Two years ago, I was a parent chaperone on a cultural trip through China when I suddenly woke at 2am with my brain on fire. I had had one of those ‘inspiration in the middle of the night’ moments. Worried I’d forget - I pulled myself out of bed, grabbed a notebook and under the flashlight of my mobile phone started writing.
There had been 2 events that day. The first was a visit to the Imperial Gardens in Beijing where we’d learnt about dragon mythology. 9 different tribes, 9 different animal ramparts, one unifying Ming dynasty. A dynasty which was determined to assert it’s ruling power. A dynasty which combined 9 different animals into a beast. A beast fit for an Emperor – the Dragon.
The second event was a super creepy trip to the Dingling Tomb, where I was told stories of looting and death. Stolen coffin timber, repurposed into a bedroom wardrobe, collapsing and crushing the children playing hide-and-seek inside. The moral of this story was not to steal from the Emperor - you will be cursed.
My 2am inspiration was a reflection on these two events. A story about a baby. A baby named after a warrior Dragon. A baby, ill-equipped to bear such a name will curse the village. A baby must die.
By 5am the entire plot of my first novel was down on paper. The next morning, I began researching my story. I was in China after all, there was much to absorb. Shortly after arriving home however, fear kicked in.
I’ll be honest – I was scared to write this book.
I fell in love with the idea of this story the moment I woke up at 2am. I loved the journey of the main character. I loved the concept of good versus an evil mythical creature we never met. I was excited to read what I could potentially write, but I also doubted my ability to actually write it. So, I stayed in research mode, planning and plotting. While I was working on structure, I could not fear terrible writing or poor grammar.
My inner-voice repeatedly asked … Do I have the skill to write this story? Should this be my second or even third novel? Is the story too ambitious for a first-time novelist? Will I look back in time and be disappointed by how I wrote it?
My inner voice was crippling until Margaret Atwood said something to me.
JUST DO IT
Ok, she didn’t say anything directly to me. Her message came via a MasterClass I was working through, but what she did say was …
“It’s ok to not know everything. Learning on the job is what we all do. Get over your fear and just write it.”
Just do it! Really, what would happen if I JUST WROTE IT?
After a stern talk with the mirror, I realised that I couldn’t hide this idea in the back of my brain forever. I couldn’t keep claiming to be writing a novel if I wasn’t actually writing anything. So I did it. I signed myself up to the Australian Writer’s Centre : Novel Writing Essentials and began to write.
5,000 words. 7,000 words. 10,000 words later and the story which I painstakingly avoided for 2 years has begun pouring out in earnest. Last week, I finished the first draft of Chapter 1.
It’s a small achievement I know. A milestone which should probably pass unnoticed. I have no expectations of applause and accolade, yet here I am. Super proud. I pushed through self-doubt and got started. I just did It? Could it be that Nike has had it right all this time? Could the potential for success honestly be this simple?
I’ll let you know.