When I meet someone new, within the first few minutes, they inevitably ask, “So what do you do?” It’s an innocent question, but one that often leads to an interesting end: “I’m a writer,” I say, and many look wistfully into the distance and reply, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”
A natural encourager, I invite them to share their ideas. I listen attentively, knowing that the first crucial step to writing a book is often a conversation like this. They try their best to sum up what’s been beating around their heads — sometimes for decades — and in so doing, realize they’ve never tried once to say it aloud. Then they give me the kind of smile reserved for fast friends — for the unexpected society found in the quiet corners of summer barbecues, football games and their tipsy on-lookers shouting in the background.
More than a decade into such conversations, more people than ever are lighting up as they tell me about their book ideas. Maybe it’s just that my friends and I are getting older, and questions of legacy and bucket lists and everything we’ve always wanted to do has become more urgent. Or maybe it’s the time we’ve all had in the last, languid years to dream up new worlds and characters and hobbies. Whatever it is, almost everyone has an idea now. Is it just a passing fad or something more profound: a recognition that the world needs longer, richer stories into which we can sink our teeth?
Sometimes these conversations lead to a practical question: How does one actually write a book? Nearly every time, the light that was so bright in their eyes begins to fade. I have to get up early? I won’t get paid for several years or maybe not at all? I have to convince a string of people, precipitously inaccessible, that my story matters? That sounds too much like work! We laugh and then transition to the next-best thing — a new Netflix series, the strange weather of late, the delicious dip Kelly brought — anything but the dream crashing down around us. We part ways with a tinge of regret.
But other times — and these are the ones I live for — the light of an idea grows brighter. As they ask about my discipline and practice, they begin to think they might want to do it, too. Faced with the long odds of publication and the cascades of rejection, there is a gauntlet thrown down at their feet. In that conversation, in that desire to make their ideas known to a wider world, they take the first, crucial step toward a goal they’ve had forever.
And it happens: they begin to write their book.
ABOUT MEG: Megan Rich has written two books, a YA novel and a travel memoir, and is seeking representation for her third, a literary thriller inspired by The Great Gatsby. She took part in the highly-selective sub-concentration in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, for which she completed a thesis of original poetry. In addition, she’s a graduate of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project program. With fourteen years experience as a creative writing teacher and mentor of students from ages twelve to eighty-five, she is passionate about helping others find and refine their voices on the page.
JUMP START YOUR BOOK WITH MEG: Learn to create a lasting connection with your readers, by developing your voice in Meg’s upcoming class Novel Jumpstart, beginning Sunday April 3. In this four-week mostly-asynchronous studio we will help you decide if you want to write a novel, and if so, will help make the journey must less fraught. Through recorded lectures, readings, online discussions, and short assignments, we will examine the structures of stories, protagonists and their journeys, story worlds, story time, genre, point of view — and the habit, discipline, and support needed to get it done. More information here.
Note: Novel Jumpstart a great choice if you’re considering applying for Authors Lab, which begins in the fall.