As a high school language arts teacher I’ve heard every excuse in the book—many times over. Much to my students’ chagrin, I tear apart…um, I mean kindly and logically explain how to overcome that excuse. ( Maybe this is why they don’t appreciate my wisdom until they’re in college. )
Warning: This blog may offend those writers thriving on excuses. I know, I know, many excuses are valid—death, dismemberment, disaster, disease, zombie apocalypse—however, most are just excuses.
Here’s the top excuses I hear from both writers and my students.
- I’m too busy: Would that be busy on social media, playing video games, or watching Netflix? If you have time for those activities you have time to write. Why are you wasting valuable time? If you’re really serious about writing, schedule it in—daily, if possible. Frankly, this excuse bugs me the most. I’ve had students claim they didn’t have time to finish a project but then tell their friends they binge watched Game Of Thrones that very same weekend. Most of us are busy, some busier than others, but if it’s important enough you will find time and make it a priority. For example, I took my laptop to my daughter’s volleyball practice and jot notes during lunchtime. Maybe the I’m-Too-Busy excuse is more about #2.
- I get sidetracked: Take your meds. Seriously, if distractions suck away precious writing time find ways to insulate yourself. Turn off the phone—or at least turn off the notifications. Schedule social media during non-writing time. I find folks get distracted because of 3 through 7. Sometimes a bit of distraction is good. A chore like loading the dishwasher helps me think through a scene.
- I can’t get motivated: Wah, wah, where’s my Muse? I’m not inspired. I’m not feeling it. Whatever. Figure out why you’re not motivated. Is your lack of motivation coming from excuses 4 through 7? Why the lack of interest in your own brain’s ability to create? Huh? Huh? Surely your own vivid imaginings are infinitely more entertaining and riveting than anything else. Motivation has 3 parts: Autonomy—pursing the goal for one’s self; value—finding importance or worth in the task; and competence—improving in skill. And competence inspires continued learning, which brings about excellence which inspires you even more! Watch some motivational TED talks if you need a kick in the motivational a**. I like the GRIT talk.
- I can’t concentrate: It’s a learned skill not a superpower. Everyone enters The Zone differently. One can’t concentrate immediately. It takes effort, focus, and an ability to block out distractions. Those with a little children are lucky—I learned how to focus, change a diaper, and refocus. ( I thank my 4 children for forcing me to learn to write through drama, trauma, and missing pajamas.) In the words of Yoda, “Use the Force, Luke.” Even Luke had to practice using the Force. Here’s another Yoda quote: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
- I’m too sad/happy/depressed: Awesome! Emotions! Find a character in your manuscript experiencing the same emotion and write from the gut. Just remember not to spill tears on your keyboard.
- It’s too difficult: A common student complaint but one I hear from lots of new writers. Yes, writing is difficult. Good writing is even more difficult. If it was EASY everybody would be a bestselling author. Embrace the process—imagine how fabulous and competent you’ll feel when you’ve tackled that difficult scene, dialog, or chapter. It takes hard work to succeed at something. You’ve heard these before: “The road to success comes through hard work, determination, and sacrifice.” “Everything is hard before it’s easy.” “Easy reading is difficult writing.” Learn to find joy in the process of mastery. It’s very fulfilling.
- It’s boring. WHAT?! Why are you writing boring stuff? Is it rewriting that’s a bore? Because that’s the fun part—in a soul-sucking, syntax-snagging, character-cunsuming kind of way. Writing is rewriting…again and again….and again.
- I procrastinate: Folks put off tasks for a reason. See all of the above. Discover the real reason behind your procrastination and tackle it.
Now, you know what you have to do!
Related links: Readin’ & Writin’