Excuses, Excuses: The Truth About Why We Don’t Write

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Today’s post is all about dropping some truth bombs, so let’s start with the first big one: want to be a writer? Then write. Writer’s write. Period. No writer ever became well-known due to the brilliant ideas they came up with in the shower. All the writers we know about have one thing in common—at some point, they took the time to sit down and put pen to paper and make their stories come alive.

As creatives, it can sometimes seem like we can come up with a thousand excuses why not to be doing the creative work we claim to like so much.  (And here’s time for truth bomb # 2…if you don’t actually enjoy writing, well, then you probably shouldn’t be writing.) However, if you DO like writing and things are still getting in the way of you actually writing, then stick around for some more truth.

1. Your Writing Doesn’t Have to be Perfect

Let’s examine a few quotes about first drafts:

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

“To become a proper writer, you have to forgive yourself the catastrophe of the first draft.” —Alain de Botton

“It doesn’t matter if it’s good right now, it just needs to exist.” — Austin Kleon

In case these quotes aren’t clear enough, let’s delve a little deeper. Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, neither does your second draft. Or your third. You’ll probably actually be finding typos all the way up to the time you are ready to publish. But the thing is—that’s what editing is for!

Your novel simply has to be written. Once it is, you can mold it and shape it. Think of the written draft as that lump clay that a potter starts with. Editing is what makes it a beautiful vase—err, book.

2. There Is No One Right Way

Plotter. Pantser. Something in between (affectionately known as planster)—there isn’t a right way to get those words down. All of the techniques that exist, exist as methods that can be adapted according to your personal preference. Some writers feel the need to hear the “muse.” Other writers can only write in coffee shops. Some dictate their entire books. I even know an author who writes her first draft entirely by hand and then transcribes it!

But the thing is, if someone has told you that must do something in order to write your book, they’re wrong. They may be well-meaning and those methods might be what worked best for them. But writing is a personal craft in many ways. How you get the writing down matters far less than actually getting it done.

3. You Don’t Need Lots of Time

By far the most common excuse that writers tend to give as to why they don’t finish their book is that they just don’t have time. I’m not going to say that you have time in abundance. Everyone’s life is different and there may be individuals reading this struggling between several kids and a full time job (or two) and just trying to stay afloat. But the fact is, writing unlike some other art forms, is one of those things that you can do in stages over a very long time.

Maybe your schedule is full. But how many successful writers started by getting up an hour early to write in the mornings? Or, like Stephen King, scribbled down lines during breaks? As long as you’re doing the work, you can try to find the time. A minute here, a minute there, a few sentences every day. It all adds up.

Remember this: only 250 words a day equals 91k words in a year. Don’t think you can write every day? Write every other day—you’ll get the book done in 2 years. Just commit to doing the work, whenever you can.

So if you want to be a writer, stop looking for perfection, and stop waiting for the moment to be perfect. If you want to be a writer, write. Start today.

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About Author

Annabelle McCormack is an author and photographer from Baltimore, Maryland. When she's not busy writing, she's chasing around her five kids and enjoying life in the country. To follow her journey, check out @annabellemccormack on Instagram, where she posts regularly about her adventures.

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