I was just cleaning out my email inbox, and I came across a video that my wife Shelly sent me for safekeeping. It was of our grandson, Gavin, when he was probably less than a year old. He’s in one of those seats that has the wheels so that he can push himself across the floor, and he is going back and forth across our wood floor from Mama to Grandma, and then back. For someone who can’t yet walk, it is close as they can come, and at the same time, its exercising those little legs so that someday soon he can indeed take those first steps.
I remember Gavin’s first steps, just as I remember my son’s first steps. There was a lot of falling down, crying and frustration. But that didn’t stop them from trying. It didn’t take more than a couple of weeks to make the transition from crawler to walker. And a whole new world opened up for them.
That’s the way it is with writing a book. To think about writing a 300-page novel or nonfiction piece is pretty ambitious, and pretty daunting. And the biggest challenge is knowing where to start. That’s where I am today. I have 16 published books under my belt, and probably another half dozen that haven’t and probably will never be published. And as I consider my next book, I am still I am intimidated by that first step. As I state in the trailer for Infinity’s Reach: “The hardest part of a journey is the first step.”
One of the advantages of teaching writing classes is that you can go back and listen to what you advised students to do, and then actually do them yourself. And that’s where I am today. If a student is stuck, not knowing how to start, I advise them to take that first step anyway, giving themselves permission to write what I call the “crap draft,” knowing they are likely to edit or delete large sections of what they write. But there is comfort in knowing that paying that price will reward you with the beginnings of a book.
In the end, I often go back and rewrite my first chapter, so it probably doesn’t matter if what I start is good, bad or somewhere in between. What matters is just getting started.
After all, one doesn’t learn to walk overnight.