I recently read “Finish the Damn Book!: An Inspirational Guide to Writing” by Martin McConnell, and his inspiring words came at a time when I needed to hear them the most.
I’ve been taking on a lot of writing-related projects this summer. They’ve made me stretch beyond my comfort level, and helped me grow as a writer while growing my local writing community. With this, there has been a bit of uncertainty as I worry about whether I’m going to meet other people’s expectations of me. I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble meeting the expectations I have for myself without worrying about what other people might be expecting of me. There’s something about creative pressure, whether real or imagined, that stirs up fear, which usually leads me straight into a writing block.
I’ve been writing blog posts for nearly a year now, and in many ways it’s not all that different from the news articles I wrote as a journalist. The main difference is that I’m writing my story, drawing from my own experiences to try to help other writers. There’s been a certain amount of anxiety that’s come from that, which I’ve learned to overcome by realizing in one way they’re like pep talks to myself. They help me remember different information about writing, and I feel encouraged when I help other writers. Plus, I’ve come to realize that people who read this blog on a regular basis know what they’re getting themselves into, and they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t like what they were reading.
The trouble started when I agreed to do a guest blog for another site. I had no relationship with the readers on that site, and I didn’t know their expectations. I had my idea for the post, and I even discussed it with my writing group a few times. The problem came when I went to put the words on paper. I stared at a blank page, and the words wouldn’t come.
That’s when I decided if I couldn’t write, I’d read about writing. So I picked up Martin’s “Finish the Damn Book!” Martin follows this blog and you may notice his comments on occasion either under his name or under the name spottedgeckgo. He asked me to read his book a few months ago, and on this particular day when I read it, the timing couldn’t have been better. They were the words I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them.
The funny part is that Martin doesn’t believe in writer’s block, which you may know I have a different stance on. But it didn’t matter whether he believed in it or not, because he helped kick me out of the one I was in.
Martin starts his book describing his writing journey and how he finished his first book. The most impressive part was the long hours he put in at this day job, while still making time to write. He then gives helpful tips on how you can make time for writing every day. He systematically breaks down the day, describing common obstacles that prevent people from writing, and where we’re letting free time that can be devoted to writing slip away. He explains how to redirect that free time, and even addresses how to tackle the problem of being too tired and not having enough energy to write. And that’s all in the first two chapters.
The great thing is, even though Martin points out areas to help focus your energy on writing, he does it in a way that makes you feel encouraged and motivated to start making changes. It made me feel excited about writing. So much so, that as soon as I put down the book, I tackled that post that was haunting me. The first paragraph was painful to write, but Martin’s words kept playing in my head. And after I pushed myself through the first paragraph, the words started pouring out. I wrote the longest post I’ve ever written. I had seven and a half pages of writing when I finally finished the draft of the guest post. In the end, I had to cut more than half, but at least I had the words to cut.
Not only does this book give you tips on how to finish the first draft of your novel, it has a second part that gives advice on what to do once you finish your book. Then its appendices are filled with helpful writing resources. I enjoyed reading about Martin’s own journey and struggles with writing and about his experience with publishing. Many things in his book resonated with struggles I’ve faced. Overall, I’ve been left with this feeling that I can conquer the writing obstacles that get in my way. Whenever I’m feeling self-doubt creep in trying to derail me, I hear Martin’s voice cheering me on. And let’s be honest, his words of encouragement are much kinder than the inner voice that usually rules my thoughts.
Martin’s book is all about helping and inspiring other writers, which is right in line with what I try to do with this blog, so the message resonates with me. Even better than me telling you about what his book did for me, Martin is offering the first half of his book for free, so you can see if you get as inspired by his words as I did. And if you want the whole book, it’s available on Amazon.
Tell me about one of your favorite writing craft books. Is there a book that helped give you the push you needed when you were stuck on your novel?