Anyone who writes will be familiar with the struggle.
You long to write something, you feel the desire burning its way through your veins, especially at the most inopportune moments: when you’ve just laid your weary head on the pillow, when you’re driving, or when you’ve opened up that spreadsheet at work and are facing eight hours of paid monotony.
But then, as soon as you get home and the opportunity to write arises, you make excuses not to.
The lure of the television, or that novel you’re enjoying, is too strong.
So you settle down, pushing aside the guilt, and you make yourself a few promises. Of course, you’re the only person you need to convince, so you don’t always tell yourself the truth…
I’ll write when I’m feeling inspired
What you really mean: It’s too hard.
Writing is bloody hard work. The days where you feel inspired and the words sing in your imagination are few and far between. But those days, they are like a drug.
You feel so alive; every idea you have is fantastic, every sentence you write is sheer poetry. Your hands can’t type quickly enough to keep up with the words flowing from somewhere deep in your brain. It makes you feel powerful; like a writer. This is what you were born for.
But it doesn’t last. You’re back in dullsville, staring at an empty page, choking out incoherent sentences and pages of stilted dialogue. You long for another inspired day, so you can feel alive again.
But that’s the truth of writing. Inspiration is a lie that we are often sold. Sure, it happens. Sometimes. But if you’re going to write, really write, you have to struggle through the days where you can’t think of anything you want to do less. You have to drag each word kicking and screaming out into the light and force it onto the page, where it will swear at you and make you feel inept.
Writing is hard. Use those flashes of inspiration as a beacon, they will remind you why writing is your passion and keep you going on the difficult days.
I’ll write something tomorrow, I’ve got plenty of time
What you really mean: I can’t be bothered.
It’s Sunday afternoon and you’ve just finished the housework, or visited family, or returned from a long walk and the rest of the day stretches out ahead of you, empty and appealing.
You’ve got hours ahead of you where you can write. You tell yourself that you’ll just watch a couple of episodes of something from the Sky Planner first; the right show will get you in the mood to be creative.
Fast forward to 10:30pm and you’re still sitting on the sofa, the laptop untouched in the corner. You’ve spent all evening telling yourself that you’ve got plenty of time, you’ll write something in a little while. Then it’s finally bedtime and you realise you’ve wasted a day of potential writing.
You feel a bit guilty, so you mentally wave it away and tell yourself you’ve got heaps of time. You’ll write something tomorrow, absolutely, 100%, definitely.
Cut to 10:30pm on Monday and you’re on the sofa again, finishing off a glass of wine or some chocolate, or whatever makes you feel better after a tough day at work. The same excuses go through your head and you feel a little bit guiltier than yesterday.
Writing is hard. That’s why we don’t all do it. It takes discipline. It’s much easier to do something passive or relaxing, like watching television. But you have to force yourself to write, even if it’s just a few words. Build the habit slowly and it will become easier, just like going for a run.
It might not always be enjoyable, but afterwards, the sense of satisfaction will be worth it.
I’ll write when I’ve finished this outline
What you really mean: I’m afraid, so I’m procrastinating.
Sure, not everyone plans their magnum opus, but for many of us, drafting an outline is a way to give order to our ideas and guide ourselves through the long process of writing a novel.
But just because there’s a gap in your story, doesn’t mean you can’t start writing. Yes, you’re going to have to deal with it eventually, but don’t put off starting forever.
I’m writing a novel at the moment. The idea has been whispering at the back of my mind for the best part of a decade, but I’ve always put it to one side because I was afraid that I wasn’t a good enough writer to do it justice.
But you don’t know until you try. And you won’t get better until you practice.
I’ll write the next chapter when I’ve edited this one and it’s perfect
What you really mean: I’m afraid, so I’m procrastinating.
Writing and editing are two completely different beasts. Once editing has its claws in you, it’s hard to shake it free: there’s always another change that you could make, something that could be better.
But ultimately, it’s not a novel until it’s finished. One, two, three chapters aren’t enough. They might get you shortlisted in a competition or attract the attention of an agent, but without the rest of the book, you won’t get far.
Better to have a rough but complete draft of a novel than three stunning chapters and no idea how to get beyond them.
I’ll write when I get some quiet time
What you really mean: There are just too many distractions.
Yep, writing is hard. Even when we’re alone in the house there is always something to distract us from the task of writing. Twitter, I’m looking at you.
Distractions are a part of the struggle, just like everything else. The perfect conditions for writing are hard to find, but if you can focus, even surrounded by noise and chaos, even occasionally, you’ll have a better chance of writing something.
I guess by now you’ve understood the main argument circulating through this article: writing is hard. You’ve got to work at it. If you want to be successful you have to treat it like work rather than pleasure, or writing will remain an occasional hobby.
But the more you write, the easier it gets. You’ll learn little tricks to motivate you or get the words flowing on difficult days. Your confidence and your ability to ignore all the excuses you’ve ever made will increase.
You’ll still have days when you procrastinate, and that’s okay. Just don’t let them win.