Today Gregg came home and I was playing Minecraft. I love Minecraft, I find it relaxing. I usually listen to podcasts while I’m playing, or catch up on the news.
But then he asked how my writing was going. I was honest, as I always am (even when it hurts) with him. I had been writing earlier and I’d get back to it soon.
Then he hit me with the hard question, after stressing that he wasn’t trying to be judgmental or anything, he was just honestly curious…And I mostly believe him, but the question cut through me a little deeper than any other question he’s asked me.
I’m just curious if you make more excuses to write, or not to write.
Ouch. There I was, playing a game when I knew I should be finishing up that novel I’ve been trying to complete, and he was cutting to the quick of it, yet again. It hurt, but he was entirely right. I had been making excuses just like I usually do, and letting myself get away with it.
Excuses are insidious things. I use to think of them as the things I did to get out of an assignment, like washing dishes, or cleaning the lint trap. ANYTHING to get out of doing something I dreaded. But I love writing, right? So I wouldn’t be making excuses to get out of that. WRONG.
Writing is fun, just like painting or playing music, or making a vase. But when you try to shift from doing art for joy to doing art for a living you realize you have to do this thing all the time instead of just when the mood hits you. You realize it’s not always going to be fun anymore. Sometimes it’s going to be a slough and you’re going to have to do it anyway.
Oh I love my stories. I love creating worlds with fantastic creatures roaming through dark woods, and witches flinging spells across wide oceans, and men being cursed to live as hawks. I love the fact that all of these mystical and magical worlds that lived inside of me for decades now get to be seen by others. And I love that they will live on beyond me.
But that only happens if I actually write them. They only have a life of their own if I put in the work.
And, lets face it, playing a video game is fun. It can be mindless entertainment. It can be a complete distraction from everything else around you, including the art you want to create.
Substitute TV shows, books, train rides, sky diving or whatever in there. If we are using these little distractions as an excuse not to seek out our creative fulfillment then we are just hurting ourselves.
Now…I have a book to go write.
I divide not writing into justifications and excuses.
For example, I know that certain things outside my control (such as a cold caller ringing the doorbell) disrupt writing session enough that I can’t go straight back to it. So, I accept that I have a choice between trying to start writing but just getting more stressed that I’m not, or using that time I which I wouldn’t be writing anyway to do something that I enjoy and then restarting with a calm mind.
To further remove stress, I pre-agree with myself that I can have a generous amount of time to destress without counting as slacking. That way, if I am really annoyed/distracted, I don’t have extra stress from not getting back to writing; but if I’m not that distracted I can start writing sooner.
Knowing that I can stop writing and play a game for an hour if I’m actually distracted seems to be enough that the random excuses for taking a quick break (such as someone might have emailed since lunchtime about weekend plans so I’d better check) don’t take the same hold.
Yep. We definitely need those times to burn off stress, especially if the writing is just frustrating us. Then we can usually come back to the writing with a fresh mind and start again.
But I have to admit that I’ve been making more excuses not to write lately, and I need to stop it. Definitely need to get to the “excuses TO write” part of the process.