Excuse or Reason? Why I’m not writing

There are hundred of blog posts online about the benefit of writing every day. You’ll find the same advice in writing books, and on creative writing courses. It’s accepted as a given. You need to write every day to improve the flow and the quality of your writing.

There are also hundreds of posts online about procrastination in relation to writing, and plenty of advice on how to overcome it.

But when does a reason for not doing something become an excuse? Take my own situation for instance. I have an idea for a book and although I haven’t fleshed out every detail, I do have some scenes in mind that I could be writing. So writers block isn’t an issue here. But I have to confess that I am not writing. The reason (or excuse) I have is that it is school holidays in New Zealand, and I have two children at home with me all day. I also have a major house renovation taking place and my first book is in the final editing stages, so I need to read it through again with a critical eye and this takes time. To top all of this off, I am chairing a community construction project that is reaching final stages, and requiring a lot of my attention.

Still, I could be writing at night, right? Except that by the time I bundle the kids off to bed, I’m too exhausted. It takes a certain amount of concentration to write and I just don’t have it after a hot day of juggling kids and builders.

So here’s where I’ve reached with my thinking on this period of writing inactivity. I know that very soon my children will be back at school, my building work at home and on this community project will finish, and my first book will be published. This will free up several hours of my day. Of course, other events could arise to take their place, but I can choose to say ‘no’ to new projects and to prioritise my writing (and I will!). So for now, I’ve decided to make peace with the fact that I don’t have the mental space, or the time, these summer holidays to do any significant amount of writing. I’ll remind myself that I’ve finished one book already, so it’s not due to lack of stickability and I will try to be happy with what I do achieve instead of beating myself up about what I don’t.

What do you think? Excuses or Reasons? Is this just a serious case of procrastination?

I’d love to know whether other writers have similar periods in their lives where they feel unable to write for practical reasons, or if they always find a way to write no matter what.

Click here for a link to a post by Glenn Magus on procrastination – you’ll find links to other useful posts on the subject there.

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15 thoughts on “Excuse or Reason? Why I’m not writing

  1. I look on those as ‘reasons’, Suzanne. Sometimes life does get in the way of creativity. It is important to Never short change your children. In the future, you don’t want to read the book, “Mummy Is Famous, But She Neglected Me.” Too horrid, and yet it has happened many times in the past. Husbands also deserve your time, and your house must be liveable.

    As you say, it will all come to an end, and then you can put more time into your writing. Perhaps this is the time for thinking, adding those extra points, fleshing out more details, something you can do while engaged in other things.

    Just remember to give yourself time too. Time when you’re not writing or thinking about it. Remember to put something back into your energy depleted mind. Read, watch a movie/DVD. Go out for coffee or wine. Meet your friends. Spend an hour on the telephone, all of the things that will give your writing a humanity that will disappear if you ignore them for too long.

    I think this dilemma is one that every writer comes to. How to cope when life gets in the way. You seem to have it sorted, and the big thing is – you are planning for when you have finished those important jobs. That’s when you take a deep breath and begin to write again. Then your story will grow faster, because you have already sorted out all of the wrinkles.

  2. Don’t beat yourself up! You have an exhausting list of projects in the works, and having the kids at home on summer holiday certainly can’t help. Maybe carry a small spiral notebook around with you, since ideas can strike at the oddest of times – so you can continue to flesh out those new novel ideas when you’re on the go.

    I don’t buy into the “write every day” mantra. Life happens. We do what we can. If you sit down to write in the evenings and find you’re too exhausted to think, it won’t be quality writing that you produce. I think you’re on to the right idea. Soon your routine will change, and you’ll have that time back. 🙂

    Great post!

  3. Reasons 🙂 I have a 3.5 year old and I know exactly how you feel. I’m a single parent so he spend 99% of the time with me and he is exhausting. By the time he goes to bed, I just want to sleep too! But I also do procrastinate and I want it to be perfect, which I know it is not. So I do make excuses sometimes too. However, this often makes me not want to write at all…so I don’t. Writing every day will not make the words come out better for me so I simply go with the flow 🙂 I hope things get less crazy for you 🙂

  4. I’d go with reasons. Sometimes life gets in the way. You have to adjust to the things you need to do and when you know some of the projects are about to come to a close, you’ll be able to get back into your writing. I often find time away can be good and help me see my story clearer. Happy writing 🙂

  5. Thanks Pete. I wonder whether if everyone who has commented here and let me off the hook are parents? I think once you have children you always have them as your first priority. By the way, loved the progress bars on your blog. I wanted to have one on my sidebar but couldn’t see a widget to do it. What’s your secret?

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  7. Life certainly -does- get in the way. And its a fine line between excuse and a legitimate reason. But family counts as legitimate!

    A lot of the hype about writing every day is not only to get better; its about making yourself find time. If you’re working a day job – even when exhausted – chances are you will show up to work. Because more than likely you have to. Imagine if all those builders kept showing up for work when and if they pleased? “Sorry, I’ve got a lot going on, so I won’t be on site this week.”

    Still, no need to be too hard on yourself. One of my favorite books on writing is “The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes” by Jack Bickham. Now, everyone is going to have different opinions on books on the craft on writing. And while I enjoy Jack’s book, I’ve never got myself to take his advice on procrastination. He suggests that you write ever day, using a calendar to record time spent writing and subsequent page count obtained. If you have a day where you don’t write, you have to type one full, double-spaced page of your excuses. About 250 words; date it, and file it away.

    His thoughts? You’ll soon get so tired of typing your excuses you’ll find less and less of them to prevent you from writing.

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  9. Definitely reasons. Never work before family. Always maintain balance. Be patient. We have to be, right? I’ve been seeking fame and fortune (even in small doses) since 1998. Should I ditch everyone and everything to achive my goal? Nah!

  10. Susan! You just blogged about the story of my life. Lol! I also have 2 kids home with me all day long, but it’s24/7 sincee they aren’t of school age yet. I also have a husband who works so much he’s never home so I do everything around the house, repairs, cooking, cleaning, schedules, garbage day, dr appts, you name it! I also own a home-based business and am trying to write the second book in my fantasy series. So believe me when I say, it is not an excuse, it’s a part of life. I know the ‘just-put-my-kids-to-bed-and-should-be-writing-but-want-to-collapse’ feeling all too well. Write when you can and don’t stress about if you can’t. I’m still learning that part! Good luck with your reno! 😀

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