Excuses – And Why They’re Your Fault

I can think of a billion reasons why I have not sold a novel or taken over the literary world. Is it because I am bad? Lazy? I don’t think so. It’s because I constantly throw stupid hurdles in my path just like you.

They’re called excuses.

  • boredI’m too tired.
  • The yard needs raking.
  • I don’t have a good idea yet.
  • I’m waiting for inspiration to strike!
  • I have to do laundry.
  • I can never been like xyz writer. So why bother?
  • I’m bad at grammar.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • My novel is terrible.
  • I just don’t have enough/adequate time
  • I’m waiting for that amazing idea.

I believe, if we are honest, we are the ones permitting ourselves to stop pursing our dreams. Whether you want to be a novelist or news anchor, it’s so much easier making excuses or finding other things to do.

But if it is the thing we love, the thing we long for and maybe even hold deep inside because we are too worried about what people will think or say if we uttered it aloud, we must stop this excuse business. Stop it now.

It’s up to you my friend. Are you going to keep making excuses or go and get the life you want?

Me? I’m going to publish books.

Why Writers Should Remove “I Plan to…” From our Vocabularies

I have a lot of plans. You probably do as well. If you are like me, you probably have so many plans you don’t have time for them all.

Writing can often take a back seat. We’d love to get up in the morning but we have to get kids ready for school and head to work. We’d love to stay up late and pour into our stories but alas our free time is from 1159pm to 12am.

Prioritizing can be a major issue. But we all have the same amount of time as the great writers of old. Perhaps even more. We don’t have to go and fetch water from a well like some of them did.

My problem is psychological. All of my friends can stop laughing now, but I truly mean it. The reason for this is when I plan something, it’s like I have already done it. If you don’t believe me, see the Ted Talk below.

I agree with most of this, but telling a few trusted people (usually my writers group) is helpful for accountability’s sake.

From now on, I no longer “plan to” do anything. I will use the words “I am,” when talking about my projects. And, hopefully, this change of mind will help me know I am on a path to get somewhere and that means putting in the work to get there.

How to Write Every Day for 75 Years

In the video below Mr Bradbury discusses his life, his passions, and why books matter. He was a man of persistence, passion, and joy. He wrote every day for seventy-five years and loved every single minute of it.

Throughout his life he did not write or chase something that brought a thrill because of money or fame, he did it because it brought him joy. This he says, is the key to a rich and full life.

3 Things The Pre-Published Writer Should Keep In Mind

As the drafts of my current novel get perilously close to the double digit mark, there is ample time to reflect on what went wrong at the beginning. If I’m honest, I didn’t know how to craft a story, I just liked words. Now, I feel as if a good percentage of the fog has cleared. I can tell when a scene stands on its own merit and when it is time for one to die.

Below I’d like you to consider three things while you work on your unpublished manuscript so you are not overwhelmed and give up.

Leonid_Pasternak_- Writing Be fair with your comparisons – If you are just starting out, know where you are. You are not the next Rowling, Hardy, or Dickens. At least not at this moment. Do not pick one of the greats in your genre and think, “Well, I’m never going to be this good, time to try woodworking”.

Do people who want to lose 30 pounds do so in a week? How about someone who has never run a marathon? Could they just wake up the next day, put on their running shoes, and sprint to victory? Be realistic writer. You are still trying to figure it all out. Be okay with that. Your first draft probably won’t be magic. But the fifth one might, so keep at it.

You are in the learning phase – Sadly, one does not write a book and immediately get published. But this can also be a very good thing. Books published without going through the crucible of a severe and honest edit and several drafts have given the perfectly viable industry of self-publishing a terrible name.

Before you try to publish, learn about the publishing industry. Learn about agents. Read magazines on writing. Find people to give honest feedback that will help you understand what went wrong. Do not go to someone who is ruthless. After all, is it okay to tell a baby how awful they are at walking and never to try it again when they are taking their first steps? I do hope you said no.

Writing is hard – Writing is a slow plod, not a sprint. Even those with dynamite first books spent years learning the craft in school or otherwise. So when you spend three hours on a paragraph and are tempted to scrap the whole thing, take a deep breath. Go for a walk, refill your creative well, and find a new way through the thicket of your book.

Writer, if you find yourself in deep despair or overwhelmed at the blank page or your latest draft, relax. Remove the belief that something has to be great, immediately. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations, learn all you can, and then get to work.

How To Feed A Muse

Every writer has come to the point where a project becomes muddy, sticky, and monotonous. Is it writer’s block? Sure. Is it becoming bored with your own story? Maybe. Is it a perpetual northern winter or a life event that arrives like a stray lightning bolt and saps you of any motivation to get to the page? Absolutely.

But what can you do to get out of that funk and awaken from the stupor? How can you rise above yourself and this particular situation with your friend or family member that just won’t leave you?

I believe the answer lies in what has been called a muse. It’s the age old question. What can the artist (in this case writer) do to keep, well, doing? It’s not a sudden burst of energy that finishes a great work but coming back to your art day after day after day. The great writers of the past may have written amazing volumes because of the epic lives they lived. But more likely, they became great writers because they pulled up their sleeves and wrote. No. Matter. What.

But this work requires energy. And yours is sapped remember? Where is this muse? How do you get one?

In the article, How to Keep and Feed a Muse by Ray Bradbury, he explores a thread which holds the “how to fuel your art” together:

“I believe one thing holds it all together. Everything I’ve ever done was done with excitement, because I wanted to do it, because I loved doing it.” (Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing, pg 40).  Combined with, “Do not, for money, turn away from all of the stuff you have collected in a lifetime. Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are – the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.” Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing, pg 42).

So, writer. It’s time to unlock the broom cupboard you’ve put yourself into. The key or muse, after all, is right in your hand. It’s remembering who you are, a turn back to the original trail that you started long ago.

So, do something you love.

Allow that love to unlock excitement, ardor, joy.

And use joy to write.

5 Ways To Fuel Creativity

Fostering a creative mindset can be a difficult task in our busy lives. Often times we arrive to our desks and favorite writing spots brain-dead empty. We have nothing to give and we try to put something down but it’s terrible, and we know we will never be a writer.Jogging at sunset

Writing is like running in that you need proper fuel every time you do it. You cannot run several miles on candy and neither can you produce a novel without sleep and focus. You need proper artistic nutrition that produces energy and a creative mindset.

So here are a few practical ways to fill your creative well so when you are ready to take on an artistic pursuit you can have the focus and creative energy you need to go to produce.

1. Go on a walk. This can be during your lunch break, when your spouse gets home from work if you stay at home, any time. Even a walk on a dark, snowy Michigan winter night, can fill your creative well.

2. Time alone to think. This may seem odd but I’ve felt rich and full at 6 AM when all is dark and quiet and I have a cup of coffee in my hand just looking out over my backyard for ten minutes. We all need a moment to think and space for ideas to show up.

3. Organize an area of chaos in your home. This may seem counterproductive because it would steal time away from the creative pursuit, but it is all about momentum. The satisfaction of finishing a project will result in a clearer and more focused mind.

4. Go into the city or country. Here in Grand Rapids, 10 minutes will bring you to the downtown of a bustling city or 10 minutes will put you out into the country. I love the feel of a small, big city. If you live in the city, venture to a park. If you live in the country, head downtown. Pulling yourself out of your normal way of life will help open up your mind.

5. Share a meal with friends. I love sitting around a table and sharing a meal. There is something beautiful about community. No matter if it’s Mountain Dew and pizza or a gourmet meal, everyone enjoys some free food and conversation with those they love.

So take time and invest in you, creative. Find a small sliver of peace and drink deeply. Then, use that peace to produce something.

Add Some Spice Back Into Your Writing Life

As a novelist I waver between the thrill of a new project and the arduous work of finishing the novel – blog – article – short story – etc. An idea strikes, I love it, test it, and it’s time to write it. But, soon, this new project becomes work and once that transition occurs, it can be very easy to give up and have several half finished stories.

WorkIf you find yourself in the blah mode about your current project and thinking about transitioning to another, there really is only one thing you can do (No, not quit, because you learn by finishing).

You must go all in.

Write from 10pm to 4am.

Take a day off of work to write.

Go to a bookstore or library

Get up at 3 am and write

This could probably work for anything.

Feeling distant from your spouse? After the kids are in school, take the day off and spend some time together. Novels and stories are like this. They require time and dedication but also fun and spontaneity.

If you are struggling with your novel (or relationship), do something different. Write in a new place, get up at 5 am, write daily, and look for a new rhythm. And most of all, you must try harder.