Okay, I get it. You want to be a writer, you’ve always dreamed of writing, and you know you have a novel or a story or an epic dystopian fiction set in terza rima just bursting to get out of you like an alien in that terrifying film Alien.
So you sit down at the keyboard. You tap out a title, you format it all nice in 18pt Times New Roman, you type in Chapter One, you fiddle with the alignment and the line spacing and then…
Your Facebook honks like a mad, bad goose. Your email pings. Your thirst for tea accessed only via an elaborate tea ceremony calls you away. You look at the page. Well. It’s a start, you think.
The next time you sit down to write, you get lured away by reading reviews of writing software. And then you find an enthralling podcast all about How To Write A Synopsis. And then you get caught in the net called Research, via Pressfield, who, every time you open him, tells you to JUST WRITE.
Secretly, you think “yes. But he’s talking to those other people. Those other people who have their shit together. Who are born with a little birthmark that reads ‘right to write.’” Because YOU don’t think you have the right to write. You’re not a REAL writer. So you log in to your online writers’ group and reach out for some sympathy. You don’t feel like you can do it. You’re experiencing resistance. You’re not feeling like a real writer.
Well, no. That’s because you’re not a real writer. You’re an excuse maker. Real writers are many things. They might be rich or poor or neurotic or posh or alcoholics or green smoothie evangelists or terrible spellers or high fliers or lonely artists living in a box of paints, but the reason they are writers and you are not is that they write.
In the same way that bus drivers bus drive. They don’t sit in the cab and regard the wheel with overwhelming angst. A quarter-way through ferrying you to the cinema to watch that terrifying film about aliens called Alien, they don’t stop the bus with a recalcitrant pout. They take you where you expected to go. That’s the deal. You’d be outraged if they didn’t.
So why aren’t you outraged if, on sitting down to write, you find yourself giving up before you’ve even started? My muse, who isn’t an ethereal, floaty muse, but a tough, scary lady who looks like Fran Lebowitz and is always standing behind my chair waiting for me to turn up with a look of utter derision on her face, says this to me:
LOOK. IT’S NOT COAL MINING. NOW WRITE. FFS.
Okay, I say. And I do. It’s always shitty and draft-y because words don’t vomit themselves onto the page in a spangling array of perfection, they just don’t. And it doesn’t matter.
Go forth and vomit words, dear writer. Because you can and you must.
And tell me: what does the person standing behind your chair say to you?