There are the conversations that are full of bold declarations from women who are sure they want to write a book. There are the shy side conversations from women who have a secret yearning to write but have not yet expressed it. And there are the silent ones who follow my work with an inkling of a dream to get their words on the page but don’t have the faintest idea of how to begin.
No matter where you sit on the spectrum, I believe it is a critical skill for everyone to write. Even if you never want to see your words in the public domain, the art form of learning to express yourself, of getting thoughts and ideas and feelings out of your head and into reality, is a gift for yourself, and potentially for others as well.
Here are some thoughts that might get your creativity flowing, or at the very least, get you started.
If you want to be a writer, then write. I see so many people who say they long to write, but when I ask them about their writing habits, they stare at me blankly and mumble something about getting in 30 minutes once a month. That won’t get you there. Start a writing practice that is a minimum of ten minutes a day. Once you have made it a habit and you are well practiced, then you can change that up, but I advise my clients to make it a non-negotiable daily practice so you have a commitment to stick to.
2. DO IT REGARDLESS.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike you. It’s funny how you hear writers say that they didn’t get any work done last month because they weren’t ‘in the mood.’ Writing is work. You don’t head to the office each day or into your business and do nothing because you’re not ‘in the mood’ to work this week. You would get fired, or your clients would fire you. If you wait for the right mood before you write you could be waiting forever. Show up anyway.
3. WRITE FOR YOURSELF.
Do you dream of writing a book but don’t want to put in all of that effort until you get an allusive publishing deal? Don’t wait. I wrote my first book because it was the book I wish I had had when I had my burn out. I knew I had to get it out of me. Yes I had a publishing deal, but I also knew that if it wasn’t any good it wouldn’t make it to print. But I had to write it regardless. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing. Do it for the love of the process and it will be worth it regardless of the outcome.
4. FIND YOUR PEOPLE.
Whether you work in an office or run your own business, it’s often not easy to connect with other writers in your general day to day grind. As writers we need to connect with other writers. I used to run a writers circle where we would get together once a week for eight weeks and talk all things writing. It was incredible. You could find a writers retreat to connect with like spirited women who share a passion for writing, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Join a local writing class, sign up to an online community, form your own group. Get connected.
5. START A BLOG.
Seth Godin, the marketing genius and my eternal brain and creative crush, says that every single person should write a blog, and write every day. I agree. You don’t have to publish it to a million people a day like Seth does. But having to show up to the page or screen on a daily basis is a habit that will enliven your creativity, help you get clear on what you really think, and tap into a passion area that you may not get to express at work. Write a long list of all the topics you would want to blog about, and start.
6. HONOUR YOUR MUSE.
Our muse is another word for our inspiration. When she shows up, pay attention. As all writers know, sometimes writing is sheer slog. But other times, when the muse visits us, it can be absolute magic. Listen out for her. When she comes with words of inspiration, write them down, send yourself a voice mail, use an envelope or a napkin, use notes on your iPhone, record a voice memo. It doesn’t matter how you get it down, but get it down. If you don’t respect her, she will stop by less often, and a writer without a muse is like a cook without a kitchen.
7. WRITERS GOTTA READ.
Read. Read. Read some more. Read your genre so you get a sense of who is writing content like you. Do you want to write about business? Leadership? Self help? Being an entrepreneur? Do want to write essays, short stories, fiction, romance, about women’s development, or have your heart really set on writing that non fiction masterpiece? Read. Read for inspiration, for ideas, for content creation and just for sheer pleasure. You may find that when you actually sit down to write you need to stop reading to tune out other writers voices, but you will know that as you get into your process. But make sure you keep learning and seeking out writing in all it’s wonderful forms.
8. FIND YOUR AUDIENCE.
If you are serious about getting your work out into the world, make sure you are clear on who you are writing for. Who does your work serve? Where do they reside online and offline? Who are the intermediaries that can help spread your message? As you start to build your audience, seeking out guest posting opportunities is a great way to expand your reach. Early on with my blog, off the back of my first book launch in the US, I was invited to blog for Psychology Today which is a huge deal. My first article on Finding Your Purpose had 85,000 views in 48 hours whereas on my own blog at that stage it was in the hundreds. Look for how can you get your work out into the world.
9. GET INSPIRED.
One of the ways I get and stay inspired to write is to listen to and read writers I admire talk about their writing process. There are so many sources of creativity and writing content you can tap into. Liz Gilbert and her thoughts on writing from her blog. Books on writing from Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, Dani Shapiro and Liz. Podcasts on writing: The New York Public Library Podcast, especially Ep 121 with Ann Patchett and Liz Gilbert and Ep 127 with Cheryl Strayed; The Beautiful Writers
Podcast and also The Portfolio Life. Love them all. And of course, there are audio books to keep you inspired whilst you are on the go.
9. WRITE YOUR BOOK.
If you have a dream, or even the inkling of a dream to write a book, then here is my best advice for you: START. Brainstorm or mind map in an art journal, getting all of your thoughts down. Build on them. Write up a structure. Organise your thoughts. Write your table of contents. Get your introduction written. Then write a little bit more every single day. Do it for the creative process. Do it to show yourself that you can make a commitment to something as huge as writing a book. Do it because you have a message to share. Do it for the love of it, even when it’s hard and no longer juicy fun. If you have an idea, then it deserves to be written. So write it.
10. HIT PUBLISH.
It seems like a really scary thing. You see that little button on your screen. You have written the blog. You think it’s ok, but what will people think of you if you put those words out there? Will anyone even read them? Does anyone actually care? All writers have these thoughts. And the answers don’t matter. What matters is you had an idea. You were brave enough to show up to the blank page. And you were committed enough to write. So be just a little bit braver. Hit publish. Put your words out into the world. That could be a blog. It could be an article for your local paper. It could be a thought leadership piece for your organisation. It would be a new offering in your business. And yes, it could even be your big beautiful book. Do it. And trust me, whilst the writing perhaps doesn’t get that much easier, your courage to publish is a muscle that will grow the more you use it.
It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a writer, or you haven’t picked up a pen in decades. I wrote almost every day my entire childhood. Stories, song lyrics, poems, my creativity used to flow like a river. Then I landed my first corporate job and my creativity for writing stopped like a blocked faucet. It took me a long time, almost 20 years, to unblock that tap. I didn’t start small with a blog or a private writing practice. I landed a book deal and wrote a 70,000 word book. It was pretty much initiation by fire. But it got me flowing again and I will write for the rest of my days.
Whatever you need to do to initiate yourself, do it. Give yourself the gift of honouring your own voice. It’s the gift that will always keep on giving.