Cynthia Morris

Cynthia Morris

Writing Coach

Your Best Fake Excuse for Not Writing

Posted 1/8/07 | Updated 7/2/20


Give yourself the space and time to be truthful about your writing life.

After a full day of work, family and life, you fall into bed exhausted. Mentally ticking off your to-do list, you cycle through shopping lists, phone calls, and appointments, feeling good about what you have gotten done, until you get to the thing you really want to do. You lay there, bathed in regret — why didn't you get your writing done today?

You vow to do it tomorrow. You will make time for your novel or that article you know would sell. You consider angles, write a few lines in your head, and, fired up with enthusiasm for your writing, you fall asleep. The next day continues on much like the one before and you live as an unfulfilled writer, all because you do not make time to write.

As a coach, I have encountered many people who claim lack of time as their number one excuse for not writing. But I have discovered that there are other things that make it easy to avoid our writing. When you do find time to write, these other demons loom up to prevent you from doing the work. Time is just your best fake excuse — to avoid writing and the fears that lurk in your writing zone. Use some of these tested coaching strategies to outwit your best fake excuse.

Think about the things you do when you are procrastinating. Do you clean, cook, or exercise? Do you spend your valuable writing time reading or watching TV? The act of writing challenges us to dive into ourselves and come out with something tangible. This kind of work can leave us vulnerable to our fears that we are not good enough, not talented enough, don't have anything to say and are likely to be rejected. Cooking and cleaning are less inclined to make us feel vulnerable.

Get some clarity about what really stops you. Take a deep breath. It's easier than you think to confront your fears and move despite them. What is scary for you about writing? Jot down some of your fears. Take a look and see how true they really are. Often when we expose our fears on paper, they lose their power over us. Notice when you are resisting and when you truthfully do not have time to write. Be honest with yourself and learn to identify how it feels when you are resisting.

Many creative types struggle with time management. We may have enough time but do not use it in a way that honors our priorities. What are your priorities? If you are not showing up for your writing, maybe it isn't that important. What else is going on in your life that is more compelling than writing? Take a moment now to jot down where you spend your time. What do you notice about what is important to you?

Once you have a clear picture of where your time goes, how do you feel about it? Does the way you spend your time reflect what is important to you? Work and other obligations seem more fixed and indeed they may be for now, but where else can you make decisions to get writing into your life? What is one thing you could change this week to make more space for writing?

Don't forget that you have choices. There are a limited number of hours in the day, but often we give away our passion and power by forgetting that we can choose what to do with our time. I can hear you saying, "Well, I have my job, and then I have my family, and kids, and all these other obligations." Certainly you have other commitments that you need to honor. But your roles become more powerful than you are when you believe you have no choice in the matter.

Often we get stuck in one way of thinking, and that becomes our reality. Try playing with different perspectives. With the help of a perspective shift, you may realize that your writing has a place, too. Perhaps in your mind it has been important, but you haven't taken that extra step to actually make space for it. Without space, your writing becomes a burden on your back, something you want to do but can't. You then become a victim of your life, secretly resenting those who get to do what they want. What would life be like if your passions had a place in your schedule? What difference would it make to the people in your life if you staked a claim for your writing?

Reframe the way you think about the writing itself. The art of writing is work, but if you think of it as drudgery and something that requires a lot of you, you are missing out on the rejuvenating aspects of the practice. Whenever you do get a chance to write, take a minute when you are finished and write down three words that describe how you feel after writing. Use these words as a lure to get you to the page when you feel tired or uninspired.

Vague plans can work against you. If you have the intention to sit down and write, but don't have something specific to work on, it can be easy to shrug off your writing time. Pick a specific starting point and let that pull you into the flow.

When what you are writing isn't seductive enough, take a look at the project. How can you approach your project in a way that would entice you to make time for it? What is fresh or new about your writing?

Try a tool I use with my clients. Imagine giving up writing, and the idea of writing. If the thought of losing your writing makes you want to grab onto it even tighter, it could be a signal that you need to do what it takes to make writing a priority in your life. I call this 'taking away the bone.' Imagine trying to grab the bone from the dog's mouth. The dog will hang onto that bone for dear life. Are you that committed to your writing that you will do what it takes to make it happen?

Give yourself the space and time to be truthful about your writing life. Then make the effort to dip into your writing when and where you can. Commit to yourself as a writer, get clear about your writing projects, and let it happen. Enjoy the process!

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