If you want to write, just write. If you want to paint, just paint. If you want to do anything creative, as the Nike people say, ‘just do it’.
Only, its not that simple is it? How do you get out of your own way? How do you crush all those voices in your head, the teacher who told you that you were rubbish at art, the music teacher who threw you out of choir because she said you couldn’ sing (actually she didn’t like me, but thats another story!), and the old Devil Himself, the Perfectionist voice (I call mine Nigel for some reason) that says nothing you do will ever be good enough.
Well, let me begin by telling you a little story about how I gave my Nigel voice a good kicking, and ended up here, writing my first post on this website about Writing and Creativity.
About two years ago, I was stuck in a creative hole. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, literally since I could hold a pen, but I didn’t take my writing seriously until 2001, Since then I had written seven novels and dozens of short stories, but none of them satisfied me, felt good enough, or finished enough. I was not achieving the standard of writing that I wanted. I was not getting published. I had ground to a halt.
Then I heard about fanfiction.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard all about that stuff thanks to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Well, let me tell you something you don’t know about fanfiction. There are literally thousands of people writing it out there, and the standard is at times gobsmackingly good, as good as anything you would find listed on the Man Booker shortlist. Yes, some of it is terrible, but a lot of it is written by people for whom English is not a first language, or by college students, so you have to take that into account. (Anyway, this is not intended to be a defence of fanfiction.)
What happened next: it occurred to me that I had been writing fanfiction for years. I just didn’t know it had a name. I tell myself stories every night while I wait to go to sleep (insomnia has been my constant companion since childhood). Often they are peopled by the characters I see in TV and films – in other words, they are fanfiction. I decided to write the stories down.
By the end of the first year, I had written over 100,000 words, was writing every day, sometimes two or three thousand words a day (which any writer will tell you is an enviable productivity rate) and I was getting better at my craft. I was learning. Fanfiction turned out to be a great playground to test out techniques and ideas.
And all I was doing was writing down my daydreams.
It was money for old rope, as they say here in Britain.
The day I hit the ‘publish’ button on my first story at fanfiction.net was a huge turning point. My work was out there. People could read it. It was terrifying. Nigel was having a nervous breakdown! But you know what? The readers were kind. They loved my work.
Fanfiction doesn’t have to be perfect. That is why it is perfect. The perfect learning place, a supportive community of writers and readers who give you positive feedback, encourage you and help you to do better.
Since my first publication day, I have put out 27 works in various fandoms, and get on average over 100 readers per day. In one month last year, I had over 44,000 readers for my works. How many conventionally published writers can say that?
What I am asking you to do today is to think about this story. I went from scribbling down a daydream to a massive readership, because I found a way to outwit my own fears. I’m still terrified, don’t get me wrong. But there is a way, and if I can do it, you can too.
This is what this website will be about. Outwitting our Nigels. Taking baby steps. Finding ways to be creative. Being gentle with ourselves. I hope you will join me on the ride, and I hope we will have fun making glorious pictures in the clouds together.