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How to start writing

If you've always wanted to try your hand at writing, give our guide to getting started a go

Audience: Writers

Last updated: 16 February 2023

Whether you’re recording your thoughts in a diary or penning poems to share with the world, writing is a great way to get in touch with your creative side. You don’t need much to get started, just a pen, a piece of paper, a laptop or a phone – and a little bit of imagination. That said, sometimes that first step can be the hardest.

That’s why we’re here with a few top tips for getting over your fears and diving in.

But I’m not good at it…

Work your writing muscles

Build your writing muscle a bit at a time

Being good at writing is no different from being good at music or sports – the biggest and most important thing you can do to improve is to practise!

No one sits down at a piano for the first time and thinks they’ll be able to play a concert. You wouldn’t expect someone to score a goal the first time they played in a football match. But for some reason, people think that if they aren’t good at writing right away, they’ll never be good. That’s not so!

But how do I fit it in?

Set aside time to write (and think!)

Writing can be done quickly, but thinking can take a long time! Don’t expect to be able to sit down and jump right into a story every time (or even any time). Instead, give yourself time to try things out and to doodle your way into new ideas.

Take half an hour over your lunch break, plan five minutes with a notebook over your morning coffee or take your laptop to bed with you and see if you can make writing part of your routine. 

But I never have any ideas…

Try fun ways to find inspiration

To start writing, you have to have something to write about – right? Well, yes, but you don’t necessarily have to come up with the idea yourself. Have a look at some writing prompts for a regular burst of inspiration or raid your memories for ideas.

Write about your favourite birthday present, your worst moment at school, the funniest thing you heard at an office party and you’ll quickly find that there’s inspiration all around you.

But I’m not a writer…

Remember, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to writers

A writer is someone who gets words down on paper

Even though writers come in all shapes, sizes and styles, it can be quite easy to look at people you admire and think – that’s what a writer is. But a writer isn’t only someone with a series of bestsellers or a handful of fancy awards, a writer is also someone who gets words down on paper.

Some writers are the life and the soul of every party but quake when they sit down in front of the computer. Others are introverts who only come out of their shell when they’re left alone to start imagining. It doesn’t matter what type of writer you are – the only way to get better is to stop worrying and start writing.

But I don’t even know what I’m writing…

There’s no ‘one-type’ of writing either

The same way there’s no one kind of writer, there’s no one sort of creative writing. In fact there are dozens and dozens. Fiction, memoir, poems, life writing, non-fiction, personal essays, science fiction, flash fiction – there are tons of types of writing but when you’re just starting out, there’s no need to limit yourself.

All you need to do is put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or thumbs to screen and see what comes out. You can decide what it is afterwards!

But I tried and it wasn’t very good…

That’s OK, writing is often rewriting

One of the great things about writing is the fact that, unlike a high jump or an open mic performance, it’s not a one-shot deal. You can edit, revise and change your writing as many times as you want before you have to show it to people.

All writers rewrite, edit and change their work. Sometimes they change them umpteen times. Rewriting will be your friend and that means you don’t have to worry about getting things right the first time.

My writing doesn’t sound like I want it to…

It takes time to find your feet

It takes time for your skills to match up with your aspirations

You have some idea of what you want your writing to sound like. Maybe you have a favourite author or TV show writer or columnist and you look at their stuff and think, why doesn’t mine sound like that?

Well, the thing is, they’ve probably spent a long time working on their writing and that means they’ve developed a style. And with enough practise, you will too. You just have to remember that it takes time for your skills to match up with your aspirations.  

OK. Fine. I’ll try. Now what?

Get some help on the next step

Once you’ve started experimenting with writing, then you’ll be ready to start thinking about what different kinds you might like to go further with. Check out our creative writing resources for tips on how to write short stories, poems, novels and more.