How to Start Writing
How I started
My passion for writing was borne from my passion for reading. I’ve been a voracious reader since about three years old, my love affair with storytelling and word-play ignited by Dr. Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I was happy turning pages in the corners of my school library and the local Barnes & Noble. A book was always in my hands. Soon, I was reading well beyond my age group, deep diving into “adult” literature before the age of 10.
But it wasn’t until I was 11 years old that it occurred to me that I could write. The inciting incident was mishearing something my mom told me: I thought she’d said that a classmate of mine was writing a book on Barbara Bush, but what she’d actually said was that my classmate was reading a book about the former first lady. In any case, I felt the slow-burn of jealousy...and defiance.
“I can write a book too!”
And the rest, as they say, is herstory.
Chasing the muse
I spent untold hours every week seated in front of my clunky Compaq desktop, typing away stories inspired by the movies, novels and comic books I loved. I would read interviews in magazines and rewrite them as if I were the interviewer. I designed newsletters and came up with what I thought were clever, adult-sounding headlines and op-eds. My imagination felt like an endless well.
All these years later, writing is still my passion. It’s an intimate part of me. Though it wasn’t formally my job description until the last decade, I look back and see how much writing has always stayed with me and how much it’s a part of all our lives.
Emails. Social media posts. Journals. Blogs. Notes. Papers. Articles. Novels. Books.
We’re all writing all the time, but there’s something to be said about feeling confident about your imagination and abilities, about discovering your own endless well.
Answer your own questions
The best place I know to start is by just sitting down and answering a question for yourself. When I got started, the question my 11-year-old self was answering was, “Can I write?”
After that, the questions were more akin to, “How would I rewrite the ending of that movie?” or “What if those two superheroes fell in love?” I practiced with these seemingly silly questions, but the point was I consistently practiced and that helped me mature creatively, giving me the confidence I needed to write my self-published novella at the age of 17.
The question could be anything really, but ask yourself something meaningful and follow that first question with another thoughtful one. And have fun with this! No need to worry about proper punctuation and grammar. No need to judge yourself or show your work to others. Just answer questions for yourself and see where your answers take you.
21 questions to get you started
How would you rewrite the ending of your favorite book/movie?
What would a middle chapter of your imaginary biography look like?
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to experience?
What is your fantasy job/career?
What does being a parent mean to you?
What is your favorite word and why?
If you rewrote your favorite book/movie from the perspective of its villain, what would that look like?
When have you felt your most vulnerable?
What is first love like with all five of your senses?
What is a secret you’ve never told anyone in your life?
What item holds the greatest sentimental value for you?
What has been the best trip of your life (so far)?
What language sounds most pleasing to your ears?
What would you write in a letter to one of your heroes?
What song has the greatest personal meaning to you?
When have you felt most at-peace?
What was the last dream you remember having in detail?
What is regret like with all five of your senses?
What does your fantasy life look like one year from now?
What would your future self want you to know right now?
How do you know you can write?