Last night (depending on when I post this) I took my 8 day old baby girl to an event called Get Shit Done. It’s put on by The East Coast Creative Collective, an organization I’m involved with and that I frequently applaud for their awesomeness. Last night was no exception. I had a wonderful time with a whole wack of creative junkies including writers, illustrators, graphic designers and generally fantastic people. But last night, I had the pleasure of having my mind picked by someone working on a series of science fiction novels.

Having conquered my fears and personal short comings and actually completed a novel, I love sharing any small nuggets of wisdom that I discovered through this process and last night was a lot of fun. There were a lot of great questions that I was asked but I want to focus on the question that made me really think. What was your motivation for writing?

On the surface, it’s a simple question. I wanted to make a million dollars and have my book made into a series of movies. I wanted world domination and the front window of a bookstore. I wanted screaming fans to camp outside my house just hoping I might treat them to a passage or two of my prose. Ok. So each of these things is a stretch. Sure, they’re what I wanted. But asking what I wanted is not nearly as important a question as this; why did I need to write?

You see the difference? It’s not about wants, it’s about needs. I needed to write my book. Needed. I need to write the book I’m writing now. Need. So now that we’ve sorted out the difference between needs and wants, let’s talk about why I need to write.

I heard a line somewhere about why writers write and if you can’t beat ’em, steal their work and take credit. Writers write because they have something in their head that they have to get out. I had a story in my head that I had to get out. If it didn’t come out on paper I was going to explode. This is how I feel about my blog as well. As you’ll notice I haven’t written a lot lately (see 2.5 year old, 8 days old, stay at home dad, small business owner). But I still NEED to write. I’m still sketching out ideas, I’m still outlining pieces, I’m still working on articles, I’m still fleshing out my book. I’m still writing, constantly, even if I’m not finishing.

Which brings me to my next point. Finishing. Finishing a book is actually a whole different thing than writing a book. No, I’m serious. They’re actually two different things. The writing process is a joy and a huge pain in the ass. Every single letter is both a victory and evidence of how much further you need to go. Finishing is pure joy. You can go edit if you want. You can try to sell it. You can do whatever you want. You’re done. Breathe. Pure joy. You did it.

Don’t concern yourself with finishing. Concern yourself with writing. Finishing isn’t something you can control. But starting is. If you really need to write, don’t worry about trying to figure out when you should write, when your “inspiration” time is, etc. Just take out your pen or your computer or your iPad and start writing. If you don’t feel like writing, don’t. Wait it out. When you want to write, write. And if you’ve gone through this a few times and you’re not having a great time and not looking forward to the next time you’re going to write, I have a secret to tell you…

You’re not a writer.

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