Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don't Let Writing Excuses Accumulate

Hoarders: The Complete Season OneYou are probably familiar with "hoarders". Those are the people who have buried themselves under mountains of stuff, and are so sure that they need this stuff to survive, they cannot find a way to stop.

Now I certainly have no expertise on the psychological ramifications of hoarders, but while watching a recent episode of Buried Alive, I was struck by the excuses hoarders make for not changing their lives. Their rationale was similar to the people who say they have a drive to write but never shift out of neutral.

Piles upon Piles

For the writer, what at first seems like a tiny setback or two can build up if not tended to over time. Seven days of making the excuse that you cannot find 30 minutes in the day to write piles up to over 3 hours of lost writing time. Where did it go? Somewhere under that pile of excuses, apparently. The Writer's Blocks you've been claiming for weeks have now stacked on top of each other, cutting off the path to your next scene. You have been grasping on to phrases like: "my plot isn't working", "I no longer know my characters", and "I need some inspiration"so tightly that when you go looking for your plot, your characters, or your inspiration, the life is almost sucked from them completely.

Dig yourself out

The Hoarders did not get that way overnight. So it is natural that to fix the problem (even with the magic of television) takes some time. But, they have to start somewhere.

If you've become a Writing Excuse Hoarder, it may take some maneuvering to uncover yourself and your writing again. In doing so, your change may be more likely to stick, rather than just shifting your priorities until the next attack of Excuses.

Take a look at your Excuse Pile. Pick one out. Ask yourself, "Do I Love It?" More than likely, there is a resounding no coming from your lips. That's all you need to know. Toss it. Is there anything lovable about barriers to your dreams, or, to a paycheck?

Well, maybe. Do you love living up to the tortured artist persona? Would you rather act like a struggling writer than struggle to write? Or have you been living with those excuses for so long that they have become your normal? Just like the hoarders can't imagine parting with unnecessary things, a writer may be attached to their excuses as if they were precious heirlooms.

Examine more excuses. To decide whether to hold on to them ask, "Will I use it?" They are already serving a purpose, to shift your attention away from your writing. But are you using the excuse for something else? If you are telling yourself you can't write at night, is this a truth, or is it so you don't miss your favorite TV shows? Really want to hold on to those? Fine, then realize that your original excuse does not exist--you can write at night, you have chosen to do something else. If you continue to collect the trinkets of "something else", those trinkets collect dust all over your potential writing.

The most important step is to begin. Even if your excuses are only causing a slight disorder now, they can pile up and get in your way. If you allow yourself to get to the point where everywhere you turn you see another excuse, you will avoid making any decisions about your writing. Your energy will be spent supporting the excuses, instead of tapping into your inspiration.

This week, practice ignoring the disruptive Excuse Hoarder in your mind. Picture yourself turning your back on it and closing a door, leaving it to deal with its own mess. Your writing doesn't live in that world; your writing has an unencumbered life of its own, and it is ready to run free in the wide, empty pages.


  1. Perfection. Glad you stopped by my blog--I've found a new favorite! Consider yourself blogrolled.

  2. Interesting... I'm a hoarder of other-things-to-do, and of lists. My story got stuck on account of lack of background so I'm working on that, only it's not as fun and thus slow.

    Thanks for the, er, reminder. =)

  3. Thanks. I used to be an excuse hoarder, then found a way to love getting up early. But I can think of a few people to forward this post to!

  4. Thanks for stopping by everyone!
    SK, good luck with "Beyond the Bridge". My dad is a guitarist/singer/songwriter and my husband is a guitar player-- so it's all around me. I read your little synopsis, looks very cool!

    Jen, I hope your background has come back to you and you've been able to at least slap up what you need like set from a middle school play. Force yourself to not spend too much time, knowing that the fun will be putting the supporting nails in later. At least you will be able to see what you work with.

    Petrea, I've recently tried the same thing, it is amazing how much more can be done in a day with just an hour or more at the beginning! Forward away:)

  5. Yes I agree with the last point about shutting a literal or figurative door


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