Thursday, March 11, 2010

Excuses, Excuses.

Every writer hits speedbumps. We all have our delays, slowdowns, setbacks, and downright unproductive days. I've just come off a couple of not very productive weeks myself, and am trying to make up for some lost time with my new book.

No one is going to be one hundred percent productive one hundred percent of the time. The reasons for these speedbumps are many. Problems with a current book. A heavy non-writing workload. Family issues. Traveling. Illness. Burnout. Depression. Laziness. I'll cop to the last one...I've let laziness chew up more than a few days that could and should have been productive.

Here's what's bothering me, though. It's one thing to have an unproductive week, or even a month. Maybe a few months. It happens. But there are writers out there whose writing "careers" consist of one long stream of excuses instead know...writing.

"It's so hard!" Yes, sometimes it is. As much as I love writing, it's work. It can be frustrating, tedious, and mind-numbing at times. But that work is part of the process. If you can't be bothered to plow the ground, don't whine to me when you have nothing to reap.

"I'm thinking about writing this, but..." Thinking is not writing. An idea is not a book. A piece of paper with notes all over it is not a novel. Quoth Epictetus: "If you wish to be a writer...then write."

"I just can't seem to find the time." Bullshit you can't. This is easily the most common excuse, and the same people who make it are the same ones who post constantly on message boards and clog up my Facebook news feed with Farmville, Mafia Wars, and countless other time vampire apps. As Scarlett always says, there are twenty-four hours in everyone's day. If you choose to spend those hours putting virtual hits out on other virtual mafias, or virtually tending to your virtual apricot trees, I don't want to hear about how you "don't have time" to write. If you post more than a handful of times on a message board every single day, I don't want to hear about how you "don't have time" to write. Especially since there are people who do play those apps and post on boards, yet still manage to write.

I hear many, many people whine about not having time, only to hear them mention in the same breath that they spend an hour or more at a time on Facebook alone. How the hell do you spend an hour at a time on Facebook?

Here's my morning routine: Log on. Start IMing with Scarlett. Check e-mail. Check Facebook, a handful of blogs, and a message board. Check gossip site for mancandy photos. Commence writing.

Elapsed time? Maybe 30 minutes to an hour. Total. After that? I'll check them sporadically through the day, but never for more than a couple of minutes here and there until I meet my daily goal.

People have told me I have it easy because I don't work outside the home and I don't have children, so I have more time. Yes, I do have the luxury of deciding what to do with my time, but that also means I have the luxury of spending all day fucking off on Facebook or message boards if I'm so inclined. And since those time vampires are but a click away from a Word document, the temptation is certainly there. Sure, I post on Facebook and message boards throughout the between writing. I don't allow myself to post unless I'm being productive. I get the words on paper. I finish books. If posting starts cutting into my writing time, I'll disconnect the internet.

What pisses me off is people who spend all day on such sites, then have the audacity to bitch about having no time to write. If you're screwing off online, and not getting any writing done, don't expect any sympathy from me. I have no sympathy whatsoever for web surfers who "lack time" to write when there are writers who have legitimate commitments - long hours at work, for example - who squeeze out every minute of lunch breaks, smoke breaks, and downtime after the kids go to bed to write.

I admire the people who do that. They want it so bad they can taste it, and no sliver of time is too short to jot a few words on a notepad. They can do it, I can do it, you can do it. Carve out a few minutes here and there. Carry a notebook with you and write whenever you can. I have written in airports, restaurants, waiting rooms, emergency rooms, doctor's offices, shopping mall food courts, buses, ferries, hotel rooms...even cargo jets. You have time. Use it. If your writing time is limited, guard it ruthlessly. String up garlic to fend off the time vampires, crack open a nice big can of self-discipline, and use that time to write.

We all have our obstacles and speedbumps in our lives. What separates the men from the boys in this business is those who go around and over those hindrances rather than claiming failure at the first bump in the road.

My band director in junior high had a motto: "Ya gotta wanna." In other words, if you want to succeed, if you want to make something happen, you have to want it. You have to want to do it enough that you won't let anything keep you from doing so. So what if it's not easy? I sometimes have to order Scarlett to stop writing and go to bed when a migraine kicks in. I've written with an IV hooked up to my arm. Why? Because...we wanna. We want to be writers, which means we have to write.

Do you want to write? Or do you want to have written? The latter won't happen without the former, and the former won't happen unless you stop making excuses. Put your butt in a chair, your fingers on a keyboard, and write. There are no shortcuts, no easy routes, no magic formulas. It's time, it's work, it's self-discipline. Excuses are not part of the equation.

And now that I've ranted, it's back to work on Light Switch.


  1. Some people might call us brutal for having a "No excuses!" attitude.

    You know what you call a writer who accepts no excuses?


  2. Amen Scarlett.

    A writer writes. A wannabe moans and groans and makes excuses.

  3. teachers are always so wise.

  4. Bravo. Bravo.

    I love your take-no-crap attitude. It's an admirable quality, I think. And a good kick in the butt for those of us who suffer from laziness a bit too often.

    Again... bravo!

  5. You are brutal. I don't think you would cut a handless blind man any slack Scarlett :)

    I agree with what you said though Lori. Most of my unproductive time is just wasted. If it hadn't been I would have something to show for it like a publishing contract or at least a clean house:)