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In my roles as a reader, writing instructor, and coach, it’s my job to encourage writers. And there’s little I enjoy more. I want to see more writers writing, and more good work published.

But those writers who’ve been fooling with Chapter One for two years, who can’t get the story down because the little time they devote to writing is spent tweaking those first 15 pages?

The ones who insist they’re preparing to write when what they’re actually doing is caressing the new writing tools they got for Christmas, or shopping for color-coded stickies at the stationery store?

The ones who tell me their latest accoutrements are just what they need to make significant progress on their book? Encouraging words for those writers? Sorry. I’ve run out.

These are not my students. The “writers” I’m referring to haven’t found time to take a class with me or anyone else. Instead, they accost me after I give a talk on writing or when I’m on my way into the library for some focused writing time.

I’ve Heard All the Excuses
For years I’ve nodded patiently while listening to these writers list the reasons their lives are busier than other writers’ lives.

I tell them about Margaret Walker and countless other women and men who had children to rear on little money, or struggled with illnesses—their own or their family’s—or scrambled to subsist in war torn areas—but still wrote and published their work.

The wannabe writers smile sheepishly. “You’re right,” they say, earnestly. “I know you’re right.”

I tell them to take a writing class of their choice; it needn’t be one of mine. A class will help keep them accountable.

But when I next see them, they offer a new raft of excuses.

Do You Really Want to Write—or to Have Written?
Brenda Ueland wrote If You Want to Write, a wonderful book for aspiring writers. Go ahead and read it.

But if you really want to write, stop talking about it. Quit complaining. Give up the excuses. (You can’t come up with any I haven’t heard ad nauseum.)

Don’t grab me to whine when I’m on my way to write or to teach. Just sit down and write.

If you’re an aspiring writer who’s running out of time, you might want to read Finding Time to Write.

If you’re running out of excuses, bookmark Excuse Editor. You’ll get spot on tips and gentle nudges that can help you. Or, at least read Writer’s First Step: Show Up.

Finally, I recommend this post: Hardworking vs. Talented.

For more writing tips, please follow lynettebenton on Twitter.

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13 Responses to “Quit Complaining and Write”

  1. Shalini says:

    A great post, Lynette. It rings true for both aspiring authors and established authors. For example, I’m supposed to be finishing up a chapter, but instead I’m procrastinating on your website. Okay, I’m off to write …

  2. Honestly, Lynette, I think many of the people who visit these “freelance writing” and “how to be a writer” blogs are wannabes. I hope this post gets through to them: either start writing or admit to yourself and everyone you give excuses to that it’s just not a priority for you and get on with life. That would make it so much easier for us all.

  3. Ray Colon says:

    Hi Lynette,

    While taking writing classes and reading books and posts on writing can be helpful, nothing gets one closer to the goal more directly than actually writing – every day. It’s hard, I know, and it’s very easy to pull out an excuse, but excuses get us nowhere.

    I tend to visit writing sites like yours just after I finish uploading a post. That way, I don’t feel like I’m avoiding writing by reading, as I sometimes do.

    For those who enjoy talking about what they will write about instead of having people read what they have written, that’s fine, but they should recognize that writing is just a topic of conversation for them instead of a passion being fulfilled.

    Ray

  4. I like your take on this, Ray. “. . . writing is just a topic of conversation for them instead of a passion being fulfilled.” Talking certainly ain’t writing.

  5. I agree, Shakirah. I’ve really tried to show patience and compassion to the non-writing writers. But I can use my energies so much better on those who really do want to write—and on my own writing!

    As always, I continue to love your site, DeliberateInk. Visit it folks. You’ll read truly fine writing and learn a lot in the process.

  6. June says:

    Thanks for this article. I personally needed it. My biggest obstacle is procastination. But I’ve decided to knock that on the head and get on with it. The months and years are rolling by and if I don’t put pen to paper, I’ll live to regret the wasted moments.

    I’ve also got a daughter on my case, so this year I’ve made a vow to write until I achieve the goals I’ve set. Plus, I need to make some money!! :-)

  7. Hi June: I do hope you’ll get going and achieve your writing goals. Good luck!

  8. Hope your sequel is progressing, Shalini.

  9. Very interesting statement here. I love writing but it’s mainly nonfiction. I have a detective story I’m into about 17 chapters or so but it’s been a long time since I’ve gone back to it because I’m writing so many other things. I don’t really complain about it because, luckily, I have an outline, but it would be nice to get ahead some so I could take more time to work on that instead of everything else I’m writing.

  10. The important thing is that you’re writing, Mitch. Good on you.

  11. Nick Piche says:

    Years ago I had a coworker who had an idea, but didn’t know what he needed to do to write it. He was a very intelligent PR writer but never wrote anything creative. He was having trouble getting started because he was worried about characters, voices, plot, etc. It was hangups like these that kept him from doing anything, so he came to me for advice on how to write. He was looking for my best practices, inside tricks, thought processes, insightful tidbits that would allow him to finally get is idea down on paper. I offered him no more advice than these three words, “Just start writing.” I could see his disappointment having not been told the glorious secrets to writing. But he took my advice and just two days later came back to thank me. He had already written the large majority of it and was beginning to figure out all the things he was so hung up on before.

    So when you say “Just sit down and write” I believe that to be the best advice anyone can give about writing.

  12. I’m glad he took your right-on (or write-on) advice. So many would-be writers don’t. Instead of writing they agonize, prepare to write, wish they’d already written. Thanks for your comment, Nick.

  13. [...] Additional Resources Finding Time to Write What are you Willing to Sacrifice to Write? Quit Complaining and Write [...]

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