Four Things to Get Started Writing

An alarm began sounding in my late 40s and it wasn’t my biological clock. It also wasn’t a mid-life crisis, although it probably had the makings of one.

The alarm was more of a wakeup call, similar to the one that sounds to announce the start of a new day, this one began chiming in my consciousness, telling me that there was something I needed to commence.

It took some courage to take note, some pushing back on the fear of failure, ignoring the voice that said, “Who are YOU to think you can do this? It’s not time. You’re not ready.”

But it was time. It IS time.

So here I am, with a website that focusing on writing: more specifically, writing in the second half of life, owning the title of writer and encouraging others to do the same in whatever form that title might take. Take a look at my About page to learn more.

I’m excited because I’ve always had this dream, one I didn’t verbalize often, but one that remained since my youth — a dream to be a fiction writer.

But I hadn’t done a single thing to make that happen.

And when that alarm bell began to ring in my late 40s, I asked myself, “What am I waiting for, anyway? My 50s? My 60s? That day when I will have an abundance of free time?

As fate would have it, around the time I started contemplating these things, a friend and former colleague published a fiction novel. I read her book and was proud of her.  She also had a dream to write fiction.

The difference between her and me? She took action. She sat down at her keyboard and got started on her book and she finished it.  (Susan Sagarra, Cracks in the Cobblestone).

The difference between her and me? She took action. She sat down at her keyboard and got started on her book and she finished it.

I went to her book launch party and chatted with several other former colleagues. Guess what?  We all talked about being impressed with our friend. Interestingly, many of us had harbored quiet, private dreams about writing a book, as well.

According to writer Joseph Epstein, about 200 million people aspire to authorship. So my colleagues and I had a lot of company, but Susan actually WROTE her book. What an inspiration!

So, that party not only launched my friend’s book. It launched me out of dreaming mode and into action mode.

Here are the four things I did to get started owning the title of writer and to help me move closer to my dream of becoming a published fiction author.

  • I started journaling.

Writing takes practice. One of the biggest objections I had about establishing a daily writing practice was that I didn’t know what to write about each day. I would sit with a blank cursor or a blank piece o
f paper, and no words would come. So I channeled the inner “middle schooler” and just started  cataloguing what I’d done that day. Really. Boring. Stuff.

But in time, it morphed into more, and sometimes, as I was cataloguing who I’d seen or what errands I ran that day, I’d remember something significant – the way a store clerk treated an elderly patron with kindness or the way the summer heat made me think of my late father. And then I’d be off to the races with more interesting, heart-felt writing. I’ll share more tips on establishing a regular journaling practice in a future post, so be sure to subscribe below. When you subscribe, I’ll send you my free PDF: “Tips on How to Get Started Journaling, Stay Motivated and the Best Journaling App.”

  • I started reading more.

My favorite author is Stephen King. (For real, I’m almost a stalker. I recently drove six hours just to hear him speak. More about that in a future post, too). I listen to his advice like it’s gospel, and in his non-fiction book called “On writing” he says:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

This book full of practical advice and encouragement that can make any writer or aspiring writer feel empowered. I cannot recommend it enough. Later this month, I’ll share some of my favorite non-fiction resources on the topic of writing and becoming an author.

The best part of the advice, above, is that it’s a perfect excuse  to curl up with a good book and read. In addition to reading non-fiction to help me with my craft, I also started reading more of the kind of fiction I want to do. No time? I’ve also got some suggestions for that in a future post.

  • I started small.

I want to write a fiction novel. I have a story idea that has been bouncing around in my head for years. But the idea of a whole book seemed too daunting. A short story sounded more doable. I started on my novel,  but I also decided to work on a few short stories as ideas came to me.

I did this for a couple of reasons. I wanted to get feedback on my fiction writing, and there are lots of places to submit short-stories (contests, literary journals, online magazines). Even if that feedback was rejection (and so far it has been, for the most part) I figured that would help me learn.

I also did this because of another quote from my favorite author’s book:

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” — Stephen King, On Writing.

This is not to say that I didn’t get started on my novel. I did. It’s coming along and I’ll share more about it as I go. But I’ve found that I’m learning a lot about writing fiction in crafting short stories. I am applying those lessons to my novel and it’s making my book stronger.

  • I signed up for a class.

This isn’t necessary. In fact, some people avoid “doing” by taking classes. Ever heard of a professional student? I don’t believe that taking a class or a workshop is necessary to get started as a writer. But for me, taking a fiction class at the local community college  and then doing a writer’s workshop were motivating activities that gave me more confidence. I did not, however, wait until I took the class and workshop to start writing.

Most community colleges and continuing education programs  offer classes in writing — fiction and non-fiction. Some even offer a certificate program, which I’ll also write about in a later post.

I’m eight months away from my 50th birthday, and I’m no longer just dreaming about claiming the title of writer and becoming an author. I am a writer because I write every single day. And I will be an author soon enough. My novel is started and I’m making progress. I’ve got a laptop full of completed short-stories that are out for submission, some nearing publication and one that recently was a finalist in the Atlantis Short Story contest.

All of this because I got started.

If you read my About page, you’ll see that I’ve been paid to write my entire adult life. So, you might be thinking that I’ve always been a writer. That’s not true, because it is only in the last few years, as I’ve taken the above steps and started loving writing again, that I have claimed the title of writer. I’m writing with passion, and I’ve never felt more energized or excited.

Callout to Midlifers (not you, never old): If you think you’d like to do the same — own the title of “writer” in your midlife — then stick around, this is the place for you.  I plan to keep sharing my journey and providing content that will help you on your journey, as well.

7 Replies to “Four Things to Get Started Writing

  1. Thanks for the nudge. I’ve always admired your writing, clear back to high school days. Our dreams were aligned then and they still are today. I admire your raw vulnerability. I’m in!

    1. Jerry — you didn’t sign up, you commented. Which is also awesome. I’ll get you signed up. And send you the journaling PDF when my technical glitches (on my end) are remedied.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! This is just what I needed to hear.
    Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging others to follow their dream of becoming a writer.

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