What Happens When You Decide the Answer is “Yes”?

by Jeanette the Writer
published in Writing

Hey word nerd!

Jeanette the Curriculum Unicorn here with your writerly wisdom.

Can I really write a book?

Does that thought seem familiar? I can’t even express how many times those words have gone through my head. Whether you’ve known since childhood you were destined to be a writer or you’re just discovering your passion for the craft now, it’s likely you’ve also stopped to consider whether you have the discipline, the drive, the mental, emotional, and physical wherewithal to truly finish a full-length, publish-worthy manuscript. And, I bet if you admitted it, you would say this thought is what has stopped you from seriously attempting it.

The Problem With “Can I?”

I, too, felt that uncertainty. Many times, I pondered my ability to write a novel, but it was not until my early adulthood that I understood the problem with what I was asking myself. At the time, I was making some big transitions and trying to figure out my ultimate path in life. Writing and publishing a novel was right up there on the list of things I knew I was going to do one day. Maybe now was the time.

But can I do it? Do I have what it takes? Will I be able to finish something? Will it be any good? All of these questions have the same basic flaw—the phrasing leaves it open for the answers to be “no.” 

Yet, somehow, the possibility of that being the answer seemed preposterous. How could I not be able to write a novel when it’s been something I’ve wanted to do since forever? And then I realized that I was putting my focus on the wrong word. Instead of questioning my abilities, I needed to concentrate on my want. Up until that point, I had yet to purposefully attempt writing a full-length novel. I had no idea whatsoever what to expect on that front. So why bother wondering about it?

On the other hand, I did absolutely, unequivocally know that writing a novel was something I wanted to do. The certainty I felt in this knowledge created a driving force, a burning desire within me to complete the task. I couldn’t let fear of the unknown stop me from my attempt. So instead of asking “can I?” I began telling myself “I want to.”

The Results of Wanting Something Really, Really Badly

Once my mind made this switch, it was like autopilot took over. My revelation happened to coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo, so I sat down at 11:59 pm on October 31st at my computer with my one-sentence idea written on a post-it note, and I began to type.

And I typed. And I typed. And I slept. And I ate. And I typed. And I drove to another state. And I typed. And I started a new job. And I typed. And I typed. And at the end of a month, I typed the last sentence that would complete my very first novel. I had finally answered my initial question. Can I write a book? Yes. I absolutely could, and I had the manuscript to prove it. 

But when I finally came down from my NaNo finisher cloud, I reflected on what had just happened. How was I able to do that, and why did it seem like it was no trouble at all? I searched my psyche and found that one very important thing had disappeared: I was no longer afraid of the answer being “no.” In fact, I had ignored my nagging doubts and simply forged ahead as if I already knew I could do it. And I did. 

Assume the Answer Is “Yes”

If you’ve been waiting to start a project because you just aren’t sure if you can make it through, then I ask you this—what would you do if you already knew that “yes” is the answer to the question “can I write a book?” Would you leap with joy and then immediately start typing?

Don’t let the fear of “no” hold you back. You can do this. You can finish your novel—and you can do it this year! To help you out, Gabriela has created an awesome new resource for everyone. We’re still putting on the finishing touches, but we wanted you to be the first to know about it. We’ll be emailing more information soon!

In the meantime, the DIYMFA Team has compiled a series of articles from the DIYMFA archives. These articles are designed to highlight the most important craft elements for writing a novel.

Sign up and get access to the depth and breadth of collective knowledge showcased on our website. You’ll also have access to our Roadmap to Novel Success which shows you how to do deep dive on the three key elements of storytelling—character, world building, and structure. These fundamental elements are crucial if you want to craft a compelling narrative.


Jeanette the Writer is an editor, coach, and freelance writer who wants to help others demolish their editing fears and finish their manuscript. As a former scuba instructor turned entrepreneur, Jeanette knows about putting in the hard work to pursue your passions. She has worked with authors, speakers, coaches, and entrepreneurs—empowering them with the right mindset, knowledge, and tools to help them tackle their editing goals. You can learn more about Jeanette by visiting JeanetteTheWriter.com

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