Often when I meet people and tell them I’m a writer, later they’ll pull me to the side or send me a note on Facebook and say, “I want to be a writer, too. But … “

Then they tell me one of several reasons they feel stuck or sidelined in their writerly desire. Some people are afraid. Taking precious time away from other priorities to write feels like a big risk. Others are insecure. They’ve been told (maybe by someone they admire or maybe by their own insecurity) that they could never be a writer. Still others are paralyzed by an overloaded life. They don’t know how they’d add another thing to their schedule. Many people just aren’t sure what they would write about.

Whatever your reason until now, if you want to write, you should. You can! Here are five steps to get started writing today.

Determine what “writing” means.

Do you want to write novels, essays, blog posts, greeting cards, comic books, memoir, poetry? When you say you want to be a writer, what do you mean by that? It might mean many things. Or that meaning might change over time. But as you are getting started, decide where you will begin. What type of writing do you really really want to pursue?

Come up with an idea or two.

Maybe you already have a great idea … that’s the reason you want to write, right? Or maybe your passion isn’t limited to a topic, and the reason you haven’t started is that you aren’t sure what to write about. Generating writing ideas is as simple as keeping a journal or a complicated as researching some of your interests. My friend Ann Kroeker once wrote a blog post with about 50 different methods of generating writing ideas. The list is so big you might feel overwhelmed, in fact. Try not to. Just start at the top and try each method. Or read through them all and choose one or two methods to get you started.

Carve out some time.

You’re busy, right? Seems impossible, right? Don’t worry about finding several hours a day, or even 30 minutes a day. Find whatever time you can. Do you have a long lunch hour? Could you set the alarm 30 minutes early some days? Could you hire a babysitter one evening a week? Could you give up television or knitting or another hobby you enjoy because you believe you will enjoy writing more? Find a few blocks of time each week and add them to your calendar.

Gather your materials.

Okay, that might mean “find your laptop.” Or, it could mean buy a new journal or notebook and a really great ink pen. Maybe it means pulling out the notes you took while reading that book you loved. Or copying and pasting all the Facebook updates from that particularly difficult time in your life that you want to write about. Or finding the photos from your last vacation because you are finally ready to write your novel set in that very beach town. Whatever you need when you sit down to write, gather it up. Set up a space in the office where you can leave it. Or if you don’t have a home office, find an old box or buy a large basket at a second-hand shop and keep everything together so you can easily grab it when you need it.

Sit down and write.

You’ve done the prep work. You’ve got the time set aside. You’ve come up with ideas and gathered what you need. Now you get to write. Even reading this now, you might think, “No problem. That’s easy. I’ll just sit down and write.” But realize that when you finally do it, you will suddenly, and unexplainedly, remember that you meant to clean out the refrigerator and the laundry needs to be switched and you really should go to the bathroom first. You’ll probably check your email and update your Facebook status, “Hey everyone, I’m finally sitting down to write.” But you still aren’t writing. Tuning out all the distractions and getting to work might be the most difficult thing you do. And at various times throughout your writing life, this will be a problem for you. Sometimes it has to do with the work. Sometimes it just has to do with you and how you’re feeling or what you are thinking.

If you want to be a writer, it’s really quite simple. You just have to write. Get started today to make that happen.