It’s late. The only people left in the bar are a couple of tourists. They gaze out the open doorway.
On the terrace, the fairy lights in the overhanging trees cast shadows across the face of an old man sitting on his own. He’s hunched over his table, his brandy forgotten, as he scribes sentences into a moleskine notebook.
“He reminds me of Hemingway,” says the first tourist.
The second tourist yawns. It’s the last night of their holiday. They’ve been on their feet all day and most of last night too.
“ ‘A Clean, Well-lighted Place’. The short story we studied in high school.”
The second tourist pours the last of the cerveza into their glasses. The lights dim. One of the waiters begins to roll down the shutters.
The first tourist stares down into the cerveza, voice barely audible.
“You know, um…I…I’ve always wanted to write.”
Writing is on a lot of people’s bucket lists.
The stranger at a party who’s going to write the next best-seller just as soon as he finds the right idea.
The uncle who’s planning to write his memoir when he retires.
The mum who will start a blog once her kids leave home.
Or the friend who confesses her lifelong dream of being a writer in the semi-darkness of a bar after a few drinks.
Are you one of them?
In this post we’ll look at some of the things that might be holding you back and what you can do about them.
Obstacle 1: Fear
When Provision Living did a survey on bucket lists, they discovered 5% of people were not achieving their goals because they were afraid.
I suspect that this figure would be much higher if we only asked them about writing.
After all, if you suffer from acrophobia you’re probably not going to add skydiving to your bucket list.
Unless you want to work through this fear so you can fly overseas.
But it’s not going to be activity you choose to do because you enjoy it.
Writing’s different. It’s probably not going to be on your bucket list if you hate it. It’s there because it’s something you enjoy for its own sake — whether that’s the process of writing or the feeling of accomplishment you get from creating something from scratch.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as scary as skydiving.
The fear which comes with writing is the same kind of fear we have when we go out on date with someone we like.
The fear of judgement. The fear of rejection. The fear of not being good enough.
Our ego is at stake. Making ourselves vulnerable is uncomfortable.
There is no quick fix for this one, but there are things you can do to start shifting your mindset.
The first thing to understand is that you don’t need to get rid of all fears to start writing. You can begin your story in spite of them. Fear and writing canco-exist.
Think of fear as a bad housemate who you can’t kick out because of some weird clause in the lease. You’re stuck together in the same house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lock yourself in your room and start typing.
If fear’s trying to follow you in, take a look at my free booklet The Fearless Writing Guide: How to drop your doubts and take off. You’ll find more strategies you can use to keep that door locked!
Obstacle 2: Cost
Writing’s expensive, right? You need to enroll in a writing course, pay an agent, pay an editor, buy a new computer, buy writing software, rent an office…
Sure, these things are nice to have. And some of them, like an editor, you’ll need later on if you want to publish a book.
But you don’t need any of them to get started.
That’s the wonderful thing about writing. It’s probably one of the easiest things on your bucket list to start in terms of cost.
If you’re in Australia like me and want to try hot air ballooning, a one-hour flight is going to set you back around AU$500.
Want to visit the Pyramids of Giza? AU$2000. And that’s just the flights to Cairo.
All you need to begin writing your story is a notepad and pen. If you’re using your computer, there’s no need to splash out on expensive writing software. Start typing in Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or whatever program you already have.
Charles Dickens and Jane Austen didn’t have access to creative writing courses or private offices when they crafted their stories. In fact, Dickens had to leave school when he was a child to work in a blacking factory because his father was thrown into debtors’ prison. Austen didn’t have her own bedroom or study. She wrote many of her novels on a tiny walnut table next to the front door.
Start with what you have.
Obstacle 3: Time
The whole idea of creating a bucket list is to make a file of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. We like to think that’s a long way off.
Everyday busyness takes over. Study, work, family. Bucket lists get folded and placed at the back of drawers.
That’s why the 2007 movie The Bucket List struck a chord with so many people. In the film, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play cancer patients who have less than a year to live. They discharge themselves from hospital and travel around the world to complete their bucket lists before they die.
As it turns out, Jack Nicholson’s character lives until he’s 81, but the character of Carter, played by Morgan Freeman, passes away shortly after returning from the trip.
None of us know when our lives might be cut short or restricted by an illness or accident.
Think about why writing is on your bucket list. How important is it to you? How would you feel if you never got there?
If writing’s important to you, you need to start now. And that’s something we can all do, no matter how busy our lives are.
That’s not always the case with other bucket list items. If you’re in Australia and you want to see the Northern Lights, you’ll need to fly for nearly 24 hours to get there.
It might take you months or even years to write your story, but you can start today by setting aside ten minutes to write.
Obstacle 4: Size
If writing’s on your bucket list, the chances are that you’ve written it down as something like this:
Write a book.
If you haven’t started, don’t feel bad. It’s not easy to begin something that’s going to be 80,000+ words. Especially if you’re not used to writing anything longer than an email.
Does it have to be a book? Think about why you’ve put it on your bucket list.
Why do you really want to write?
To help people?
To influence people?
To leave a legacy?
To challenge yourself?
To record your memories?
To reflect on your experiences?
Could you achieve the same results by tackling something smaller?
A novella? A short story? A piece of flash fiction? A guide? A booklet? An article? A series of blog posts?
What’s more important to you, the process or the outcome?
Perhaps writing’s not something you’re meant to tick off your bucket list. Maybe it’s not meant to be a one-off experience like visiting the Pyramids.
Perhaps for you, it’s meant to be the start of a new creative habit.
A habit that will provide you with pleasure and fulfilment throughout your lifetime.
Need a hand getting started? I’ve created a small booklet that takes you through some quick and practical steps to help you begin writing regularly (and enjoying it!) You can download a free copy here.