Write the Thing You Aren't Ready For

The January/February issue of Horn Book magazine contains a great editorial called Books for the Ages. In it, Roger Sutton argues that:

“Nobody ever became a better reader by sticking with books they were ready for.”

It reminded me of something one of my creative writing teachers said when I was a senior in college. He challenged us to write the thing we wanted to write now, and not to wait until we were “ready” for it.

I kept that piece of advice in mind as I started to write my first post-apocalyptic novel with religious themes a year after I graduated. I didn’t think I was ready, and I wasn’t. I scoured the library bookshelves for Marian theology and read “How to Survive a Nuclear Attack” (which made my best friend comment that she would come find me if we were ever attacked; unfortunately, the book ended up not being very relevant to my story and I don’t remember anything from it.) A few years after I wrote it, I wrote a sequel, which I also wasn’t ready to write. The sequel took me about three times as long to write. But it was probably three times better, too.

In 2004, I was between projects and itching to write again when a friend told me about NaNoWriMo. And although I wanted to be writing, I didn’t think I was ready to write a whole novel in a month. But I said yes, anyway — and that became my first of five completed NaNoWriMo novels — one of which I should get back to revising very soon.

Even if I’m not ready for it.