I’ve gotten pretty good at procrastinating, but I’m told that’s normal for a writer. Still, the behavior is not helpful in the least. Today, with a belly full of Twizzlers and coffee (yeah, I know), I set out to figure out just what’s keeping me from writing, as I certainly haven’t been doing much of it lately. I went back to basics, all the way back to the writing course I took last year that started the ball rolling.
There’s an exercise in there somewhere that challenges you to identify your writing fears, the things that hold you back, or even the excuses you make up for those moments when you “can’t” write. I was amazed the first time I tried it and it worked, and was amazed yet again today. If you’re up for it, I recommend Ann Linquist’s Beginning Writer’s Workshop. The results of the “assignment” are as follows:

I can’t write with noise in the background.

But, I just did. I wrote this with the T.V. playing in the background and three kids running around, one of them actually standing on my feet. “I can’t write with noise,” is a bull shit excuse for me (not saying it is for you). One I won’t allow myself to use any more. Everything I’ve written has been done with noise that I was somehow able to tune out so I could write in spurts. I don’t know when that particular doubt/excuse popped in, or when I started allowing myself to be crippled by it, but I won’t stand for it anymore.

I can’t translate the themes in my head into fictional stories.

Of course I can’t. I shouldn’t even try to. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t how I write. I don’t know at what point I’d convinced myself it was. I free write a first draft. I may have a story completely outlined, or an idea that I’m running with, but I can’t just insert theme here. I have to write the story first, then read it for the theme. If you’re struggling with this one, too, maybe take a step back and stop trying so hard.

I write well, but that’s not good enough.

Unfortunately, this one is true. A story needs more than literacy and proper grammar. Those things mean very little when you’re just spouting steam. Writing a story is like playing poker, you have to know the rules, but there’s a bit of luck involved as well. The first hand you’re dealt is rarely a winning one. Toss a few cards into the discard pile, and re-evaluate with the second draw. In a story, you know you’ll need conflict at minimum. But a winning pair isn’t quite as exciting as an Ace-high straight. You know the hands that offer better odds at taking the pot. The good thing about writing is that you can create your own hand. Why not go for a Royal Flush? Get your cards aligned and write the story with the hand you’ve made for yourself. This isn’t a game you can lose when you choose your own cards.

Can’t focus on writing with a book pending publication.

At this point, I’m just making excuses. The fear is always there, at the start of every piece I write. Yes, I do have things on the brain, but that’s a daily occurrence. That’s life. There’s always a million and one things going on and any number of excuses I could allow myself to use that will keep me from writing. But I know myself, and I know these are only excuses. Time to put the big girl britches back on and get to it. I’ve had my little pity party, and now I’m over it.
There are lots of ways to conquer “writer’s block”. This is just one of the many techniques I use because I know a large part of my problem is that I allow myself to use these excuses. Every once in a while, I need to take myself to task. This is, in my opinion, an incredibly important skill for every writer to learn; self-accountability. You’re the boss, Sweetheart. If you don’t hold yourself accountable, no one will. Figure out what you’re letting yourself get away with, and put your foot down. Write on.

*Note: I left out the specific instructions for the exercise because I’m not 100% sure I wouldn’t get sued for sharing it. As the assignment is within the paid course work, I can’t even link to it. Sorry.

0 Comments for "Excuses, Excuses (Writer's Block and Other Such Nonsense)"

  • S. L. Saboviec

    My biggest excuse lately, which is probably the saddest, saddest excuse ever, is “I can’t write because I have other things I need to do.” What, like I’ve neeeeever had a to-do list in my life? Like it’s alllllways been completely clear whenever I sit down to write? Not that the to-do list isn’t important, but for some reason, I’m allowing it to overshadow my writing priorities.

    I gotta stop that.

    • Jess West

      That’s another one I’m guilty of. Happy to hear it’s not just me, but you’re right, we really gotta stop that. 😉


Leave a Reply