How often has that line played out in your head? If you’re anything like me, probably around 1000 times a week I’d guess. And that’s on the quiet weeks.
We want to write in exactly the same way we want to go to the gym, or train for a run, or learn to unicycle. They’re all things that, once we’re actually in the process of doing them, we enjoy. But they also have one other factor in common – it takes a great deal of effort and commitment to start doing them instead of doing something easier instead.
Here’s a perfect example: this weekend I was absolutely, definitely going to commit at least one hour to my current novel. I did it last weekend and it felt amazing. Only, this weekend, I also had to take the cat to the vet. And then hit the sales to buy a new pillow (there’s no stopping the rock ‘n’ roll some days, I tell you!) Oh yes, then to the supermarket to pick up ingredients for dinner, followed by creating a pie for the aforementioned repast. By which time it was 8pm, I was tired, hungry and there was some mindless TV on.
So – Sunday. Sunday would be the day. Except that, of course, I had to venture out to source logs for the fire. And start work on my tax return, which led to an hour’s worth of sorting through and discarding old paperwork. Then the supermarket again before they closed early. After which, I managed to spend several hours fighting zombies with my Other Half in the totally engrossing The Last Of Us. Which was, admittedly, great fun but hasn’t advanced my lifelong goal by as much as one word, never mind a chapter or two.
But of course I DO want to write… oh, hang on… Looking back, I had a multitude of opportunities. Time spent battling the zombie hordes is the most obvious point where I consciously chose not to put myself through the effort of getting started with the writing. Stepping back from there, I could just as easily have got all the shopping I needed in one trip on Saturday. And that box of paperwork has been hanging around for 3 years now, so another day wouldn’t have hurt.
What’s that? Did someone just say “displacement activity”? Fie and tosh to you sir.
OK, so maybe I COULD have got my lazy backside out of bed an hour earlier on Sunday morning and taken that freshly brewed coffee to the spare room where the laptop lives. I was already awake after all. And the book I’m currently reading doesn’t vanish if I don’t touch it for a day. My writing motivation and story ideas, however, do.
So why didn’t I? What stopped me from carrying on with an activity I profess to love, when I had ample time to fit so much else in?
One word. One simple word, which I’ve already used up there a couple of paragraphs ago:
I know that if I start writing, I’ll have to start thinking. I’ll have to put in thought and work and creativity and a great deal of effort. And it won’t all be good. There’s the chance that I won’t like what I’ve already written and will have to re-write some of it. That doubles the effort, as I’ve already put in the work of creating those passages in the first place.
There’s the chance that the quality of some of my writing will make me cringe and wonder why I bother. So now I’m exerting myself in order to feel embarrassed, disheartened, disillusioned and hopeless. And that’s before I’ve even got out of bed. Evenings and weekends are supposed to be fun and relaxing aren’t they? Well there’s one way to guarantee that. I won’t start writing! I’ll do it tomorrow when somehow, magically, it won’t feel like hard work. Ooooooo-kay…
So there you have it. My answer to the question: “What stops you from writing?”
I strongly suspect I’m not the only one who could proffer that answer. In fact, I absolutely know I’m not. There are so many other things we can do instead that don’t require us to confront our inner demons of doubt, embarrassment, honesty, emotion, inferiority…
It’s far easier not to write than it is to write. And that plain fact holds back so many aspiring authors and keeps them in the ‘aspiring’ category rather than the ‘author’ category.
But wait just a second… what’s that golden pinprick gleaming far off in the glooming? Could it be…? Yes! Yes it is!! It’s a light at the end of the tunnel. OK, you knew that was coming as soon as I said “golden pinprick” didn’t you? Stick with me, it gets better.
I. Have. Found. The. Answer.
That’s so good it’s worth repeating: I have discovered the one true answer to how each and every man-jack of us (or woman-jill if such an expression exists) can find the time in our bustle-filled lives to do the one thing we profess to love above all others, yet continually subjugate in favour of cheap excuses.
“Tell us O Oracle,” you cry with one voice. “Enlighten us and relieve this mighty burden, that we may pursue our beloved vocation!”
OK then, I shall.
I’ll tell you in my next post…