You’ve all heard the big news: 9 out of 10 dentists agree that the path to publication requires sitting our tush in our writing chair and putting words on the page at least once a day. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we have writer’s block. Even when we are busy working two other jobs and have a new baby or an untrained puppy or an ill child or aging parent . . . or all of that at once.
I’m no dentist, but I do agree we writers need to develop a habit of regular writing–preferably every day. That said, I also know there are seasons where we must allow ourselves a break, lest we lose our all-important marbles.
Here’s the catch: we need to know why we are taking a break, and it better not be one of these boring old excuses.
Excuse 1: Writing’s just too hard. Yes. It is incredibly difficult to create a solid story out of air and imagination. But it’s not as hard (Cheryl Strayed said) as being a coal miner. Or as hard (I say) as being a corrections officer, a lumberjack or a medieval leech collector. So let us don some big girl/big boy undies and embrace the challenge.
Excuse 2: I keep getting rejected. Fabulous. You are now one of us. I have so many rejections that when a kind soul says (in an attempt to encourage me), Remember how many times Harry Potter got rejected! I consider popping her in the face. Rowling got rejected twelve times. Twelve! I have gotten rejected about ten times that. Here’s the deal: if you get rejected, it means you are putting your work and yourself out there, learning (ideally) from the feedback and the experience. Rejection = Potential for Growth. Plus, if you are an author who never gets any rejection, none of us will like you. We will roll our eyes behind your back and pretend not to buy your book.
Excuse 3: I read what I wrote yesterday, and as it turns out, I am a crummy writer. Pishposh. Everyone is a crummy writer. Everyone hates what he wrote yesterday. With practice and effort and the willingness to seek and receive feedback, we all get better. Get to work.
Excuse 4: I don’t have what it takes. When I was in labor with my son, I realized I didn’t have what it took to be a mom. But it was too late. Much like parenting, being a writer requires on-the-job training. And a willingness to get pooped and spit-up on. But a novel will never leave its athletic cup on the kitchen counter. A novel will never ask you to spend many hours and dollars making a Rainbow Parrot costume that, come Halloween, she refuses to wear. Maybe you have what it takes. Maybe you will have what it takes if you keep working. So keep working. [Read more…]