Perhaps pathetically, perhaps hilariously, or perhaps ironically, I almost didn’t create this week’s episode of the Write Now podcast. I kept running into (figurative) barriers, which I soon realized were excuses — often the same excuses I use to avoid writing.
With that revelation, I figured that it was all the more important to talk about, and so here it is — I hope you enjoy it.
You finally finish up a long day or night at work or in class, eat whatever meal is appropriate for the time of day, spend time with your family, get the kids into or up from bed, and realize that, despite all odds, you just might have some time to write!
You know it’s a rare occasion and that you shouldn’t waste it, but… first, you really should tackle those dishes. And the plants need watering. And, you tell yourself, you’ll feel much better once the living room is picked up or your office is clean.
And now that that’s done, come to think of it, you’re tired. You’ve had a long day, and you’ve just accomplished a lot! There’s always time for writing tomorrow.
But as you drift off to sleep, you feel that feeling — that gnawing, rotten, unfulfilled feeling deep in your heart that always creeps in when you’ve passed up an opportunity to write.
Reasons vs. Excuses
Did you know? There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.
Reason: A cause or explanation that tends to be logical and non-biased or objective. It’s pretty tough to punch holes in a solid reason.
Example: The pilot tells you your 6:00 a.m. flight can’t take off on time because the airplane engine is on fire.
Excuse: An explanation that justifies or defends a bad decision or a fault. They tend to be illogical or irrational, and often point blame. It’s easy to punch holes in a flimsy excuse.
Example: The pilot tells you your 6:00 a.m. flight can’t take off because he shared a hotel room with his co-pilot, and his co-pilot snored all night and he didn’t sleep well.
One might wonder why the pilot didn’t have a cup of coffee, request a pair of earplugs, change rooms, call in beforehand saying he was unable to fly that morning, etc.
Excuses Are Easy. Writing Is Hard.
The fact is that excuses are easy to make, while life is hard. Responsibilities are hard. Writing is hard — especially after a long day of work. And sometimes the easy route is incredibly, overwhelmingly attractive. We’re only human, after all.
Often, we make excuses to cover up a difficult or painful truth. We lie to others and ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. We say we can’t write today because we’re not feeling well, but really, we don’t want to write today because we’re terrified of what happens when we finish the novel and no one likes it.
One of the most valuable writing skills that no one ever talks about is the ability to be truly honest with yourself. The ability to ask yourself, What is true? And the courage to answer yourself honestly.
Let’s Play: Reason Or Excuse?
What do you think?
- No one will want to read what I write. (Excuse: You can’t logically guarantee that absolutely no one will want to read your writing, and besides, you don’t need readers to be a writer and write.)
- I’m afraid. (Excuse: It may be honest, but it is not logical. It’s up to you to drum up the courage to write in spite of the fear — or to let the fear keep you from writing.)
- I don’t have time to write. (Excuse: You have 24 hours in a day, the same as me, the same as your boss, your FedEx deliveryperson, your local short-order cook, and the doctor in the hospital ER. The same as V.E. Schwab, Jon Acuff, Annie Dillard, Stephen King, and every other published writer ever. It’s up to you to manage, arrange, and prioritize your schedule to fit writing in.)
- Facebook/Twitter/Instagram needs me! (Excuse: No one is waiting with bated breath for your next post. And the world won’t cease to exist if you’re not there to witness all of the latest goings-on.)
- I’m too old to start writing. (Excuse: Unless physical complications or health issues keep you from typing or lifting a pen or pencil, you are never too old to start writing. Just ask Jay Greenfield.)
- I’m too young to start writing. (Excuse: Even if you’re 16 years old, or seven, or five. You can tell a story. You have important thoughts to share. Just ask Mark Messick.)
- I need to wash the dishes. (Excuse: Those dishes are still going to be there when you stop writing. Unless someone else takes care of them for you, in which case, rejoice!)
- I don’t have the right education. (Excuse: You don’t need a fancy degree or a special creative writing course to write. In fact, the best way you can learn more about writing is to read more and write more. So get to it.)
- I’m out of coffee. (Excuse: Go make or buy more coffee. Have a friend deliver some to you. Make tea. Or try writing without it.)
- I have nothing original to say. (Excuse: This is a popular one! But just because you don’t think you have anything original to say, that doesn’t mean you are incapable of writing. Write anyway.)
- My spelling and grammar are really horrible! (Excuse: That’s what editors are for.)
- Publishers today are only publishing garbage. My novel is going to be smart and amazing and wonderful. So why should I even bother? (Excuse: Someone else’s opinion or grasp on the market should never be a factor in whether or not you sit down and create what you were meant to create.)
- I just got off of a 12-hour shift and I have a newborn baby at home. I am simply too exhausted to write. (Reason: Holy crap, go get some sleep. It sounds like you are stretched too thin right now, and your priorities need to be self-care, work, and caring for your newborn. This might not be a realistic season for writing, and that is okay.)
- I’m writing a historical novel, and I need to do a ton of research before I can continue writing. (Excuse: This is where the line gets a little blurry, but I’m going to say this shouldn’t keep you from writing. Plow ahead, get your first draft done, and fill in the historical details later.)
- I’m undergoing chemo and I am exhausted and in pain. (Reason: You have other priorities more important than writing this season. Rest and heal — don’t further drive yourself into the ground. However, don’t deny yourself some journal or creative writing if you think it would be a healing experience.)
None of this is meant to be hurtful to you, of course, and it’s not my intention to make light of any of the above excuses. Rather, this episode/post is intended to be your kick in the pants — your reason to kick the excuses to the curb. 🙂
We’re Only Human.
It’s always good (and healthy!) to remember that we are human beings and, as such, we are not perfect. Fear is a very powerful motivator, and it can easily motivate us not to write.
But being human also means that we have free will. Often, it’s up to us (and only us) to smash the excuses and exercise the important writerly skill of being honest with ourselves. We have to make the decision to overcome the fear that threatens to overwhelm with us. We have to decide and want to put the pen to paper, or our fingers to the keyboard.
To do that takes courage. And by reading this post — or listening to this podcast — you’ve just shown me that you have courage. You’ve taken the first step to crushing those excuses that get in the way of you fulfilling your dream of writing.
So take another step and write today.
What About You?
What excuses do you use to avoid writing? Or what reason do you have for not writing right now? I’d love to know. Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂
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