January 25, 2018

reasons i don't write

Sometimes, in my experience as a writer, the words fly out of my head and onto the page. I can't type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. But also in my experience, those times are fewer and far between than the alternative: sludge writing. For me, sludge writing is when I really have to force myself to sit down and write. Kind of like when it's snowed several inches, but you really have to get out to your car so you can drive to the store to buy cat food, so you wade through the sludge, clawing and scraping along the way until you reach your destination.

Sounds pretty cute and fun, huh? I can't speak on behalf of all writers, but I'm pretty sure most of us have been there, or at least in that state of mind. And it's why being a writer (or creator in general) can be tricky. It's why writing, while wonderful, is work. So we push through until we get the words, fully knowing that some of them will be crap we have to edit later.

Even that's better than the alternative: not writing. Despite my goal of writing every day this (I was even counting on 1,000 words a day), I've fallen super short on my goal. On the one hand, I'm a little annoyed at myself. I know I can push myself to write if I really wanted. On the other, I'm feeling pretty content and happy with how I'm progressing in other parts of my world, so I wonder if I should really push myself to do too much. The reality of the situation, like so many others in the world, probably falls somewhere in between. (This reminds me: My word of the year is BALANCE. I should probably remember that.) And while I know all this, it's really easy for me to make excuses for why I'm neglecting one part of my life right now.

I've practically turned making excuses for my low word counts and skipped days of writing into an art form. Here's a list of my most frequent excuses I make for why I don't write:

1. The muses aren't speaking to me.

This is the main excuse I use, and it's also total B.S. Unlike Ana Steele of Fifty Shades fame, I don't have an inner goddess doing backflips and panting while I go about my day. Sure, I have a wild imagination and bursts of inspiration, but you can't rely on them if you want to be productive. Don't get me wrong, I totally take advantage when they strike, but most of the time, it's all about showing up and doing. So blaming lack of writing on the muses is a really lame excuse for me to make.

2. I really need to focus on (insert aspect of my life). 

This one is a little more fair, but still just an excuse. This month, I have put a lot of energy into making lifestyle changes. Longtime readers of the blog will know I have done this intermittently through the years. I'll work out. I'll meal plan. I'll lose weight. Then something will happen and I'll gain it all back (and even then some). I spent my 20s and the first two years of my 30s ballooning and enough is enough. I'm doing 30 minutes of cardio most days of the week. I'm counting my calories to lose weight in a steady, healthy way. I'm choosing foods that are full of nutrients and will leave me feeling satisfied and well rather than gross. I'm drinking water like it's my job. I'm also taking time to watch movies and read. I'm trying to stay in better touch with my friends and family. These are all great, wonderful things, and I should make time for them. But what about the writing? Isn't that important too? Like with how I'm adjusting my mind-set with eating and being active (which is still so new, I should probably brag about it a little less), I should really carve time out of my day for words. Even 15 to 30 minutes a day would make a huge difference, just like my time on the treadmill. Balance, Laura. It's all about balance.

3. I'm too tired.

This is probably the excuse I make most after the whole muse-situation. A bad night of sleep, a bug, or even just feeling drained can leave me foggy in the head. When that happens, I give myself a free pass on writing. "I couldn't possibly write when my brain is working this poorly," I'll say to myself. "I'll just wait until I feel better. Then I'll write." It makes total sense to me at the time, but as I write it now and look at those words, I have to roll my eyes. If I waited until I felt perfect to do anything (go to my day job, make lunch, brush my teeth, etc.) I wouldn't do anything. Then again, it's also a sign that maybe it is important to take better care of myself so I have fewer days where I feel gross. And, actually, so far this month, I really have felt better. Even on days when sleep wasn't perfect, I still felt pretty okay as long as I kept drinking my water and eating my veggies.

4. I'll write tomorrow.

Okay, Scarlett O'Hara, you go ahead and think about your writing tomorrow and see if that really works out for you. Procrastination is real and it's dangerous. I've always been a bit of one, particularly when it comes to writing. It dates back to my high school and college days when I figured out I could start a paper the night before it was due and turn in something sufficient enough to earn a decent grade. I look back at this and feel a bit embarrassed. Sure, I was producing adequate (and in some cases good) work. But think of how much better it could have been if I wouldn't have waited until the last minute. How much less stressed I would've felt. How much better I could have felt about my work. How proud. This was a really bad habit to create, and it's one I really need to get over.

5. No one cares.

This is the most pitiful--and dramatic--of my excuses. In this age of social media and sharing (which I love, so this isn't hate) it's way too easy to take a look at other authors and writers and feel jealous. "So and so is selling books like crazy. People love her." "So and so has a super engaged reader base. They can't wait for her next book." And while that jealousy can be motivating, it can also be debilitating, especially when it turns into envy. It's also possible (for me, at least) to look at other people's success and feel both proud of them and sad for me. That's when I start in with the "woe is me, no one cares about my story anyhow" attitude, and I hit "next episode" on Netflix. Pitiful and dramatic, right? And rationally speaking, I know this isn't true. And even if it was, it's super silly of me to get fixated on. But, by this point I think we've established that in my attempts to rationalize lack of writing, I end up being pretty irrational.

So now I've let you in to see a few of my little monsters. I'm not particularly proud of any of them, but I also know they're flaws that make me human and who I am. That doesn't mean I shouldn't do my best to channel my inner Will Byers and fight off the monsters trying to win. (Any Stranger Things fans out there?) Maybe by acknowledging these excuses I make, I can learn to stop using them as crutches. It's a start, at least.

Do any of you make excuses for why you don't do what you know you should?

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