Thursday, June 7, 2018

It's Okay to be a Beginner

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

A few months ago, I learned to SCUBA dive. 

I was so excited! I’ve wanted to learn for a long time. 

Unfortunately, I was NOT a star student.

Oh, I did great in class. All the calculations for pressure and volume? No problem. (Who says I never use that chemical engineering degree?) 

But then we got in the pool . . . and I panicked in five feet of water.  

Turns out that the brain knows humans aren’t designed to breathe underwater. And when we try everything in our brain says, “You idiot! Get your head above water!” 

On more than one occasion I found myself floating on the surface while the rest of the class remained settled on the bottom of the pool, apparently as content as they could be while I was fighting the urge to cut my losses and get out of the water.

At this point, you may be wondering how on earth I ever passed the class. It’s really quite simple. My instructors never gave up on me . . . and they never made me feel bad for being a beginner.

No matter how much I struggled, they remained unfailingly kind. Unbelievably patient. Even though diving is something that is second-nature to them, they never made me feel ridiculous for my anxiety. Never made me feel incompetent for my mistakes. Never berated me for forgetting something they’d told me ten minutes earlier.

Which was good, because I was berating myself a lot.

Turns out that I do not like being a beginner. 

I don’t like the uncertainty. The fear. The embarrassment that comes from making a mistake. The frustration that comes from having to do it—again—because it just didn’t click the firstsecondthird time. 

But this adventure in humiliation, er, I mean this experience in learning something new has given me a fresh perspective on how it feels to be a beginner.

Being a beginner is hard, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re new to the writing life . . . and feeling a bita lot overwhelmed . . . let me say Welcome!

It’s okay if you’re confused about GMC and POV, scenes and sequels, plotting and pantsing. It’s all right if your head is spinning about suspense and tension and if you’re wondering if maybe there isn’t enough coffee in the universe to help you figure out whether you should go traditional or indie.

(It’s even okay if you have no idea what I just said).

Take a deep breath. 

Will you make mistakes? Definitely.

Will you say or do something embarrassing? Probably. 

Will you want to quit? Undoubtedly.

But if you don’t quit, if you stay in the writing pool even when you mess up, if you listen to and learn from experienced authors who are committed to seeing you succeed and if you practice even when you’re scared . . . one day you’ll realize you can do this. 

You might even like it so much you want to do it all the time. And maybe someday you’ll be the one teaching the new writers and you’ll remember what it was like to be a beginner—how scary and overwhelming it all was. And you’ll make sure they know . . . 

It’s okay to be a beginner.


Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, released in June 2017 and her new Dive Team Investigations series kicks off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018. You can follow her real life happily ever after at and on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


  1. What wonderful encouragement Ms. Lynn. Even though I've written "professionally" for many years, I am certainly a beginner in writing Christian nonfiction and other things (articles, devotions, etc.) So yes ma'am, we are all beginners at some point; some are beginners many times over as we face new challenges and expand our craft. Am so blessed to have wonderful and patient mentors and teachers in my writing journey. Many of them right here at The Write Conversation. God's blessings ma'am...

  2. Thanks for the encouragement to this beginner!

  3. I sooooo needed to hear this. Transitioning for non-Fiction to Fiction is scary.
    When I did my scuba diving course, I was petrified of the air cylinders, still am. :)

  4. Thank you so much Lynn for sharing your experience learning scuba diving and teaching us that yes, it is okay to be a beginner.
    What an encouraging post!
    Blessings to you and your family.

  5. I started taking fencing lessons last month for research. But I do stuff all the time, so I wasn’t fearful. However, the instructor’s first lesson was “without blade”. I think she was fearful for me. Ha ha I try to remember first times so when I instruct the students get the info and don’t worry so much. Good on ya, Lynn.

  6. Thank you, Lynn. Good philosophy. ;)

  7. I can identify with your underwater panic. It took me 6 months to complete a scuba course because I was so scared! Great comparison to encourage beginners!