I hear a lot of things about how “I don’t write because . . .” or “I’ll write when . . .” Mostly, I hear these things in my own head. They are the excuses I use to avoid writing. I think we all use them – I hear them on Twitter and on Facebook and in conversations with writers who, for one reason or another, are not getting to it.
But here is what I say to myself when the excuses start to get in the way – I call it my Writer’s Smackdown.
1. We are all busy. We may have kids. We may have three jobs. We may have a farm. No matter who we are, we are probably busy. Yet, writers write even when we are busy. We just find the time, somewhere.
2. We all have lots of responsibilities. We may have a spouse and kids. We may be single. We may be raising a puppy, three cats, goats, alpacas, and a miniature donkey. We can’t neglect those things, but we also can’t neglect our writing. No one’s life is easier; it’s just differently hard. So we have to buck up under our responsibilities and find the space to write.
3. We are all scared. If we care about what we are doing (and if we’re writing, we better care, or we better stop), then it’s scary. Anything worth doing comes with an element of risk, and risk is scary. But fear is not a viable excuse. Fear just makes us weak and timid. Writers are strong and courageous. But we’re still scared.
4. We all fake it until we make it. It’s easy to just say, I’ll be a writer when I’m better at it, when I know more, after I get this degree or take this class. The truth is that there is no pivotal moment or experience that makes us writers except this – we write. So we just do it, and in time, we own it.
5. We all learn all the time. Yes, I have a degree in writing; no, it did not teach me all I need to know about this life. I only learn how to do life by, well, living it. Writing is the same; we all learn, all the time. If we don’t, we stagnate, and that may be worse than not caring. Again, there will never be enough knowledge if we are using knowledge as our excuse for not writing.
6. We all hear voices. And they are mean. They are cruel and disheartening and sometimes outright terrifying. We can let ourselves play the victim and give those voices power over our work, or we can shout them down or ignore them and get to the page.
7. We all have days when being a barista sounds better.Writing is hard. It takes our insides and twists them up. It rips into us and leaves us raw. It’s not easy, and some days, making espresso just sounds easier. That’s okay. We daydream about the perfect maple leaf in the steamed milk for a few minutes, and then we write.
8. We all start over every day.Sometimes, we let ourselves think we’re “too far behind.” We have to catch up before we can really start to write. Malarchy! We each get a new day every 24 hours. We put behind us what we cannot get back, and we start fresh every day. A new first word, then a new first sentence, then a new first paragraph. Every day, a new chance.
9. We all suck, and we all shine. Some days, we will write drivel, and we aren’t just being hard on ourselves when we say that – some days our writing is shit. That’s just the truth. But some days, when we get there, when we put down that first word and then a page and then five pages, the words start to shimmer . . . like sun on a still like. Those days, we shine, and we write for those days.
10. We all need grace . . . for ourselves and for each other. Some days, we don’t write. We let the excuses bowl us over, and we feel pitiful and weak. That’s okay – we all have those days. But the beauty of grace is that we get to try it again later. All previous days forgotten. All days new.
So there you have it – the things I remind myself of when I want to toss up a wall of excuses and hide behind them. Sometimes I hide, but then, that new day comes and I start again . . . silencing the voices and writing out the drivel . . . because some days, well, this work, it just shines.