How to start writing

How to start writing

By: Jenny Lester
Published on:
  • 30 under 30
  • Top tips

Would you like to start writing, but don’t know where to begin? In this blog, Jenny Lester from our 30 under 30 2023 list, gives us a quick guide on how to start the process! Jenny is a writer, researcher, and activist, and you can read her full 30 under 30 bio here.

I spent years not writing. I never had any ideas. I would sit down and stare at a blank screen and then watch Netflix instead. I would daydream about being on Graham Norton, talking about my best-selling book, without writing a word. I thought an idea would come to me. A good one. And when it did, I would start, right? Well, not really. I was stuck in this creative black hole for a long time. Here are my tips for how to begin. 

Start with nothing

I had no ideas so I wrote about what I knew. I started a diary. I described what happened in a day and how I felt about it. It got me in the habit of sitting and typing.

The first piece of creative writing that I wrote as an adult was a diary for my Dungeons & Dragons character. It got me trying to explain things, getting emotion onto the page. 

Both of these projects were perfect for starting writing as they were:

  • Low stakes – I was never going to publish them, I didn’t need to spend any time worrying if they were ‘good’ or not.
  • Consistent – I had to add to them regularly to keep them up to date.

Side note: Fan fiction can also meet this criteria!

Find inspiration

Once I began to write, I started to have ideas, but not as many as I wanted. So I started seeking them out. 

My friend Catherine, who is a poet, invited me to her show. I wasn’t interested in poetry — I wanted to write novels! But I went along and it was amazing. I saw these people standing on the stage, weaving these words in such creative ways and I thought, ‘I want to do that!’

After the show, I went home and watched lots of videos online of poetry. From watching I learnt a lot and found I had a lot of ideas. I sat down and I wrote a poem. I went to more events and I wrote more poems.

It was lucky I went along that night, but I find inspiration in lots of places now. I think you have to find what excites you, and then consume as much of it as possible. Look far and wide and challenge yourself to be inspired by the mundane.

Find time

I struggle to find time to write. I try to remember that the most important thing is to do some rather than none. Even 5 minutes of writing is infinitely more than 0 minutes. It all adds up. 

So you clicked on an article called ‘How to Start Writing’. You’ve finished reading it now. You read it pretty quickly, right? Maybe you even have 5 minutes spare… Why not open up a notebook or a Word document? Set yourself a 5 minute timer. Flex your fingers. Press start, and start. You’ll be glad you did. Promise. Off you go!

Useful Resources

Button Poetry

Neil Gaiman Masterclass (This is available for free through some libraries!)

Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of work, separated by short breaks)

Jenny Lester, 30 under 30 nominee in 2023 smiling at the camera.

Jenny Lester

Jenny is part of our 30 under 30 2023 list.

She is a writer, researcher, and activist.

Read their full 30 under 30 bio here.

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