“In order to share one’s true brilliance one initially has to risk looking like a fool.” – Criss Jami
Writing your first story is sort of like, well . . . there’s a first time for everything. It’s scary and exciting, and you’re not quite sure if you’re doing it right. You might ask yourself, “Is it worth taking the risk?” Here’s something to remember in getting your first book or screenplay onto the page: You cannot do it wrong.
As a first-time writer, take advantage of this freedom. No one expects anything from you. You’re writing your first story! Take risks. Try things that have never been done before. And if you fall on your face, it’s OK. You will only be a first-time writer once. So let it rip. Write with all of the passion and madness in your heart.
And when you are done, begin your second story. Because your job is not to be a brilliant first-time novelist, memoirist, or screenwriter. Your job is to build a body of work.
This is what every working writer knows, and what every wannabe will never get.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Write with Full Abandon
I wrote the first draft of my first novel in just under 90 days. I’d been writing stand-up and screenplays for years, but very little prose. I had a strong sense of story, and a pretty clear first-person voice, but as a novelist, I didn’t know what I was doing — which, in retrospect, was a good thing.
There was no fear. I had no plans to show it to anyone.
Consequently, when I finished it, I was rather pleased, and a series of synchronistic events led to the book getting to a top New York agent, who auctioned it in a bidding war. The book became a bestseller and won a few awards — it’s also been optioned for film every year, which bought me a house.
Only later did an author friend of mine explain the odds of all of this happening. Apparently one in seventeen-thousand novel submissions leads to publication. If I’d been driven to get published, I doubt I would have written with the freedom that I did. The irony is that when I wrote the story for myself, everything changed.
Zen Buddhists call it “beginner’s mind.” Athletes call it “being in the zone.” Folks spend years cultivating this experience. I was just ignorant.
Join the 90-Day Novel, and lose yourself in the process. I can’t promise that you’ll get published, although a wildly disproportionate number of my alumni do. However, I can promise you this. It will probably change your life.
Learn more about marrying the wildness of your imagination to the rigor of structure in The 90-Day Novel, The 90-Day Memoir, or The 90-Day Screenplay workshops.