Scott Maddix: Well, personally, I have already written one, have a manuscript for another, and strong beginnings for a third. When I am not in depression, writing is a great joy to me, and often a way to put myself in a good mood. Something I look forward to.
For me: I’d take some creative writing courses, if you don’t feel confident about your skill, sure, but READ a lot, and WRITE a lot. As three-edged-sword says above, the key is to find what it takes to JUST DO IT.
For me, the sort of breakthrough moment was the year I did NaNoWriMo, determined to simply make as many words as needed. I wrote thousands of short scraps of stories. Out of those, a few fully-developed short stories arose. I collected the best of them into Chunnel Surfer II.
With the confidence of a few short stories, I then felt like I could tackle a larger story, and wrote Patchworld (that’s the manuscript), a more traditional novel. Still needs a significant edit, and that’s a whole other set of skills. That’s what the classes are going to be good for. But for the writing, Just Do It is actually, yes, the best advice. Give yourself permission to write crap, put words on the page, even if you’re writing laundry lists or copying out books, it’ll get your brain and your fingers used to the task. Write things in the “wrong” format: poetry, screenplay, interoffice memo, video game script. Practice writing in the style of your favorite authors, as well as writers you don’t like so much. Then as it gets comfortable, start to segue into writing complete stories.
For every completed/published work, I’d say most writers have thousands of false starts, scraps, scribbled ideas on the back of napkins.
I also like to keep an “ideas” file, where I keep those napkins, pictures from magazines, news articles, etc. So if there’s a lull in my creative outflow, I can sort of browse through and get ideas, maybe pick two or three unrelated things and try to imagine a story that includes all of them.
Ask yourself “what if…” a lot.
Read a lot.
Have lots of experiences. Watch movies. Go to the mall and eavesdrop. Spend a day at the park watching people, imagining backstories based on their clothes and how they walk.
Have friends willing to read your stuff in its raw form and give you feedback — but be sure to allow yourself to ignore it! But still, it is useful and important to LISTEN to your first readers. If you find one that is really good at analysis and feedback, who won’t just say, “it’s great, honey!” — hang onto them. They are precious.
Read some more.
In a few weeks, or months, I’ll be able to get back on that horse, but for now I can only want to want it, and wait.