For most of my life, I never finished writing a book.
Let me backtrack. I started writing when I was in elementary school, a time when I was reading almost exclusively Westerns. I would make the covers (in pencil, on folded computer paper), write the first couple of (extremely short) chapters, then drop it before it was finished. In fifth grade, I finished a few small stories that were class assignments. Then, late in middle school, I finished writing my first book. And didn’t edit or revise a thing. I printed it off and gave it to my fifth grade English teacher to see. But after that came another decade of unfinished work, except for one other story I somehow managed to finish and, again, never touch or revise after the first draft was completed.
Then, in grad school, I finished writing three books within a year and actually went back to polish and revise the first. Since then, I haven’t given up on writing very many books, and then only with good reason.
So what changed? I learned something key: Discipline is a better friend than inspiration.
You see, up until that point, I had only been writing whenever I felt “inspired”. Honestly, I think this is such a common pitfall, particularly for young and new writers. When we start out, we tend to feel like we can only write when we feel like writing or when the ideas are flowing.
But it’s a lie, and honestly, it’s partly laziness and partly a misconception and idealization of the life of a writer.
Writers don’t only write when inspired; writers write out of discipline. As Louis L’Amour put it:
We don’t always feel like writing. We don’t always want to open up that document. Sometimes we just want to binge-watch Netflix or nap. But here’s the truth. If you want to be a serious writer, if you might be considering a writing career, you must start to write even when you’re not inspired. Even if it’s just a few words at a time. Start to build your writing habit and schedule and then stick to it! That is the only way you will finish that first novel.
But I am interested in what helps you to sit down and open that last page. Tell me your stories! How did you finish your first book? Do you have any other advice for new writers? Tell me in the comments.