Napoleon Hill once said,
Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.
Planning for things can be calming, even joyful. I like to start many of my days writing a to-do list of the things I want to accomplish before nightfall, anything from what I’m going to write to what I’m going to make for dinner.
I also like to plan for the future, especially when it comes to my writing. I like to mark down on a calendar what I’m going to be working on each week, whether it’s the first draft of a new novel, or a revision, or a screenplay, or a short story, whatever. I believe setting schedules and deadlines are super important for writers.
I also believe there are inherent problems in waiting, especially when it comes to your creative projects. It’s one thing to say, okay, I’m going to start writing the novel in June, once I finish up with my teaching schedule for the spring. Trust me, I do this all time. Sometimes you need to have a couple months of quiet time to work on the novel. Sometimes your job is just too much at the moment, and so you put off starting the project until later.
It’s another thing to say, okay, I’m going to start writing the novel in June… and then June comes and goes and you never started it. For whatever reason, you decided, actually, I’m going to write it in December / January, yes, that will be better. And then December comes and goes, and January comes and goes, and there’s still no novel.
When it comes to your writing life, and really any important parts of your life, the timing is never going to be just right. Things will come up. A family member might get sick. You might find yourself with a week where you just cannot under any circumstances write a word down. That’s fine. That happens.
But if you tell yourself you can’t start writing the novel this month because the timing isn’t right, and you’ll start it next month, that’s when everything will work out, you’re never going to start the novel. You have to pick a start date… and you have to commit!
Last fall I was thinking of writing a new book over my four-week winter break from teaching. From August to mid-December I was teaching four classes and just didn’t have the time to commit to writing a new novel until late December. I was fine with that. It gave me time to think about the book and start writing an outline and character bios.
But then something happened in early December. I was exhausted. The semester had been one of my hardest ever, and a good part of me wanted to just relax over the four-week winter vacation. I wanted to do absolutely nothing. Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe go on a weekend trip or two.
And so I decided, for a week or so anyway, that I would push the new novel to the summer of 2019. I had other writing projects to work on, anyway. Why was I forcing myself to work every day of my winter vacation? Why couldn’t I just relax for once?
You know why? Because the story needed to be written. It was a project I had great passion for, and while, yes, I could have waited until the summer of 2019, I decided, right as I finished up grading the final papers of the semester, that I was going to dive in and write the novel over winter break after all.
I decided not to wait until tomorrow. Not wait until the perfect timing.
I decided to just do it, and so I wrote a new middle grade novel in exactly four weeks over winter.
It’s March of 2019 now, and I’m about halfway through the third draft. I’ve changed a lot of the story, and have made it third person limited instead of first. By the time I get to May, the book will be on its fifth draft probably, and it will be in great shape by then, I know it.
If I had waited until the summer to start writing it? The book wouldn’t even exist yet, in any shape or form, this coming May. Not even chapter 1.
And you know what? Now my summer is free to take on two new projects I can’t wait to get started on. The first is a horror screenplay I’m excited to write. And the second is a new novel, my twentieth novel, a young adult romantic thriller I have been tinkering with in my mind for almost two years.
In a way, I’m six months or more ahead of the game. And by August I’ll have not just one but three writing projects I’m super excited about.
Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Whether it’s writing, or traveling, or reaching out to a friend, or whatever. The timing will never be just right.
So do it today, not tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.