When I first started to write, I often felt overshadowed by the people I met at writing conferences or talked to in my critique group. They all seemed so experienced and successful: I felt inept and naïve in comparison.
Perhaps those feelings were triggered by my lack of confidence as a writer. It’s only now, years later, that I see how things really were (hindsight is a wonderful thing). I realise now that some of the people I met were knowledgeable because they had been attending conferences or writing groups for a long time (decades in some cases). They’d learned an awful lot from writing seminars and other authors, but very few of the people I spoke to had been published. In some cases, this was because they’d spent too long gathering information about how to be a writer, and too little time writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet plenty of authors who have been hugely successful. But equally I’ve regularly encountered people (I hesitate to call them writers) whose sole focus has been on becoming the chairperson of their writing group, or taking charge of the raffle, or organising the Christmas party.
I call these people ‘dreamers’. They enjoy being part of a writing group and they want to attend seminars and rub shoulders with successful authors – they’re in love with the idea of being a writer. But they seem much less keen on sitting down and getting on with any actual writing (unless it’s typing up the minutes of the last group meeting they attended!). These people convince themselves that they’re far too busy to get around to writing that poem or short story they’ve been thinking about for goodness knows how long.
Then there are the ‘researchers’ – the writers who thrive on gathering background information for their writing project. Again, don’t misunderstand me. Research is a very commendable and important task, and most writers understand when the research should end and the writing should begin. But others (the ‘researchers’) wallow in copious facts and figures from books and websites. They assemble more and more background detail that they don’t need and will never use. In fact, they get so sidetracked that they never actually get around to writing their book.
I hope you don’t think I’m being overly critical of others – goodness knows I’ve been guilty of plenty of procrastination in my time (who hasn’t?). But as I’ve grown older, I’ve developed a better understanding of how quickly life slips by: our days and years as writers are precious and shouldn’t be wasted.
We all need time to rest and relax (unwinding is important). But once we’ve recharged our batteries, we should turn our attention back to our current writing projects. Many would-be authors complain that they don’t have enough time to write. It’s the successful writers who are willing to devote quality time to their creative endeavours.
So (cough), I must crack on… I’ve got a story to finish.