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The people who say they want to write but never start.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Annoyingkid, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Humans are wonderfully complicated beings, full of transient and contradictory desires. I wouldn't presume to say this or that person is or is not a writer. The most I'll do is say well, currently you are (or are not) writing.

    A number of published authors (is that how we're defining the term "writer"?) say they've always written. I started when I was fifteen. I didn't submit a story until I was twenty-four. I didn't (self-)published until forty years later. I don't count my academic publications. Does that make me not-a-writer? I don't think so.

    The term "writer" covers an awful lot of ground. The word "want" covers an even greater stretch. There's plenty of room in there for the person who always wanted to write but never did until they retired, or until some life crisis happened. There's room, too, for the person who wrote like a demon and then simply stopped at thirty or forty. As for wanting, others here have observed that we *all* have things we say we want to do or be. That we've not yet done them doesn't make the wanting less real or valid.

    When I encounter someone who says they want to be a writer, I take that as an opportunity for a conversation (assuming it's not like sixty seconds before a meeting or a bus). What sort of writer? What have you done so far? Did you write when you were younger? And so on. Let them talk. People are always interesting, even the boring ones. I know a fellow who always said he wanted to write a book. He had lots of stories from his youth. He never wrote a word. I eventually figured out that what he really meant was that he treasured those memories and longed to preserve and to share them. That it never happened is kind of sad, but it doesn't mean he was weak or incompetent. Oh yeah, and listen carefully: do they want to write a book or be a writer? Some, like that elderly gent, just have the one thing or collection, with no intention of a career in publishing. Others are talking about a dream job. Some just want to talk and be acknowledged, while others are looking for career advice. And don't expect their hopes to be logical or well-grounded. See paragraph one, sentence one.
  2. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    I thought the OP's question was on what to say to someone who talks about it but hasn't started, not about defining what a writer is...
  3. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

    The question that got me over the barrier was "Will you do NaNoWriMo with me?"

    My instinctive first answer to this question was that different people have different passions, and if writing isn't as high a priority for someone else as it is for us, there's not much we can do to change that. Then I actually looked at my life and realized I have accidentally converted people before, so it IS a thing that can happen.

    -Start with small commitments. Short drabbles, pieces of fan fiction between friends, freeform roleplaying.
    -Things that make them accountable to other writers: writing groups that require a chapter a week, collaborative storytelling
    -Challenges. Obviously I love Nano, but something easier like going ten minutes a day for two weeks can work great as well.
    -Just talk about writing with them a lot. Don't pressure people into taking it more serious than they want to, but it can get them excited about their projects and eager to have something to show you.I
    -Be encouraging. Tell them that they could be a really good writer and you want to read their stuff. Obviously, don't lie about this if it isn't true, but that kind of thing can be really motivating for someone on the edge.

    Obviously, I can't guaruntee any of this will make someone start writing, but I have seen people who are only semi-dedicated or interested end up really calling in love with writing because of some of these things.
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  4. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

    They don't need it; they need infinite desire.
    Firefly likes this.
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I felt a sudden shiver as if someone had walked across the graves of all the ideas I'll never actually write...

    I'm sure some will scoff, but for me it is because of the paralyzing anxiety that tells me I can never, never, NEVER get anything wrong. It doesn't care about the concept of "rough drafts" or "just getting the words down for the love of god, what's wrong with you?" I know this anxiety and where it comes from and why and I know in my mind why it is stupid and destructive, but the thing about real anxiety is that it affects your physical body and your mind and will despite any kind of attempts you make to be rational. And you can't really think or will your way through it. Not without tremendous effort and support. If you can, that's not real, crippling anxiety.

    All I can tell myself is to keep trying until I die.
    J. S. Elliot and FifthView like this.
  6. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    An update of sorts. After a phone call, it's very much, a start will be made after he finishes this book on how to tell stories. He's read other books on writing as well, which leads me to think it's that old trap of thinking I'll become a writer who knows exactly what they're doing once I've read enough books on it. After this book it will all come together and I'll write like a pro. :cautious: Not the case. Just jump in.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  7. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Sounds like he has some lessons to learn on his own. You've done all you can.

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