“I have a great idea for a book, but…” (Sound familiar?)


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Do you have grand, amazing plans for a book? Do you long to get your story down on paper, get it out of you, tell it to the world?

…But do you struggle to actually get it done?

No need to feel like a fraud. No need to dwell in the murky depths of writer’s block. If you’ve got dreams of becoming an author, I have excellent news for you: to be a writer, all one must do is write.

It’s actually delightfully simple.

Oh, but if only it was that simple to actually do!

It is as easy as anything to sit down and write when the muse is in the House*. It is a great deal harder to write when she is absent. And oh, how she can be absent!

This here is a list for the next time a white screen and a flashing cursor are filling your heart with dread. It is a list of things to do when you know that you bloody well HAVE TO sit down at the computer/easel/lathe and write/paint/ummm… whittle? (What do people actually do on a lathe?!) but every fibre of your being is rejecting this notion and rebelling against your best intentions.

This is your starting place:

1. Just get started.

It doesn’t matter if you are writing absolute dribble or a work of Pulitzer-proportions. Just get yourself started for the day. If you decide at the end of your session, or in a week/month/year’s time that you need to edit or even trash what you did at today’s session, that’s fine. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to edit and/or make such decisions about your work when you’ve actually got some work in front of you.

2. Ignore the voices in your head.

You know the ones: there’s that one that tells you that you’re a worthless piece of rubbish and you shouldn’t even bother, and then there’s the one that tells you that you are so unbelievably awesome that you don’t even need to put in the practice/hours/words. Ignore both of them. Just write (/paint/whittle). The below graphic has always stuck in my head and I think is really great to remember.

3. Pump up the endorphins.

I never thought that I would spout Dan Brown’s writing advice as being worthy of emulating (yes the man wrote a bunch of best-sellers, but did you read The Lost Symbol?). Anyway, Dan Brown does have one writing practice that I think is worthy of passing on. Apparently, he stops working every hour or so, and gets on the floor and does a bunch of sit-ups, push-ups, star jumps and general pump-it-up activities. Now, whilst your cubicle mates might think you are crazy if you pull this move out without explanation, ol’ Danny Boy’s technique has a lot going for it: get the endorphins pumping, have a mini-break from what you’re doing, get the synapses firing in a physical way to re-stimulate you in a creative way, recalibrate and re-energise. And if the side-effect of these hourly mini-breaks is a six-pack by the time you finish your book, then all the better.

4. Do an ‘ideas dump’ to start you off.

Flip to two random pages of a magazine/web site/book etc, identify two crazy-random topics, then turn to a blank page and connect the dots. The wonders of making fresh lemonade whilst wearing this season’s trendiest harem pants? Let me tell you about that! Give yourself a time limit (say, 5 minutes) and just let it flow. It might be crap (it might be awesome!), but that is beside the point. Let it all out, and at the end, save it to a dedicated folder on your computer (or for you pen + paper folk, to a manilla folder on your desk). The idea is to get the juices going, and to use the ‘flowing tap’ theory – sometimes you have to let the tap run for a bit before the water turns clear and it’s good for drinking. Flush out your crap by doing your brain dump. In all likelihood, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by what you’ve written. The other advantage to this technique is that you’re building up a file of crazy-awesome ideas, words and language that you can trawl through from time to time for new ideas. Or just as a reminder of the limitlessness of your imagination. Win-win.

5. Give yourself a break, let yourself off the hook.

Not for this session. Oh no. This session you are going to GET IT DONE. But give yourself a break for all those sessions in the past where you haven’t shown up, where you’ve let yourself down, where you haven’t met your goals. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by all that I haven’t written in my book, that I struggle to get myself started. This is ridiculous, and is Resistance working it’s magic on your brain again. Forgive yourself for all that you coulda-woulda-shoulda done yesterday/last week/last year, and just focus on the next hour. For this one hour, all you have to do is present yourself to the page. Just show up. Just be there. Sometimes magic will follow, sometimes it will be a shattering, crushing doubt-in-the-depths-of-your-soul experience. But either way, you will not know unless you show up.

Is there anything you do in particular when you are feeling resistant to doing what you know you need to do? Anything you would add to the list? Please share below!

*The House being my head.

2 Responses to ““I have a great idea for a book, but…” (Sound familiar?)”

  1. Sophie | Spark

    Wonderful post Jess, and congrats on the new business! For me, tip number one is the most important (and also the hardest!). Just start. Just show up. Let yourself write crap. I find that sticking to a regular time to write helps with this and makes it a habit – something automatic that I sit down to do without thinking.

    Look forward to reading more on your blog! x

  2. Samantha

    Wow. You need to get out of my head, because you are really on the mark with what I say to myself when wtiting. As for Dan Brown, that who paragraph was pure gold.