Did you get any words onto paper today? Did you jot notes for a story idea? Did you outline a chapter? Did you do a character sketch? I didn’t think so. Too many days are passing without getting any work done on your manuscript. You have got to get back on the ball – now!
I get it. It’s hard to settle in to write after a long day. You’ve commuted to work, spent all day making money for somebody else, and fought traffic to get home. Then, you had to cook dinner, clean the kitchen, and make sure the house was picked up all the while settling minor, and sometimes major, disputes between kids, answering questions about where everybody’s belongings are, and coordinating everyone’s schedules. You’re exhausted.
Still, none of that is to blame for you not writing. Lots of things can get in the way of our writing but they tend to fall into only a few categories. Here are three reasons you’re not writing:
- Procrastination. Putting off writing until after the dishes are done and the laundry is folded and the bathroom has been cleaned is a form of procrastination. The world is not going to end if the dishes sit in the sink for an extra 30 minutes while you outline a chapter. There’s nobody holding a cyanide capsule and threatening to end it all because your bathroom isn’t spotless. And, unless you live alone or only with children under the age of five, there is no reason you have to do all of those chores alone anyway. Stop using household chores as an excuse and get to writing.
- Interruptions. Interruptions can range from people dropping by or calling to family members poking their heads in the door to ask a question or to offer you food or a drink. When friends or family interrupt take an authoritative tone of voice and tell them that you are working and cannot be disturbed. Give them a time when you will be available. Then, do not open the door or answer the phone until that time comes. It will take a little while for them to get on board with the new rules, but they will. The second half of that equation is that you cannot go out looking for a distraction either. Don’t take the bait when the interruptions come looking for you and don’t go looking for the interruptions.
- Lack of planning or prioritizing. I have heard people say that we make time for what we feel is important. That statement is absolutely true. People who value their physical appearance and/or health make sure they exercise. People who love to eat good food take the time to cook from scratch and find new recipes to try. And, people who consider themselves to be writers find the time to write. Build time into your day to write, even if only for 15 minutes each day. Maybe you only have 30 minutes for lunch. Keep a notebook on you and jot notes, poems, snippets of scenes, and ideas while you eat. Instead of gossiping on the telephone with a friend each evening, use that time to write.
These are just three reasons you’re not writing. The list of things that keep us off task is much longer, but the details don’t matter. The underlying factor that causes these distractions is fear. We are afraid to put words to paper. We are afraid to open our thoughts to scrutiny. We are afraid people won’t like what we have to say.
It’s okay to be afraid. Fear has kept the human species alive. The fear isn’t the problem; inaction is. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid, but there is something wrong with letting fear paralyze you.
Instead of trying to overcome the fear, write through it. Write for 15 minutes about why you haven’t been writing and what you plan to do to change things. Feel free to share your work in the comments.
~ Peace, Michele