If Not Now, Then When? If Not You, Then Who?

Let’s face it. No matter which stage of life we’re at, there never seems a good time to do that one thing that we know we want to do: the right time to have children, change jobs, go back to school, or…write that novel we’ve been wanting to write for the last twenty-three years.

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Why is that? Why is the one thing that defines who we are in our dreams something we don’t actually follow through with?

Whenever I go to a party someone will inevitably ask me what I do. I do a lot of things outside of writing fiction (edit novels and memoirs, design websites, create book trailers), but as soon as the words “I also write” are out of my mouth, the conversation changes.

Suddenly, the fellow partygoers’ eyes light up, their hands grip their drink a little more fiercely, their energy zeroes in, and they fill me in—as if in secret—about their own aspirations of writing, their three half-finished novels/fifteen short stories/ramblings in notebooks laying under their bed. Most of the time the conversation ends with them saying they’re going to get to it SOME DAY. When they have more time. When their children are in school/off to college/when they get help with their ailing parent/when their workload at their new job eases off.

Why is following through with writing that novel so difficult?  Lack of discipline? Fear of rejection? Fear of perfection?

Last winter I was lucky enough to see Anthony Doerr’s talk in Seattle. The main premise was how the story ideas we carry around – so elegant, beautiful, shiny, all bedazzling in their splendor – are never the same when we get them out on paper. They look nothing like what we imagined. They are the torn, stapled together, filled in with black magic marker (as in Doerr’s case), sketches of the ideas we thought about for years. They’re never perfect. They will never live up to the expectations we had for them.

But with time, maybe we learn to love these distant cousins of our shiny ideas. We can learn to love the process of sitting and writing, of struggling to get our words out, of piecing together thoughts into awkward sentences until some day, there are a few that sparkle. Ones that speak to us. Ones that convey our deepest thoughts and meditations.

Why not try? If we don’t do it now, then when will the time ever come? If it’s not us that sits down to put these words to paper, then who will transcribe our greatest ideas? Who will take those ideas and portray them the way only we can?

“So as long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” Virginia Woolf

I say, do it. Don’t wait. Don’t go to sleep tonight until you’ve pulled out your idea, blew off the dust bunnies and sat with it. Meditated on it. Spent thirty minutes thinking about how to develop it. That thirty minutes is nothing in the grand scheme of your life, but it will bring you one step closer to achieving your dream.

Go on now. As my yoga teacher said in today’s class, “Go slay your inner dragons.” If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Article originally published February 20, 2017 on Women Writers, Women('s) Books.