There are many reasons not to write. Some of them are seductive, like femmes fatales in an old Bogart movie. Some of them are dangerous, like trolls in steel armour wielding nail-studded clubs. Some of them are both (and if the image of a troll wearing one of Lauren Bacall’s old dresses doesn’t make you feel a little queasy, go and take a cold shower).
I list these reasons here in the same way I might list the Ten Most Wanted. There’s a reward out for their capture. If you round one up, let me know. We’ll have us a lynchin’.
- I can’t seem to find the time. The classic writer’s excuse. Most days there are 24 hours. I guarantee you’re not using them all.
- I’m too tired. Another popular choice. If you can’t get the matchsticks propped under your eyelids, try writing with your eyes closed and call the resulting prose ‘stream of consciousness’. Alternatively, just do a little bit at a time. You can accomplish a hell of a lot between yawns.
- It’s bath time. Apparently this was a favourite excuse of Douglas Adams. But then he was a genius. Don’t kid yourself you are too.
- I need something to eat. Write hungry. Those growls from your stomach are really the voice of your Muse. Listen to them.
- I don’t feel inspired. Pathetic. You might as well sit in your car with the engine turned off and moan that you’re not going very fast. Put the key in the ignition and drive somewhere. Anywhere. Sooner or later you’ll see something interesting.
- I’m scared. Understandable. The blank page – or screen – is infinitely more terrifying than the above-mentioned trolls. Try treating the situation like a showdown. Pretend you’re Clint Eastwood. Narrow your eyes. Chew that cheroot. Draw first.
- It’s too big a mountain to climb. Don’t look up. Forget about reaching the end. All you need to do is write the next sentence. Strike that, just focus on the next word. Keep doing that and the altitude sickness will come soon enough.
- Everything I’ve written so far is crap. If you really believed that, you wouldn’t be writing in the first place. If it really is crap, however (all humans generate crap on a regular basis), just write something different. Sooner or later the words will start smelling sweet again.
- My laptop needs a new recharger. Then buy one. Duh.
- It’s just so damn hard. Yes, it is. Also joyful. And inspiring. And infuriating. And thrilling. And rewarding. In fact, writing is pretty much the best thing you can do with your clothes on. Or, if your name is Ernest Hemingway, naked.
The reason I’ve decided to publish this list is not to inspire you (though if it does even a tiny bit, I’ll be delighted) but to mark the day on which I finally started working on my current novel again. You see, since Christmas I have personally been using some or all the above excuses on a more or less daily basis, and my writing has suffered dismally.
All that changed this morning, when I reinstated the write-before-I-go-to-the-day-job routine I normally reserve for the summer months and added around 800 words to the manuscript that’s been sitting idle for weeks.
Makes me wonder what all the fuss was about.