The Trials and Tribulations of a Fledgling Writer

“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write” – Paul Rudnick

Having recently decided to write a book, I found myself faced with the uncomfortable matter of actually writing it. There I sat in the light-filled kitchen of my Dad’s adorable country cottage, in the company of only my notes, laptop and a steaming mug of tea, precisely as I had envisioned it in my romanticised musings on life as a reclusive writer, staring at the reproachful whiteness of my screen and wondering where my army of ideas, theories and inspirations had fled to because they sure as hell were not presenting themselves for duty.

Now having reached the ripe old age of 30 I am perfectly aware that life is a purely ironical endeavour, in which we chase our thoughts, emotions and beliefs in circles much the way a dog chases his tail, however this particular insult seemed singularly mocking. Not only had I done my research, defined my chapters, meditated extensively and otherwise prepared in every way I knew how, but this was my thing. My purpose, my reason, my significant step towards contributing to the world. And it was gone. Or at least silent and cowering in a dark recess of my mind, just out of reach and seemingly immune to my onslaught of cajoling, beseeching and coaxing.

I tried at first to take a relaxed stance to this stubborn defiance; I made more tea, I ate many (many) biscuits, I bonded with the fish (unfeeling things for the most part but at least they paid some attention to me), I stared out the window contemplatively. Eventually, and with no small measure of desperation, I cranked out a first paragraph. Yes! I had cracked the resistance, done battle with my fears of failure and rejection, defeated the coltish frolicking of my monkey-mind; I was writing.

Then I looked over what I had written. It read like a poem by some lesser known 19th century romantic, and a rather confused one at that. For some reason my brain had taken the executive decision to use lyrical prose as the primary means of transmitting my ideas, my big, clever, important ideas, and while there were some pleasing turns of phrase, the net result was just….well, weird.

This was disappointing to say the least.

There followed several hours of mental argumentation between what I have now termed my ‘analytical mind’ and my ‘poet mind’ (which can happily be condensed into the acronyms A.M. and P.M. :)) which went something like this:

A.M.: Is it really necessary to massively overuse poetical analogies within the first paragraph of this analytical and Very Serious Document?

P.M.: Well just because it’s analytical doesn’t mean it has to be boring!

A.M.: There is a vast gulf between being boring and being focussed and concise, allow me to illustrate..blah blah blah..

P.M.: See? Boring! No one will read it if it sounds like it was written by a freakishly dull person.

A.M.: Well it’s not meant to be a bloody lyrical poem either! Go away and write a sodding poem if that’s your thing and leave my book alone!

P.M.: Hey, I am merely attempting to raise your monotonous prose to a level worthy of being read. If you don’t mind your book being horribly tedious and aren’t concerned that it will NEVER be read by ANYONE then fine, don’t listen to me…

And on, and on, and on.

The upshot of this was that I became totally paralysed again and was reduced to huddling on the couch quivering slightly, clutching my mug of tea for reassurance, and thinking that perhaps I had been mistaken in believing that I had found my writing voice and was capable of attempting to write a book without having a nervous breakdown.

“Don’t get it right, just get it written” – James Thurber

A week has passed, and the immediate trauma surrounding this unfortunate incident has receded, leaving in its wake a few thoughts that will (hopefully) help me in the future:

  • Don’t stop when it gets tough – it won’t be easier after a break (coffee intervals notwithstanding, obviously)
  • Don’t edit while writing, just write
  • Give yourself Carte Blanche to write however you want (prioritise content over style for now)
  • Don’t take it too seriously (bear in mind recent adoption of one very wise philosophy)
  • Establish a routine (to be taken with a large quantity of water, swallowed whole, and accepted)
  • Wine is your friend (yes it was always your friend, but now it’s more like a mentor)

If anyone has any other helpful tips I would love to hear them! Until then I will get into the habit of plonking myself down with a glass of wine every evening and trying my best to amuse myself whilst writing about awesomely cool stuff at liberty.

One last piece of advice with which I have a veritable love/hate relationship; “Lower your standards and keep writing” – William Stafford



6 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of a Fledgling Writer

  1. Keep a notebook for when inspiration hits you in the face to write it down fast before you forget.


    1. Thanks Alex! I usually have one with me but often don’t prioritise writing down thoughts whenever they happen to appear (often thinking I’ll remember it, which I then don’t). Clearly need to change that habit and prioritise the inspiration!


  2. I’ve never had much luck with the “Don’t stop when it’s tough” idea. In fact, when it gets tedious for me to write, I simply decide to be done for that while. Then I come back much (much much much much) later and can download from my brain what’s been built up rather quickly, like discharging static electricity after shuffling on the carpet for so long.

    Granted, however, the time-frame I set for writing the book I want is very long. I started years ago, and don’t expect to be done until at least a year or two from now, so I don’t mind biding my time.

    The only other thing I would say more objectively is to read other things. Doing so can give you inspiration, yes, but it can also give you jealousy, jealousy of wanting to your stuff out that. And jealousy is a good motivator if put to good use. :)


    1. Haha I like it! I totally get what you say about the “idea discharging” after a break – think I’ve had that experience in the past. It’s a bit like having an incubation period where your brain kind of keeps working for you subconsciously and then you turn on the tap again and it just pours out. The problem for me at the moment is mostly confidence…if I don’t write regularly I start to doubt myself horribly which then becomes an evil downwards spiral of despair…. So my aim is pretty much to avoid that at all costs ;) Thanks for the input!


      1. Share a favorite piece or paragraph with those who you know will say it’s good but are still normally fairly objective people. It’s narcissistic, but it works.


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