Beginnings and the Work Ahead of Us

We’re making the turn to autumn, and with it many parents are sending their children off to college. For them, it’s a thrilling time, not unlike the feeling we writers get when we start a new project. The beginning is also just a bit nerve-wracking, and at times downright scary. It comes with equal measures of possibility and uncertainty. My neighbor reports that her daughter, after three days, is unhappy because she’s not making friends. “Give it time,” the neighbor told her. “It takes time.”

Nothing could be more true when it comes to writing. Those new projects? They’re thrilling, uncertain, nerve-wracking, and scary, precisely because we don’t know what they’ll become, nor do we know whether they’ll measure up to the ideal we have when we first conceive them. It takes time, and something has to sustain us while, day to day, we’re doing the work, moving ahead with hope and faith.

I offer up, then, these quotes to help us get started and to continue:


“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” ~ Plato

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” ~ William James

“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.” ~ Margaret Atwood

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~ Richard Bach

“Writing is a delicious agony.” ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

“Writing is always a process of discovery—I never know the end, or even the events on the next page, until they happen. There’s a constant interplay between the imagining and shaping of the story.” ~Kim Edwards

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” ~Holly Gerth


It takes a good deal of courage and faith to move forward in our lives and in our writing. The important thing is to take the chance—to send a son or daughter off into the world; to commit words to the page with the hope that they will lead you somewhere worthwhile. Embrace the thrill and the fear. Let neither of them stop you.



  1. Beth Johnson on August 27, 2018 at 11:59 am

    I sent a kid off to college AND am working on a new novel project! Thanks for the inspirational quotes, Lee. Delicious agony sums it up nicely.

    • Lee Martin on August 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Beth, you were one of the folks I had in mind when I wrote this post. You are a fierce and brave warrior!

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