Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I found that when I was younger, I would wait for moments of inspiration before writing. After all, if I had no ideas, how could I begin a story? The problem is that by thinking in this manner, I prevented myself from writing as much as I should have been.

One thing I learned from seminars on improvisational speaking is that if we are given a random subject and asked to speak about it, the issue is not that we can’t think of anything. We can easily think of something, but since we are going to speak to an audience, we weigh each thought carefully before saying it, rejecting the first few ideas that come to mind. In order to do improvisational speaking well, you have to risk exposing those initial thoughts without fully evaluating how strong they are.

When we fail to write because we’re uninspired or cannot think of anything to write, we’re lying to ourselves. Certainly we could think of something to write, but we dismiss those initial ideas. Our struggle is actually one of fear: the fear of writing something terrible. If we persist in giving in to such self-intimidation, we will never write regularly, and we will never improve upon our craft.

No one learns to walk by taking a step whenever it can be done without falling. Consider any skill for that matter. It certainly wasn’t a great experience for anyone riding with me when I first learned to drive a car, and one time I was so angry at being corrected that I threw a car into park before stopping all the way. Without risking those bad moments, though, I would be unable to drive today.

If you can’t seem to pull out any random thoughts, think about things in your life. What did you do today? How do you feel? Who did you talk to recently? Perhaps you should play some music and write whatever it makes you think about. Surely there is something you can use as a starting ground for a story.

Don’t be afraid to take chances with writing. Use those first thoughts. Think more carefully after you complete the rough draft and rework it into the drafts that follow. If a completed story is bad, it’s still good experience. I’ve written plenty of bad stories, but I’ve learned from them. The worst thing ever is to look back later in life and say, “I had a thought about a certain story once, but it sounded stupid, so I never started it. I wish I had.” Sit down, and start writing now!

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