Do you torture yourself for not starting your book? You know you have it in you, but for one reason or another you can’t start. Either the process scares you, or you’re not sure about the end result. You wonder whether or not you will be able to finish it and if you do, will people like it enough to read it? Maybe you’re insecure about your story. Or maybe you just decide to start one day and you get stuck on the opening and can’t decide which scene or sentence is more powerful. You end up frustrated and overwhelmed and abandon the book for a while, sometimes even for good. And decide to start on another.
But then an idea hits you and you take down notes, you write scenes, character descriptions, in preparation for a new book. You get excited and think that this time you will nail it. You even sit down to write your first chapter, and for just a minute, the self-consciousness and doubt in yourself and your ability fades, and you are writing. Then you realize your characters aren’t developing so much, they all speak in the same way. Or you have a bunch of situations but no real subplots. And before long your doubts come back and you put your pen down, or switch your computer off and walk away.
Yet you never stop thinking about it. In fact you become more stressed than ever. Perhaps you already have the book in all those notes you’ve taken down, all the scenes you have planned, all the character descriptions you have thought of. Just like Hollis Gillespie had but wasn’t aware of. She writes:
“Here’s what happened to me: I tortured myself for years for not ‘starting my book,’ when the damn thing was written already! It was in notebook after notebook of journal entries I stored at the bottom of my closet. From those entries came my columns, and from my columns came my NPR commentaries, one of which a publisher heard and asked me to send more stories. I emailed him a file and was informed I had a book there. I swear this can’t be unusual. So my advice is this: Stop stressing over the book you ‘need’ to write and find the one you already did.”