To write or not to write?

The hidden ingredient in every piece of writing.

Ask most writers, whether they are starting out, seasoned, or overcooked, and they all tell you the same thing – they write because it’s a compulsion. It’s the nagging internal voice when you read someone else’s below par writing that whispers, “You could do better than this.” It’s that same voice when you’re amongst other people that nudges you and mutters, “Write that line down.” It’s also the barely heard wraith of a voice through the fog of your self-doubt that reminds you to keep going.

It can be so, so easy to fall out of love with writing. There are more challenges thrown at you than Romeo and Juliet had to contend with. They could have simply eloped, although it would have made for a much shorter play.

Reasons to doubt yourself as a writer:

1. The first draft is awful. On a par with a two-month old piece of cheese left at the back of  the fridge.

2. Unlike a rather lovely 1945 film, you frequently have no idea where you’re going. And sometimes you’ll need to turn back or head off through the thicket.

3. Countless writers do it better than you and are doing better than you. And you can read about them online, in newspapers or in bookshops.

4. It can be a hard slog to grab the attention of an agent or a publisher, and even then there is no guarantee of a contract. And even a contract is no guarantee of sales.

5. Everyone is a critic, and those who are the most critical are not shy about it. They will vilify your paper / electronic children and in so doing humiliate you. They will insist that they have ‘found you out’ and unmasked you as a pretend writer. In fact, they are often so busy doing this that they have no time to write their own masterpieces. Now that’s what I call sacrifice and public service.

6. Talent, plaudits and sales are not the same thing. Let’s not forget that even Jane Austen was a slow burner

7. You rarely feel your final version is the final version. However, over-edit at your peril.

Reasons to stick with it:

1. You have absolute freedom to write absolutely anything. How brilliant is that?!

2. You and your writing develop simultaneously. The more you understand about yourself and life, the more you can pour that into your writing. Conversely, reading other people’s work and examining your own creative process can enrich your life. [The one non-writers jokingly refer to as ‘the real world’ (whatever that is).]

3. Sometimes, when you write there can be moments of magic – unexpected insights, characters talking back to you and guiding the pen, or the threads of a book converging like the final note in The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Who wouldn’t welcome a little magic into their lives?

4. You could finish a book. A book. By you. That book can then be read by other people, giving them a visitor’s ticket to your inner world.

5. You can connect with a worldwide community of writers who understand your challenges on the page and can sometimes help you through them. 

6. Your writing can lead you to interesting and unimaginable places. Not just publication, but opportunities you’ve never even dreamed of. I wrote 100 funny slogans about socks, co-wrote a magazine for a while, and also scripted a short comedy film script because I stuck with writing and gained the confidence to put myself out there. 

7. Your stories are unique to you. An individual perspective that no one else can replicate. Think about that. Little me or little you, staring at our screens and creating something from our own experience and imaginings. Giving form to ideas and emotions that the people can then experience for themselves.

Now, what are you waiting for?

My books live here. Not everyone likes them and that’s okay too!


  1. This is marvelous! Absolutely wonderful! And I might even title it, "To Art or Not to Art," even thought that's using a noun as a verb, which I deplore, but you know what I mean. My point is, the advice is sound, true, and wise, no matter what kind of art form you are endeavoring (or "endeavouring" for U.K. denizens) to practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *