I’ve started this post three or four times now. Each restart has focused on a different challenge I face as a writer, but each attempt has ended up as a crumpled page in my recycle bin. At this point, I should probably call writing this post one of my Greatest Challenges as a writer!
In previous incarnations of this post, I’ve written about the challenge of finding time to write. I’ve written about being blocked and struggling to get the first words onto the page. I’ve written about getting those first words down only to find myself unable to finish the deal and get to “The End”. I’ve written about the cold coffee in my mug. But the truth is: these are all excuses.
And excuses are the Greatest Challenge a hobbyist writer faces—at least this hobbyist writer.
Before anyone latches onto that word “hobbyist” and says that my choice of modifier might be my real problem, let me add that being a “hobbyist” does not make one any less of a serious writer. It simply means that it isn’t what is paying the bills. Writing, for me, is a hobby. No matter what I might want it to be, I am not currently able to earn a living by writing stories about coffee-craving space aliens and their purple, acid-spitting kittens. This doesn’t mean I won’t, someday, earn a living doing what I love. It just means that for now the reality I face is kids that need to eat, bills that need to be paid and an old house that needs repairs. The income I’ve had from writing so far has funded a few trips to Starbucks and a ticket to an REO Speedwagon concert. It has been nice and rewarding in many ways, but it is still just a hobby for me. As important as it is for me to “do things for me” and “have a life of my own”, the person that I am will continue to put my family, my neighbors and yes, even my day job, ahead of my hobbies.
And besides… excuses are easy—they simply roll off the tongue:
Okay, I made two of these up just this moment. It took me about 13 seconds to do so. And that’s why excuses are so dangerous: they are easy to come up with. Life presents dozens of excuses each minute, laying them out on a silver platter for anyone who’s looking for them. For every story idea I’m not writing right now, I have as many excuses to stop trying to write them as there are drops of coffee in my mug. It becomes a vicious cycle of inactivity and priority swapping. Writing ends up always taking the back seat to basically anything else because there is no one else hurt by it if I don’t write. It really only hurts me. Yes, there are people who enjoy reading my stories, but there are always other stories by other writers to fill in the gaps so people can get their fill of stories while waiting for me to get my act together.
Oh look – another excuse (and I wasn’t even trying)!
Ultimately, it comes down to deciding to make writing bubble-up on the priority list. If I want to write, I have to at least sometimes allow writing to be at the top of my to-do list. These days, I’m finding that the only way writing gets that coveted top spot is when I have a deadline and someone else is depending on me to meet it. Otherwise, the day job, the baseball games, the dance recitals, the garden-full of weeds and the leaky toilet all take priority.
There are solutions to this, of course. I could set up a regular time where I am meeting with another writer to sit, drink coffee and write. Plain and simple, this would solve the problem for me… assuming I didn’t cancel each week. I have one or two other writers who have expressed interest in this type of regular writing time, but it is that last part that stops me: if I cancel, for real or imagined reasons, I am now negatively impacting not just me but my partner. It is this double-edged sword that makes having a writing partner a solution. My excuses are strong but my guilt for breaking a writing date are strong, too. It may very will be that I have to explore this option if I wish to keep (read: restart) writing.
I am, of course, open to other suggestions. Are you struggling with the power of excuses like I am? How have you battled against the excuses and fought to get a regular writing routine going?