The Atlantic has a lovely series called By Heart which I’ve featured a couple of times here on the blog. Today I came across another gem called E. B. White’s Lesson for Debut Writers: It’s Okay to Start Small.
The passage that Nicole Chung quoted and that forms the crux of this essay is a quote by E.B. White about sailing. Chung is Korean by descent and many times in her life she’s played the role of outsider. When you read her interview, you notice how the patterns of her life unfold and how her love for sailing becomes a metaphor for her writing journey. When E.B. White talks about his writing process, he emphasizes on starting small and Chung follows this maxim with all her heart.
I think it’s useful for everyone, no matter what stage of their career they’re at, to know it’s okay to write for yourself first—sometimes only for yourself. There are going to be things that you might need to work out on the page, alone, before you’re ready to share them more widely. I don’t think there’s always a rush. It’s okay to take the longer voyage.
Reading Chung’s essay is a boost in the arm for any writer’s imposter syndrome affliction. Even if you are afraid to write your story, you can start small. Sometimes it’s these small ripples that begin the wave.