Let Me Bust Your Writing Excuses

The last two blog posts were all about what to do when you don’t feeeeeeel like writing (wah!)

This time I’m on a mission.

karate boy breaking boards

Post your biggest writing excuses below (‘not enough time’, ‘my inner editor won’t shut up’, ‘my ideas aren’t original’, ‘my kids are eating me alive!’) and I’ll let my inner drill sergeant loose on them.


Ready to have your go-to writing excuse busted? Post them now:


8 thoughts on “Let Me Bust Your Writing Excuses”

  1. I love writing. I really do. But I have no time anymore. Between three hours of yardwork a day, fundraising, school (homeschooling = summer school. Yay?), bible studies, and babysitting, I have no chance to sit down with a cup of tea and some music and just write. 😐

    1. Good Lord, woman, you are busy! So yes, you absolutely do lack the time to sit down for a leisurely cuppa and scribble.

      But things change and the day will come when you do have time. Between now and then you stay surprisingly creative and fulfilled by committing to tiny creative projects. Here are three ideas:

      1. Promise yourself you’ll write one 140 character story every day for a week, or a month. Coming up with a new idea every day, and crafting a beginning a middle and end, does wonders for your storytelling skills. It feels surprisingly fulfilling too, when you have no other time for writing.
      2. Tell stories, off the cuff, to the kids. Kids are a ruthless audience. They will not let you stop until the story has an ending and you will know immediately if you are waffling. Also, they’ll supply with off-the-wall digressions for your stories that will re-connect you to the fun of storytelling. You can do this on walks, while potty-training, or at bedtime. Or have a “quiet time” activity during school where you are all writing. This one’s tough but if the kids see you writing, they’ll take it and you more seriously.
      3. Three hours of yardwork? Every day?! You are a super hero. But how about taking a voice-recorder/mobile phone out there with you and telling stories while you work? Sure, the neighbors might think you’re crazy but we writers can’t worry too much about that kind of thing.

      None of this is ideal, of course, but life rarely is. I’ve heard stories of best-selling authors writing in the passenger seats of cars on their way to signings (Michael Chabon), or after the kids went to bed in the midst of the London Blitz (PD James), or wedged into the corridor of a mobile home after a day of picking maggots out of hotel sheets in a commercial laundry (Stephen King). Of course King was also getting through a crate of beer a night at the time, so he might not be the best role model…

      So start small: write short short stories where and when you can. It sounds kind of lame, but the boost it gives your creativity to write tiny stories regularly is disproportionate to the number of words. I promise.

      Let me know how you get on!!

    1. Ah Jeannie, let me guess: you are what they call in NaNoWriMo circles, a ‘pantser’, yes? One who loves to write by the seat of their pants? Me too, though I’m coming around to the outline idea, especially for longer works.

      I found this quote from playwright Paddy Chayefsky that I think both of us should bear in mind:

      “As soon as I figure out the theme of my play, I write it down on a thin strip of paper and Scotch-tape it to the front of my typewriter. After that, nothing goes into that play that isn’t on-theme.”

      Which is useful but hard to do before you are an accomplished and experienced writer.

      For the rest of us I offer this: A lot of writing time can be spent discovering what the story is about (even for a short story). For those of us who reject the outline I say, there’s nothing wrong with making a few notes as we go along.

      Have you tried, when you get that blazing “aha! THAT’s where this is going” moment, writing it down in the margins? if you write on computer, how about having a second, ‘notes’ document open underneath your main doc? That way you can make notes as the revelations come to you.

      But BEWARE! If you do try this, don’t get caught up sketching out long plans for your idea, and don’t make too many notes. Just put down a few words (“he’s under the rosebushes!”, “she never was holding a grudge after all”) and get back to writing. Next time you get stuck, or wonder if you’re going off track, flip back to your notes and drag the story back on track.

      So, what if your story has gone off-track? This is a first draft. I hereby give you permission to leave paragraphs unfinished. You don’t have to get your hero from the car to the house to the roof if you’ve decided he shouldn’t have been in the car in the first place. Make a note: [CUT THIS. FIND A WAY TO GET HIM ON THE ROOF] and then get back to writing the fun, exciting bit. Chances are you can work it out on a second (or third) draft. Don’t keep chasing your characters down dead ends. Airlift them out and edit the details later.

      And don’t be afraid to stop writing and sit and think. Think really hard about the next thing that should happen. You’re going to look like a moron, sitting there staring into space, so if you work in public you’re going to have to learn to be OK with that. But think really hard about where your story is going and how you can get there as quickly as possible.

      And make notes.

      Let me know how it goes!

    1. Oh Jackie, this is a killer, isn’t it?

      But why worry about other people just yet? When you were seven and learning the piano, you weren’t imagining that your first piece was going to be pressed on vinyl and distributed around the world for people to critique.

      So forget about publication for now. Just write for the love of it. Write for yourself and for your imaginary perfect reader. Take a month (maybe September?) and write a story a day, promising yourself you will not show anything you write to anyone. Write, finish, put the stories aside. Come back to them the next month and see if anything is worth revising. (I promise you something will be).

      Write because it does your soul good. Once you can do that, you will begin to write things that are universal and true. And when you do, you can start to seek out sympathetic friends who will ask sensible questions about your best stories to help you polish them (“What exactly did you mean here?”, “What did your heroine really want when she said…?”).

      So really, write for yourself. Write to clear your head. Read some books about structure and character and plot if you must (only not at your most creative time of day. Reserve that for story-making).

      And I heartily recommend picking up a copy of Brenda Ueland’s “If You Want To Write”, which is the most joyful and inspiring work I have yet read on the subject of why we should write if we feel the urge. Here’s a sample, that you might enjoy:

      “At last I understood that writing was this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not—fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too.”

      Give yourself a hug, then knock out a secret story. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement! A friend and I have decided to be our own little edit club. We edit each others works. And I will write a story every day! I have them in me thats for sure. I feel so excited to be finally DOING something! I’ve wanted to write since I first picked up a book to read. Thanks again!

        1. It is good to have a writing friend! If you need some extra support and encouragement, I’m running StoryADay again in September. Not that I want you to wait, of course. But if you want to warm up now and commit to a story a day in Sept, there will be a bunch of people here going through the agony and the ecstasy with you 🙂

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