We’ve all heard about the benefits of writing for pleasure, yet getting started can feel daunting. We share five ways you can get into creative writing

It’s an old adage, yet it’s one that many of us secretly harbour: we’ve all got a book inside of us. “If only I had more time.” “Work’s too stressful to think about starting a personal project.” “I’m just waiting for inspiration to strike.” Before you know it, weeks, months, years have passed, all with nothing to show but that untapped feeling of “I could be creating something, if only…”

Whether you’re new to creative writing, or have just fallen out of practice, we share five simple tips to help spark your creativity, prioritise your passions, and start writing.

1. Embrace community

Writing communities are among some of the most welcoming and passionate places – you can make new friends, gain advice and guidance. Local writing groups often offer weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly sessions where you can write together, share your work, gain feedback, and even discover competitions worth entering. Some may even offer writing retreats or regular write-a-thons, where everyone can get together and write with no distractions – just a supportive environment filled with encouragement.

If you don’t have a group near you, or your confidence is holding you back, there are plenty of online communities for writers of all genres, styles, and experience levels. Facebook has many writing groups (both private and public), as do sites such as Tumblr and Reddit. Signing up is free and easy. There’s no need to feel pressured to share your work before you’re ready, but you can still pick up great tips from reading others’ creative works-in-progress.

2. Take up a 30-day challenge

You may not have heard of it, but each year thousands of writers around the world take on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. Based around the idea of writing 50,000 words in just 30 days, the goal is to focus on getting a first draft done without getting caught up in editing, polishing, and restarting the bits that aren’t quite there yet, or that you’re struggling with.

While the official NaNoWriMo takes place every November, many online writing groups and websites offer 30-day prompts to help get you started. A great way of challenging you to write outside of your comfort zone, a prompt may include writing in a different genre, including a set theme, item, or setting. Books such as The Five-Minute Writer or The Write Stuff are filled with prompts, exercises, and inspirations to get you writing now, rather than waiting for that elusive ‘perfect idea’.

3. Rediscover your love of reading

If you’re ever stuck for inspiration, going back and reading your favourite book can help you remember why you love writing. ‘You can’t be a good writer without being a reader’ is something drilled into writing students throughout their time at uni, and it really holds true. How can you know what’s already been overdone within your preferred genre, if you don’t read? How can you keep pushing yourself to do your best, if you don’t have benchmarks to aim for? Reading can be an important part of the process – just make sure you don’t allow it to consume all of your precious time for creativity.

Try online book recommendation sites like GoodReads to find out what’s popular within your genre, or to discover entirely new subgenres of fiction you didn’t know were out there.

Instead of aiming for perfection, challenge yourself to just get something done

4. Create a schedule

Neil Gaiman once said: “To be a good writer… read a lot and write every day.” An ethos shared by many successful writers, the idea is that writing every day creates a positive habit that can help avoid common excuses that hold us back. Writer’s block may feel very real for us, but by creating writing habits that work with your schedule – even if that’s just sitting down for 15 minutes with your morning coffee and a blank notebook – you can train yourself to push through the parts of the creative process that you struggle with. With time and practice, you will start to find it easier to write.

5. Let go of perfection

We’d all like to think that we could be the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, but the truth is, almost no authors get it right the first time. A first draft is meant to be just that – a draft. When we get overwhelmed with our need to create something that is perfect, we allow our worries and fears to rule. Soon the creative process can slow or even grind to a halt. Instead of aiming for perfection, challenge yourself to just get something done. It could be a set chapter or number of words, or even just a paragraph. Set yourself a goal, and start writing without re-reading or editing as you go. You may be surprised at just how freeing it can feel.