Writers, Stop Using These 3 Excuses That Waste Your Talent
You know the routine: you sit down to write and surf the internet instead. Or maybe you wash the dishes, walk the dog (my personal favorite), edit just once more, or do any of the myriad activities that keep you from writing and waste your talent.
The worst part? You can always justify your diversions down the garden path. I mean, really, the dog needs a walk. And if the dishes don’t get done, you know you’ll regret it. The internet? Research, of course. Oh, and if you don’t get that last sentence just right, everybody will notice.
Yeah, we’ve all been there. We’ve all come up with great excuses for not working that day or week or month.
Here’s three excuses I use and hear a lot.
I’m too busy to write.
Like it or not, life gets in the way of writing. Jobs, kids, friends, families, and responsibilities are legitimate things that cut into writing time. Here are two strategies that may help.
Use Your Time More Effectively
I know the latest episode of Survivor is critical. And, yeah, you can’t ignore your kids, work, or any of the other responsibilities we adults have. But, you can be smarter about how you use your time.
First, maybe you can actually skip Survivor without having the sky fall on your head. But this advice does not count for Game of Thrones, which simply should never be missed.
Rather than use house stuff as an excuse not to write, try doing chores when you’re less able to write. I always have a hard time writing in the afternoon, so this is when I try to run errands and do the other things that help my life run somewhat smoothly.
Timing your research sessions is just as important. Often research can be done when you’re not as mentally fresh as you need to be for writing. But be careful. We’ve all experienced the internet trap. It’s the one where you sign on to look up the last piece of the puzzle you need for your story. Except you keep going down new paths that don’t actually have anything to do with work. Set a timer before you begin research to keep from getting lost in Cyberspace. My favorite online timer is ticktocktimer.com.
Don’t Try to Do Everything Yourself
You are one person and there are only so many hours in the day. You need to learn to say no to anything that doesn’t help you, your family, or your writing. Rather than volunteer for a third committee position, say no. You’re not obligated to say yes to everything.
If you have kids, get them to help around the house. My son hated it when I taught him to cook and do chores. But I was a single mom going to school and working, so he had to help out a few times a week. I promise, no children were harmed with my scheme to get my son to contribute to running the house.
Consider hiring someone to help with little things. Get help with the yard, or get the house cleaned professionally every couple of weeks. Lots of little things, like dropping off the dry cleaning or washing the car, can be done by a neighborhood kid who would love to earn a few dollars. If you’re in a position to hire help, then do it. Your writing time is far more valuable than the cost of paying for help.
I Don’t Know What to Write
There are many reasons for feeling like you don’t have anything to write about. When it happens to me, I explore what’s going on in my head (not as scary as it sounds).
Once I start writing about why I have nothing to write about, I regularly find I have a problem that I need to resolve. Unresolved problems take too much mental space to allow me to write. I simply shift my writing to the problem until I either resolve it or list the steps I need to take. Then I take a short walk and come back ready to work.
The other common theme is overwork. I have a part-time job and am in the process of starting a new business, so my creativity well regularly runs dry. Creativity needs to be fed or it disappears. This is easily remedied by changing your routine. Take a break that helps your writing. Get out of your house for an afternoon – go to a local festival or a picnic in the park. Or work on a hobby that you’ve been putting off. Better yet, do something special with family or friends.
Okay, I know what you’re going to say: no, I haven’t forgotten excuse number 1. But, this type of break isn’t an inefficient use of your time. You need to give your creativity something to work with. While you’re out, look around you. Feel the sun on your face and think about how warm and soothing it is. Notice the light reflecting off the water, sending sparkles into the air. Hear the laughter of kids in the park and remember the sound of joy. It’s this kind of awareness that gives you a fresh outlook on your writing.
It Isn’t Right Yet
The perfection snare is an excuse that gets the best of us. Look, I’m not suggesting you decide that ‘good enough’ means you’re finished. But, nobody is perfect and our writing can’t be perfect, either. If you don’t ever finish writing because you need to fix just one more sentence or redo the conclusion, then you are making excuses.
At some point, you have to hit the send button. Only you can decide when that point is. You might need some outside help, so join a writing group and get honest feedback or find beta readers. The critical thing is to accept what they say. If they tell you that a piece you’ve written is good, don’t question them. As long as you find good people for your group, they haven’t got any reason to lie to you or stretch the truth. If they tell you your piece is finished, then send it out into the world and go on to your next project.
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Writing can be difficult. Some days we just don’t want to do it. But we need to keep writing. One problem with taking a break is that it can lead to inertia. The first time you use an excuse doesn’t seem like a problem. But then it happens again. And then it gets easier the third time. Before long, days have passed and you haven’t written anything.
It’s time to recognize your excuses when you use them and get back to work rather than continue to waste your talent.
What are your favorite excuses? When you need an incentive to get back to work, what do you use? Please tell us in the comments section so we can all benefit.