Throw away the excuses

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 “I don’t have the time,”

             “I don’t know where to start,”

                     “I just can’t write,”

“My writing is boring.”

Let’s explore the common excuses (the ones I said most often to myself) and how they can be banished.

“I don’t have the time”

To produce a 100,000-word novel in a year you need to write 274 words a day. Scan this section (down to imagination). It’s 274 words. That’s not much really, is it? To put it into context, it’s 10 tweets or 9 text messages. If you touch-type at an average speed you can type 274 words in 4 minutes (learn to touch-type if you want to become a writer, particularly if your you-time is limited.)

You’ll hear many suggestions on how to foster a daily writing habit. Anyone offering advice about writing will tell you that you must write every day. And of course, in an ideal child-free life, you could do that.

I don’t write every day. I get two days a week to do my writing, when my children go to nursery.

I am very lucky.

However, when I’m consumed by a new plot twist, I’ve been known to sneak in writing time on mummy days. I write when I’m walking the dog (being able to touch-text is handy), or I pull into a lay-by when the kids are asleep in the car and fire up the laptop. Or bribe the children with Peppa Pig so I can sit and tap out a few hundred words. (Did I mention this isn’t a blog about good parenting?)

I can’t tell you how to fit time into your day, as I have no idea about your schedule. All I’m saying is, if it matters to you, you can find the time. Sacrifice a tea break, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or your twenty minutes of Facebook, and delve into the murky world of your imagination.

“I don’t know where to start,”

This is the excuse that scuppered me for the longest time. I owe it to the OU and their marvellous Creative Writing course that I ever got past it. I realise now that I fell into a very common trap: I was too self-critical. I tried to write whilst listening to the evil genius on my shoulder telling me how rubbish it all was, making me re-craft every line, every word.

Big mistake. Big. Huge.

The OU use a technique called Freewriting, the basic concept of which is that you tell your evil genius to go down the pub, and then you hurry up and get writing while he or she is gone. You can freewrite using a prompt, or just sit with a blank sheet of paper and write the first thing that comes to mind. I find working with a prompt is best. I’ll probably do a post on freewriting and prompts but, for now, I’ll suggest a couple of ideas that really got me going (my first novel came entirely from a freewrite using technique #1)

#1: characters from objects.

Get someone you know to write a list of random objects (a telescope, some tarot cards, a box of matches, an amber necklace, a seashell, it can be anything).

Now sit and think who might own some or all of the objects and why. Don’t analyse, just write for ten minutes without stopping.

#2: freewriting from prompts.

Take one of the following prompts and write for ten minutes without stopping (set an alarm. Do Not Stop until it rings.)

The sunshine makes me happy because…

When the kids leave home I want to…

He said it was all my fault…

“I just can’t write,”

Yes, you can. You do it already. Every time you tell someone about your day, relate a funny story you’ve heard or share something your children did this morning, you are writing.

When I first started thinking about this blog, I worried that I wasn’t one of those people who just had to write. You know, someone like Virginia Woolf, who wrote diaries, letters, stories because she was compelled to. Then I realised that I have always written; it’s just that much of it was in my head. I would retell my day, sometimes changing bits to make it the day I wished I’d had. I’d often write the conversation between me and my boss where he did appreciate all my hard work. Or, better still, the one where I told him to take a long walk off a short pier. I would construct amazing scenarios where the boy who had just dumped me drove across town and found me, just to tell me he’d made a terrible mistake.

Okay so maybe I lived in a self-delusional fantasy world, but it has given me amazing fodder for my fiction. Particularly when I tried to turn my hand to Mills & Boon. That’s for another time.

“My writing is boring.”

How do you know? Has anyone read it but you? If they have, if (like me) your friends or family suggested that maybe your writing wasn’t the most entertaining they’d ever read, then remember one key thing: you are writing your first draft.

I consider my first draft to be the rough pencil sketch that I will paint in with colour later. I hope, of course, that I won’t have to re-write it all, but I know for a fact I’ll have to work hard on some of it to move it from tedious bunkum to something worth reading.  Plenty of time to worry about that later. As I’ve said before, you can’t edit a blank page.

The important thing to focus on when you start writing is to just write. Go with the flow of the story, follow the twists and turns of the plot, and get to the finish line. When you’ve done that you can polish every sentence until it shines with brilliance. I guarantee your first draft will not be your last. And it won’t all be boring. Yes, bits of it will drag: those are the bits to shine or slash later. But parts of it will shine so bright you’ll wonder who drugged you and added them into your story when you weren’t looking. Those are the morsels that make writing addictive.

So, what are you waiting for. Get writing!

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