I’d like to talk about the ways writers, including myself, feel overpowered and oppressed, which deters us from doing what we want to do and love doing: writing. Every week I go to the gym and spend an hour at a time in a kickboxing class packed with sweaty people trying to do the same things I am trying to accomplish by being there: lose weight, get motivated, find energy, and feel good about myself. But by the time I reach the 30 minute mark, the same thing always happens to me: my eyes start searching for the clock and I am looking for easy exit strategies. I want to bolt, but I never do. Why? Because my instructor’s voice reaches me at the same time — every time — and her words resonate with me:
You want to give up now! I feel it. But don’t. The only thing stopping you from accomplishing what you want in this class is you! Don’t let you get in your way!
And I have to laugh — because she is so right! I can blame everyone and everything outside of me for getting in the way of what I want to achieve — in kickboxing and in writing and in everything else I attempt — but the only one that really gets in my way is me. I cannot blame anyone but me when I don’t finish what I start or when I do something wrong. This week, emancipate yourself from the typical shackles that bind every writer: excuses. Here’s a list of the most common excuses writers need to be free of:
1. Confidence: Confidence is the difference between the successful and unsuccessful writer. Confident people — in all areas of their lives — get things done. They never give up. And they don’t give up because they don’t doubt themselves. Whether it’s pseudo-confidence or real, it is the key to getting you to fulfill your dreams and desires. The only thing that will build your confidence is to keep writing until you read your work and say to yourself, “wow, that is really good!” The only thing that builds confidence is experience; the more you have in your craft, the more confident you will feel as a writer. So keep writing, don’t give up no matter how many rejections pile up. You need confidence to be a writer — to be anything, really.
2. Time: Not having enough time is the most common excuse used by writers — even by me, to be honest. But by setting goals, putting yourself on a schedule, and sticking to those goals and that schedule, you can always find time to write. J. K. Rowling was a school teacher with kids to take care of, and yet she still managed to write the Harry Potter book that landed her a publishing contract, movies, and tons of money. Stephenie Meyer was a full-time stay-at-home-mom when she dreamed up the Twilight series. She wrote at night, every night, after she tucked her kids in snug and tight. Time is there — you just have to fill the pockets and be constructive and wise in the ways you use the time you do have left. Too tired after work is just an excuse. The kids tired me out all day, is just an excuse. If you want it bad enough, like Rowling and Meyer did, you can find the time to do it. Perhaps this is where confidence comes in also.
3. Procrastination: I’m a huge procrastinator. I leave everything until the last possible moment — until I am forced to sit down and do what I haven’t done. I procrastinate with everything: returning phone calls and emails, writing, blogging, lesson-planning, and grading. And it stresses me out beyond belief, but it’s a habit I developed in College, and I can’t seem to escape it. But this is also an excuse — and a bad one. If I used my time effectively — and didn’t procrastinate — I would get an exorbitant amount of work done. I might even have time to send article queries to consumer magazines — but because I procrastinate, I only get half the job done. Less procrastination is the goal.
4. Accountability: Writers are a rare breed — especially when they don’t have a publisher or a boss to hold them accountable. When we don’t have bosses, we don’t have anyone to tell us to shake our tail feathers and get the work done. We don’t get fired if we’re late with articles or lose book contracts because we don’t have all our chapters ready by a given day. We have to hold ourselves accountable, and this is hard when you’re your own boss. This is a good time to join a writer’s group, where you have to have something to show to your peers each time you meet. You’ll want to have something for them — because what they have to say is invaluable. You should also find a writing buddy to work with — someone you email or even see daily or weekly, with whom you discuss your writing and take turns holding one another to a schedule.
5. Motivation: Sometimes what we lack most is motivation. When this happens, just read. It works for me. As I read, I focus my attention on the quality of writing, the way the story is developed, and so on. I compare them to other books I’ve read, other characters I’ve been introduced to, and at times this gives me the motivation to sit down and write. If this doesn’t work for you, go to the gym. Nothing works better at giving you a surge of energy and motivation than working out. I feel like I can do anything after an hour at kickboxing. Use writing prompts to get your engine running — before you know it, you’re off and writing without any hindrances standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to published writers, wondering how they did it and you didn’t. This is not constructive or helpful; it is destructive to your objectives and your self-esteem. We are all different and good things happen to us at different times and in different ways. Don’t compare — just do what you do best: write in your style, in your voice, and in your time.
Consider yourself emancipated from the binding vices of these excuses — don’t use them. They are useless and a heavy load for anyone to bear. They are only excuses and they hold you back from becoming the next great writer. Be strong and be free! And keep writing.