I Have a Hunger to Write a Book

” I have loved words and books since I was a child. I feel I have a hunger to write a book brewing back in my subconscious. Hoping that in my lifetime it can come to fruition by the right timing and place in my life, not while working fulll time as an RN.”

Courtney wrote the above in a comment on one of my posts about writing. This is my response:

Courtney – There is no such thing as “right timing” to begin writing. Yes, there will hopefully come a time when work and family are not so demanding you you have more time to pursue things that please you. I know many authors who started writing in retirement.

But if you wait until the perfect day comes, chances are you will eagerly clear your desk, sharpen your pencils (or load a new cartridge in your fountain pen, or set up that writing software), shoo your spouse off to play golf, then sit down and open your notebook or document …

And draw a complete blank.

You will make false starts that will have you deciding you’re not quite ready.  You will decide to do research, you will retreat to read books by popular authors to help you decide what you should write. Maybe you will invest in a bunch of writing books and tutorials to help you get started.

None of these things will help.

After many unproductive and unrewarding days, you will find it easier to watch Seinfeld reruns and that book you want to write will slip away as a silly dream of your youth.

Waiting to begin is a bad strategy. Think about friends who have decided to get fit. Maybe they set a goal, they will hike the Appalachian Trail, run a marathon or even bike across America. None of these people waited until the day came to get started, and we understand why: to launch yourself into such a lofty goal with no preparation is to doom yourself to failure.

Writing a book can be compared to hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is an overwhelming  undertaking. You are guaranteed to find yourself stuck in  the woods during a torrential downpour regretting that you ever left your cozy home. And when you finish you will feel a satisfaction as great as anything you ever accomplish in your life.

The thing is, when you run into trouble on the trail, you’re miles from civilization. You can only go forward or back, and back is just as painful as forward, so it is easier to make the decision to stick with it.

(Ten years ago I crossed the Andes on horseback, riding over a skinny trail  that hugged the mountainside—a trail covered with loose gravel from many rockslides. Have I mentioned that I am terrified of heights? It was an incredible experience, but one I only completed because I had No Way Out.)


You are focussing on the wrong things. It’s all well and good to buy a map if you want to walk the Appalachian Trail, but no amount of knowledge, time or money will help if you don’t exercise your legs and strengthen them slowly over time.

A writer’s legs is his/her imagination. This is the muscle you need to exercise and strengthen so that when the time comes it does not fail you. Everything else is secondary.

Start today. Play the What If game. The advantage of this is that there is no pressure and you can play with characters and scenarios to your heart’s content. You can play What If in five minute increments, anywhere. You can do this on the bus, while you are doing dishes, or even during boring sexual encounters.

The advantage to this approach is that you are under no pressure to be productive and therefore your imagination will not disappear faster than a teenager who has been told to mow the lawn.

As you exercise your imagination, you are also exploring ideas that you will use later. And if you jot down your ideas (say keep them in One Note on your phone) you will find yourself refining a book treatment without thinking about it.

BONUS: Folks with demanding jobs will find a quick round of What If is a great way to handle stress. Especially if they indulge in question #5, below.

When it comes time to write your book (and you will become so enthused you will FIND the time), you will already know what to write and it will be FUN.

Playing What If is easy. All you do is ask yourself questions and play with the answers. My dad travelled for work and used to amuse himself on the road by speculating what the people around him in restaurants were doing – where they came from, why they were with the people they were with, and the nature of their conversations.

Anything can inspire a round of What If, and you can create your own questions. Here are some examples to get your started:

  1. What kind of heroine do I want to read about in a book?
  2. What world does she live in?
  3. How does she get her laundry done?
  4. What does she do when she’s pissed off?
  5. What would be the most enjoyable way to murder my boss?
  6. How could I get away with it?
  7. What are the two women in the next booth talking about?
  8. What is my dog thinking?
  9. What, besides cockroaches and Twinkles (oh, wait, we no longer have Twinkles) will survive Armageddon?
  10. Where is that weird-looking guy going and what is he going to do when he gets there? How will that work out for him? For everyone around him? What will he do next?

It really is that easy. Quick now, the next person you lay eyes on, what will they do if they will the lottery?


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