They say that all you need to write a book is a good idea. And I didn’t have one.
It was June 2012 on a cold, crisp afternoon in the shaky isles of Middle Earth, or as I affectionately call it, New Zealand. I was huddled under a blanket on the couch staring blankly at an empty open page on my laptop, just as I imagine all aspiring writers do when the creative part of their brains are sending automated out-of-office responses to their fingertips. I had tried to write a novel six months earlier, but I’d chained that deformed little monster of a manuscript to a wall in a dark attic of the hard drive and I was starting again. It’s not easy accepting defeat, but I was nine arduous chapters into a futuristic detective novel when it grudgingly dawned on me that it was a huge, steaming pile of manure. It was a disheartening experience to say the least, but it had to be done and I was back at square one, scribbling random thoughts on scraps of paper, doing my best to ignore the lonesome blinking cursor that seemed to be taunting me with a plain, simple truth.
I don’t know how to write a book.
All the movies say that you buy a corkboard, plaster it with buzzwords scrawled on Post-it notes, hang a cigarette from your bottom lip, drink gallons of coffee, put a pencil behind your ear for some reason, and then tap away with naive enthusiasm late into the night while a montage of your inspired efforts fades in and out around you. But what if you prefer tea? Surely there must be another way? I could type, and I was top of my class in spelling when I was ten, so the only thing that was really holding me back was the fact that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. No big deal.
All I needed to do was find out how this writing malarkey was actually done, so I turned to the fountain of all human knowledge: Google.
I joined every writer’s “how-to” site I could find and set myself exercises, writing short stories on any and every topic that sprang to mind, no matter how inane or insane. I kept files of tips and advice, read encouraging articles and inspirational quotes, and after many months of failing miserably over and over again to win any of the short-story competitions I entered, I did what any failed writer would do.
I just kept writing.
Why? Because somewhere among the towering weeds of failure, I had stumbled out onto a path. It was a rocky, muddy, uphill path, and I had no idea where it was going, but I’d come to realize that even if you’re blindly pushing forward, you’re still getting somewhere. So, after a moment of self-hate for reading too many inspirational quotes, I soldiered on because the only way I was really going to fail was if I stopped writing.
After that, everything changed.
They say that all you need to write a book is a good idea, but that’s not true. It turns out for me, all I needed was a title. I was clearing Post-it notes from my cork board when I discovered a flattened-out, crumpled envelope pinned beneath them; scrawled on that envelope were the words Infinity Lost June 2012. I remembered jotting them down when I was huddled under a blanket on the couch on a cold, crisp afternoon. The ideas began to flow like water. One notebook became two, became six, became ten. Chapters began rolling off the tips of my fingers as if they were possessed. The months flew by and before I knew it, I had written my very first book. I was so surprised that I’d done it I laughed out loud right there at the keyboard.
Was it any good? I had no idea. Would it ever be published? I knew the odds and the chances were slim, but I’d come this far and I at least had to try. You never know, maybe one day if I’m lucky I’ll get an agent who’ll find a publisher willing to read it. Maybe I’ll hold a copy in my hands and I’ll look down at it shaking my head in disbelief. And maybe one day someone might ask me how I wrote a novel, and if that day ever comes, I’ll tell them with genuine sincerity the only answer I can—I don’t know how to write a book, but I did it anyway.