Writers have a lot of excuses that keep them from writing.
When I was little, I imagined that creative people just couldn’t stop creating. They were driven by their passion to express their art whenever and wherever they could. If they had to work 9 to 5 jobs, they came home and stayed up late into the night working on their latest masterpiece.
These days, I know different.
People who enjoy writing, painting, photography, or other creative endeavors are just like anyone else. When they feel “in the mood,” they love breaking out their artistic tools of choice and creating something beautiful.
But, most of the time, life intervenes.
They have jobs (because something has to pay the bills), a family, chores, and too little energy to stay up late doing anything much other than watching TV or surfing the net.
Art becomes a hobby, something to be indulged in when inspiration hits and there’s nothing else going on.
Why does this happen?
Thanks to Julia Cameron, I’ve now seen through this myth for what it is.
Before reading Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, I thought that evenings were for relaxing. And what could be more relaxing than picking up a book and reading?
When I think of the vast amounts of time I’ve frittered away in the pages of a book, I cringe.
That’s not the sort of comment you might expect from a writer, especially not if you’ve been trained academically, but it’s an honest one. I wish I would have spent those hours, not reading, but WRITING.
Writing isn’t any more difficult than reading; we simply PERCEIVE it to be. We think of it as “work.”
But, when you love it, writing is not work. It gives you just as much pleasure as reading—if not more.
And, at the end of the night, you something to show for it: an article or a chapter or a half-finished poem. Rather better than having a new place to put your bookmark!
Most of us have quite a lot of time in the evenings, time we spend in 1001 ways, not all of which are necessary to our health and well-being.
You may be used to reading for a few hours, or watching TV for a few hours, or surfing the net for a few hours every night, and you may FIRMLY believe that those hours of relaxation are necessary to your mental health…
But I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that they’re merely a HABIT.
We do most of what we do because it’s routine. It’s what we’re USED to doing. It’s easy for us to do because we’ve done it so many times that we no longer think about it.
But what if that habit was to write for a few hours every evening?
Would it still feel like work? Would it feel like a lot of effort if you just went ahead and did it every night, no matter HOW you were feeling, no matter whether you were inspired or not?
I suspect you’d find that writing takes no more energy or effort than anything else. Engaging in it is a choice. Most people simply choose to do something different.
This is the myth of the frustrated writer, who wishes with all his heart that he could quit work and dedicate himself fully to writing the great American/English/Cambodian novel.
So many writers—most writers, I venture to say—believe that all their creative dreams would be fulfilled if they just didn’t have to work for a living. Virginia Woolf fed this notion with her suggestion that all writers should have a “room of one’s own” and a yearly stipend.
In fact, there’s a certain sort of person that thinks that a room of one’s own and a yearly stipend are a PRECONDITION to writing, rather than merely a useful aid.
“If only I had TIME!” he or she thinks. “Then I would finally write. I’d finally have the uninterrupted time and energy and focus to put all my effort into my long dreamed-of masterpiece, and I’d live happily ever after.”
Except, of course, that very few people, given a block of uninterrupted time, would spend it writing—and writing WELL.
If you had all the time in the world, starting tomorrow, do you really think you’d spend it at the computer or staring at a notepad?
It’s not easy to force yourself to sit down at the computer for eight hours a day, five days a week, even if the goal is as admirable as writing your first novel.
If you had the time, you’d probably want to spend it sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, chilling out with friends, or updating Facebook.
There’s something incredibly difficult about disciplining yourself to write steadily when you don’t HAVE to write steadily, when your time is yours to do as you please.
That’s why so few people DO end up creating their great work of art. If they weren’t able to do it while working full-time, then what are the chances they’ll have the discipline to complete it when they have all the free time in the world?
This excuse frustrates me most of all.
If you can’t write when you don’t feel like writing, then perhaps writing isn’t your calling … or perhaps you simply haven’t matured enough as a writer.
Being a professional writer, I am used to forcing myself to buckle down and finish a piece even when I don’t want to. If I only wrote when I felt like, or when I had an idea, I’d never write anything. I’m also MORE than used to writing about topics I’m not particularly interested in.
As the saying goes, You gotta do what you gotta do!
That mental discipline is crucial when it comes to finishing a project I’ve gone off of.
Anyone who’s written a book knows what I mean. Inevitably, there is a point halfway through the book when you can’t be bothered finishing it. You’ve gone off the idea, what you’ve written so far is stupid, and you can’t figure out where to go next. But there’s ANOTHER new book that you’ve been thinking about…
I’m ashamed to say that the idea of a new book never sounds so appealing as when I’m right in the midst of one I need to finish. It’s incredibly hard to keep on going when the novelty has worn off, but that’s EXACTLY what must be done if you want your book finished.
So forget about inspiration. Forget about “feeling in the mood.” Just get on with it.
If you want to be a writer, then the only way to get there is to write. So what excuses keep YOU from writing?