If you know a writer, then you know that they are notorious for excuses. They have as many excuses for not writing as they do unfinished work.
It doesn’t take much for a slight hindrance to become an excuse. Rather than find ways to work around our family obligations, time at our day jobs, or social engagements, we let them stand in our way.
And as we give ourselves these excuses, over time we start to believe them. We throw our hands in the air and say, “Can’t write, have to clean the house,” or “This idea isn’t good enough to explore it further.”
It’s like passing an attractive man or woman. Our knees grow weak in their presence. We say, “Okay, I suppose,” and render all our power to something that is using you. And that only feeds its strength.
We tell ourselves that we’ll write when he feel more energized, when there are no distractions, or when we’ve read just one more book. We wait until conditions are just right, and we feel antsy when just one thing is out of place.
But we don’t realize that we have everything we need right here.
Let me tell you how dangerous these excuses are.
For over an entire year I didn’t write. From early 2011 to late 2012 I didn’t work on my novel, sketch out stories, or even write in my journal.
I was using the two biggest excuses that writers use: I don’t have time, and I don’t have any ideas. I went through a major transition at my day job that threw my routine off course.
For a few months I had an excruciatingly long bus ride, one hour in and one hour out. It took so long to get home at the end of the day that I wanted to tear my eyes out. Eventually I bought my first car, but by not commuting by bus, I lost a lot of valuable time for reflection. My writing suffered.
As writers, we have more excuses than we do ideas. It’s much easier for us to see something in our way than it is to sit down and do the really hard work. The more we give attention to the problems, the more power they have over us.
What are the most common excuses for not writing?
- I don’t have enough time. We are notorious for using this excuse. Of course we think there isn’t enough time. Writing is an ambitious effort, and what most of us aspire to do takes an exceptional amount of work. It’s natural to feel dwarfed by the immensity of our projects. But we don’t need large swaths of time. We can make do with small periods of time throughout the day. We just have to look.
- I don’t have any ideas. We have lots of ideas. They’re just waiting to be unearthed. But we have to have faith in the process. We have to give ourselves time to reflect, time away from distractions like smart phones and television shows. We have to give ourselves peace and quiet when we exercise. This is how we get our ideas. Ideas don’t come like a flash. We have to open up space for them in order for them to come.
- It’s not good enough/perfect. It’s never going to be, unless you want to work on it for ten years. Perfectionism may hold us to a high standard, but it can also hold us back.. Embrace your mistakes. That’s the best way to learn.
- Other writers are better. Other writers aren’t better. They write the way they need to write. It’s easy for us to wish that we could write as well as some of the writers we admire. When I was in high school, I wanted to write stories like David Lynch. I’ve never written anything close to Mulholland Drive, but with much practice I found a style that’s all my own.
- I don’t know enough about writing. All you have to do is read. Read books on writing.. Read stories and blogs by writers that you like (and don’t). With the concentrated of other writing, we develop our intuition and understanding of the craft. And the best thing about this is we can read and still practice.
When we stop buying the excuses, their power over us diminishes. When we write for just fifteen minutes, tap into the simplest idea, or read something inspiring, the power of these excuses begin to diminish, and we suddenly see countless possibilities open before us.
The biggest problem I had during the year I didn’t write was that I didn’t have a safety net. When my life changed, I didn’t have good habits that would remain a constant on the hardest days. In my next post, I’ll talk about what habits you can develop to create that safety net, so you