e. magill's                        

The Unapologetic Geek

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8 Lame Excuses for Not Writing

Stephen King totally gets it

At first I thought it was just me. I know I'm a writer and I enjoy writing, but at the same time, getting myself to actually sit down and write is a chore. There's this rewarding activity that I thoroughly enjoy and am pretty good at, but doing it every day feels like work. When I'm writing, the rest of the world falls away, and I can go hours just sitting at my keyboard, clacking away so intently that I can (and often do) forget to eat, sleep, or do anything else. It's one of the greatest feelings in the world for me, and yet, if I'm not doing it and know I should be, there's no limit to the excuses my imagination can concoct.

Over the years, I've discovered that this unusual and inexplicable behavior isn't a personal idiosyncracy. Almost every writer I've talked to in person or encountered online has confirmed that this bizarre relationship we have with our most passionate activity is nearly universal. Trying to adequately explain it to anybody who doesn't suffer from this accursed malady is nearly impossible, and so, to give you a peek into this writer's twisted mental world, I've compiled a small list of my most common excuses, the things I tell myself when I know I should be writing.

I'm Tired

Madeline Kahn
For those of you who get the joke and now have the song stuck in your head, you're welcome

By far the excuse I am most intimate with, being "tired" is about as pathetic as it is nonsensical. While writing certainly takes a lot of mental and emotional effort--and yes, it can even be hard work--it's not what I'd call physically taxing.

Besides, when I tell myself I'm too tired to write, it doesn't mean I'm too tired to sit on the couch and watch Netflix, putter around on social media, fire up my PS4, or play on my smartphone, activities that, calorie for calorie, are no less demanding than sitting at my computer and pounding at the keys.

I've Already Written Today

Now rest
You can rest when you're dead

I used to subscribe to the writer's mantra of writing every day. Sometimes, I'm still an adherent. However, living by that standard lets my mind go to some infuriating places in its rush to rationalize not writing. How many words, exactly, should count? And what about editing? If I read through three chapters of my manuscript and make a handful of edits, does that count as "writing"? What about when I spend an hour or two fiddling with the code on my website?

Ultimately, I've found that I get more done when I lay out specific goals for certain days of the week (for instance, Tuesday is for my query letters and completed manuscript editing, writing actual words for my current work-in-progress is dedicated to Wednesday, and I write a blog like this every Thursday), because this eliminates those inane questions my brain keeps asking when I tell it the only requirement is "write every day."

I Deserve a Break

You deserve it
No, I don't, you annoyingly cute bastard!

Wait, seriously? I deserve a break? This is what happens when I don't have deadlines: I don't have the incentive I need to get my butt back to work.

I'm lucky enough to be a stay-at-home dad and homemaker, which--while certainly a full-time job--affords me a significant amount of time every weekday in which I am left blessedly alone and uninterrupted. Neglecting to capitalize on that free time is just stupid.

I Have "Real" Chores to Do

Mr. Mom
In retrospect, Keaton is a pitiful noob

Granted, as a homemaker, I actually do have a lot of chores I need to get done on a regular basis. There's only so many sighs and eye rolls a man can take from his wife! The dishes, laundry, cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, and all the other Sisyphean tasks that make up my routine can't be ignored for too long.

But do you know what happens when I forgo writing to take care of just one of those chores? Refer back to excuse number one. Lately, I've been trying to convince myself that chores are things I do after I write, not before.

I Have Netflix to Watch

My List
It's not going to watch itself

Speaking of first world problems, am I the only one who feels guilty if I don't tackle my Netflix queue every now and then? I'm one of those weirdos who still gets physical discs, too, so if I've got one sitting on the mantle collecting dust, I feel like I'm wasting money and failing at life. Though it's not as pronounced, I feel the same way about things sitting in my instant viewing queue (and there are some things on that list that have been there for years). I can offer no explanation for this silliness, except to say I'm clearly insane.

Granted, there are things I feel I should be watching for the sake of this blog--like the latest Hellraiser flick or whatever--but even those things aren't as important as actually writing. I sincerely doubt too many people would notice if I'm a little late getting out my review of the second season of Jessica Jones, when I haven't even promised that yet. (Speaking of which, watch this space for my review of Jessica Jones, Season 2, after it releases next week!)

There are Messages Waiting for Me on Facebook

Facebook notifications
This is a stock photo lie; I'm not this popular

Social media is a blessing and a curse for the writer toiling away in obscurity (welcome to my corner of it, by the way). On one hand, it's a great way to promote yourself and grow your brand in the modern age. Indeed, it's the whole reason I got into Facebook and Twitter in the first place, and there are days where it's the only reason I hang around those hives of scum and villainy.

On the other hand, social media can be a massive time suck and it's far too easy to get caught up doing a lot of things that have absolutely nothing to do with advertising your work. Do I really need to get into a three-hour-long heated debate with inflamed passions on both sides about the merits of pineapple on pizza? Is that really an effective use of my time?

Everything I Try to Write Today is Crap

The Fifty Shades books
Crap sells, though

Show me a writer who isn't deeply self-conscious about his or her work and I'll show you a hermaphroditic purple unicorn living on the third moon of Mercury. There are days where it feels like every sentence is awkward, every word is a bad choice, every analogy is tortured, and why the hell did the unicorn have to be a hermaphrodite? It's easy to get frustrated and it's understandable to want to walk away and come back to it tomorrow, but this is the exact opposite of what you should do.

That's because there are two possibilities: (1) what you're writing is genuinely awful, which means the only way to get better is to keep writing; or (2) what you're writing is pretty good but you're not objective enough to see it, which means you should definitely keep writing.

But... But... Rejection!

Silly Hats Only
And if you get this joke, we should totally be friends

Here's where it gets real, where all the other excuses peel away to reveal the core problem. Beneath all the other distractions I throw out there, the real reason I don't want to write is fear of rejection. You'd think, after so many years of not making it and after literal piles of rejection letters growing so thick I could wallpaper my house in them (if I bothered to keep them anymore), rejection wouldn't hurt so much anymore.

You'd be wrong, of course. A rejection today feels just as unpleasant as that first one--curse you, Tor Books, for not recognizing my genius back in the 1990's and sparing me all this pain--and it's downright masochistic that I continue opening myself up to such rejection every damn day. Still, when it comes right down to it, I don't have a choice. Writing is just what I do, and not even rejection can stop me in the end.

So hey, on that note, why don't you leave a comment below to let me know people are actually reading this thing? You don't have to be gentle--it's a comment section after all--but please, just write... something, anything. It might just give me enough motivation to do what I was born to do, or maybe the desire to reply to your comment will give me an excellent reason to procrastinate.

-e. magill 3/1/2018

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So you finished your first draft. Congratulations! Now the real work can begin. [11/30/2017]
4 Things You Learn Writing Every Day
When you write every day, you become a better writer. [5/11/2016]
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Is there a scientific basis for the concept of willpower? [9/8/2009]