas book, you would find thousands of lost, unfinished stories that will never see a conclusion. Certainly, a writer is someone who ideas just fall out of and I have taken to keeping such an ideas book with me at all times just in case some awesome idea assails me and I don’t want to forget it.
The reason the above statement angers me so much though is how dismissive it is to writing and writers in general as if writing is something that any idiot can do. I certainly know a few professional actors who feel the same way. Writing takes dedication and skill that is acquired through years of practice with plenty of bashes to one’s ego along the way. However, as I said before, the key is not quitting and I think that’s true for a lot of passions.
Which is why the simplest and best piece of writing advice I’ve ever read comes from William Goldman, the author of ‘The Princess Bride’, one of my favourite books and films. In one of his many essays on writing, he stated plainly, “Write the damn thing.” It’s advice I freely give to anyone who asks how to get into writing. The reason I feel it’s such good advice is because the act of putting those words down onto paper marks a dividing line between a writer and a dreamer. Until those words are sat in print (either physically or electronically) all you have are ideas in your head and, without wanting to be too harsh, pretty much everyone has those. The act of writing, of turning those ideas into a reality is where the magic happens and is also where I feel a lot of potential writers fall down. I’ve written some amazing films in my head but unless I take the time to write the script, I’m just daydreaming.
It’s harsh advice and one that I dispense to others with love. I still believe that writing is such a passionate, beautiful pastime that I wish more people did it. As much as the opening response annoys me, I wish more people did try and write a complete book or even a story. Perhaps more people would come to appreciate the craft and maybe even we’d discover some new, amazing untapped writing talent out there as well. So, if you’ve got an idea for a story, write it. Take some time, hammer it out and get it down on paper but whatever you do, don’t quit. Because once you have that completed document, you can edit it, shape it, rewrite the bits you don’t like and polish it into something amazing. Not only that, but something even better will have happened: you will have leapt the boundary between being a dreamer and being a writer.
So if you’ve got a dream, write the damn thing. It’s worth it and so are you.