Lies Writers Tell

(Welcome back to Penmonkey Boot Camp, ink-heads and word-punks. Once again it’s another dose of over-the-top tough love shoved unmercifully into your pie hole. As always, any dubious advice I dispense here should be taken not with a grain of salt but, in fact, an entire salt mine. Please to enjoy!)

Fact:

Writers are liars.

We are liars of such a magnitude that our pants are not merely on fire, but rather, they immolate in a bright hot flash, sacrificing themselves to some dark and ancient word goddess.

We don’t mean to be, I suspect. It’s just part of the craft. Authors spend their days and nights constantly making shit up. We become masters of verbal chicanery, of fictional legerdemain. Sure, some writers say, “Ah, but with our fiction we secretly tell truths,” which I suppose is true, except those truths are wrapped in a dense layer of deception. It’s like handing you an appetizer and saying, “It’s prosciutto!” which is true, except for that little bundle of prosciutto is wrapped in a foul purse made from a moldering horse scrotum.

Best thing we can do is try to keep our lies contained neatly within our work and not let ‘em live outside of it — though that is sometimes easier said than done. Our lies sometimes creep out of our fiction and get inside our heads like an insidious parasite taken on by accidentally ingesting flecks of cat poop. That’s when it gets problematic, when our lies become not a staple of our work but rather about our work.

And so it’s time to shine a flashlight in dark corners and call out the lies we writers tell to ourselves, to one another, and to the rest of the world at large. Let’s see if any of these sound familiar. (They certainly do to me — I know I’ve told most, if not all, of these whoppers once upon a time.)

“I Write Only For Me.”

Bzzt! Wrongo, you wannabe Emily Dickinson, you. I’m sorry, are you tweeting from your dark, musty attic where your parents have squirreled away Grandmother’s Victorian tampon collection in the hopes that one day it, like Beanie Babies, will see a resurgence in market value? The very act of writing is an act of communication. Communication is an act between two or more people. You don’t write for yourself. Shut up. Shut it. Shh. What, do you write a poem and then sit and read it to your toesy-woesies? This little piggy went to market, and oh, by the way, here’s my 10-book fantasy epic, The Fyre Lords of Slogmarn?

Stop lying. You don’t write only for yourself. Writers write to be read. Go ahead, say it again — I will grab your slithery forked tongue and knot that fucker up good and tight so you may not speak that lie anew. We should be thankful writers write to be read by others. That attitude has produced some — really, all — of your favorite books. This lie exists perpetuated by authors who are afraid to be judged by an audience. It exists to make them feel bulletproof — “Oh, you didn’t like that? Well, I liked it, and I write for me, so please enjoy my two middle fingers thrust upward, each kissed with a tincture made from my own tears.”

Stop that. Stop that right now. Join the rest of the world. Communicate with your audience.

Come down out of the attic, for Chrissakes. Still telling this lie to yourself? Fine. Then here’s your challenge: write in a notebook. Never show it to anyone. Die atop a mound of said notebooks in 100 years.

The End.

“It’s Okay That I Didn’t Write Today. Or Yesterday. Or The Day Before That.”

Nope. Nuh-uh. Not buying it. “I spent a day just chilling out, getting my head around this book, man.” No, you spent a day playing video games and drinking nail varnish to help kill your shame. I’m not saying every day has to be a 5,000-word slam-dunk-home-run-goal-unit-score-point-palooza, but if you didn’t put down 500 words of story, or a handful of editorial comments, or some notes, you didn’t accomplish Dick Butkus. It is a cliche for a reason: writers write. Is it the only thing they do? No, psshh, of course not. But isn’t it the priority? Writers live in their heads so often, you need to lance that boil. Writing is an act of trepanation; free the demons with the power drill of your choice. (Er, not literally. Put the drill down. We’re speaking in good old-fashioned metaphoricals here, y’see?)

Sad reality: we are all one day closer to death. If that day does not put you one day closer to finishing your manuscript, your screenplay, your transmedia epic opus, then this day of life is wasted.

We only get one go-round on this crazy carousel. Like I said the other day, that word count ain’t gonna autoerotically asphyxiate itself. Time to tighten that belt, word whores!

“I Just Don’t Have Time To Write.”

Lies! Filthy, septic lies! You have the same 24 hours in your day as I do — the question is, how do you choose to fill them? I’m growing weary of the narrative that goes like, “Chuck, you’re going to have a kid soon — say goodbye to your writing time, loser.” What? Seriously? Nobody says that to someone with an office job. “Hey, cubicle monkey, you’re going to have a kid soon — guess you’re going to have to quit your job.” Ohh, sure, okay, because my not writing is going to feed my child? I can conjure nega-words from the ether, and each word-not-yet-written will be like a draught of angel’s milk sating my son’s infant hunger.

I am fully aware that my sleep is going to get bombed out and any illusion of having an adult schedule is going to get squashed beneath a mound of dirty diapers. That doesn’t mean I stop writing — it just means I reapportion my time accordingly. Here’s the deal: nobody has time to write. Writers have to make time to write. You must take a meat cleaver and hack off a gobbet of your day and set that chunk of temporal viscera aside and say, “This is when I will write.” Maybe it’s two hours. Maybe it’s fifteen minutes.

Stephen King wrote some of his earliest work in tiny snippets in the middle of his work day.

You must steal time like a thrifty, thieving magpie.

“I’ll Write Later!”

You won’t.

Write now.

End of story. Or, hopefully, just the beginning.

“This Helps Me Write (And I Need It).”

You don’t need caffeine. You don’t need diet soda. You don’t need meth, heroin, video games, German poop-porn, an iPad, unicorn blood, the love of a good woman, a clean desk, probiotic yogurt, cat videos, Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, Tumblr, healthy self-esteem, double rainbows, a special pen, a lucky shirt, your blog, someone else’s blog, this blog, the word “blog.”

The only thing you need is you, a semi-functioning brain, a story, and a way to tell it.

Oh, and an ergonomic chair. Okay, you don’t need it, but shit, you could damn well use one.

“I Don’t Care About Money.”

Oh, aren’t you fucking special. You’re above money, are you? You have transcended the need to exist in this material world? “I write my inky words on paper and then I eat that paper and live within the ether of mine own storytelling!” Hey, good for you, you crazy little Bodhisattva, you. I tried not paying my mortgage and when you do that, the bank sends ninjas.

I do not have the luxury of caring naught about currency.

This lie is the sneaky mule-kicked cousin to, “I Write Only For Myself.” It is once more a deception sold by those who want to excuse their work not selling, who want to make themselves feel unique or somehow above other writers (“those greedy hacks!”) because they don’t care one whit about getting paid — it’s all about the art, you see. Mind you, this is a lie of artistes, not artists. Artists need to eat. Starving is neither glorious nor honorable — in fact, it’s not even that interesting, trust me.

Remember: Shakespeare got to get paid, son.

You don’t have to care about being rich. But you damn sure better care about money. As said in the past: your writing has value, so claim value for your writing.

“I Have To Build My Platform First.”

Sure you do, as long as you don’t mind getting up onto it and having nothing to say.

“I Don’t Need A Platform”

Sure you don’t, as long as you don’t mind mumbling about your project from down in that muddy hole.

Your first priority is writing. That’s the first barbarian banging at the gate. But it’s not the only one. Having a platform is like having a dinner table — the most important thing about dinner is making the food, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need somewhere to eat it.

“Oh, Drat, My Creative Spark Has Been Extinguished.”

Translation: “Ye Gods, someone has hanged my imaginary friend by the neck until he perished!”

Working on a long-term writing project is like marriage, and the creative spark is analogous to romantic love (or, rather, boner-inducing sexual magnetism). The creative spark is just the thing that gets you together with your work the same way that your goggle-eyed romantic need for rumpy-pumpy is what got you drawn into the marriage. But it is not the thing that sustains.

Get shut of this notion and stop telling yourself — and everybody else — that you’re clinging to this ludicrous and wholly imaginary idea. You don’t need it. Push past it. Keep writing.

“I Never Find Writing Advice Helpful!”

*rolls eyes*

You’re just that good, are you? You are a perfect Beryllium laser, cutting through the bullshit and crafting the mightiest tale to ever grace the minds of men.

Your work leaves no room for improvement, it seems. Well-done. Now, tell your son Jesus to come back to Earth and start cleaning up the mess we’ve all made.

Every writer needs advice. Maybe it’s about commas. Maybe it’s about query letters. Maybe you don’t turn to books or blogs but rather to a friend. Could be that you find it just by reading books you love again and again looking for the secret advice buried within. But everyone needs advice. Don’t pretend you’re somehow outside of it. Don’t act like merely the act of writing is enough to improve itself.

Hell with your cranky meme! Down with this lie!

*voids bowels upon it*

“I’m Just No Good.”

Quitcher whining! The time for your boo-hoo ballyhoo is done. Here then, is the proclamation: shit or get off the pot. Really truly think you’re no good and won’t be any good and cannot write past the nagging self-doubt? Then stop being a writer. Right now! Let go. Loosen your mental grip on the notion and let it float away, downstream, where it will soon be eaten by angry carp.

Or — or! — shut up about it and keep on kicking ass.

If you keep writing, it’s because you’re good enough to keep writing. Stop telling the lie to yourself and to everybody else that you’re just not good enough. Maybe you’re not great. And certainly you have room to improve. So, drum roll please, improve. Don’t whine. Don’t cry. Don’t wonder how your diaper got full and then moan about it without ever taking it off. You’re good at something. You’re an author, a writer, a storyteller — yours is the power of the divine. No deity got where he was going by blubbering about the ice cream cone he just dropped. Write, motherfucker! Write like you give a shit! Write without doubt, without fear, without lies — those, I assure you, will come in time.

You are good enough. Snap the neck of your self-doubt.

And write.

“Insert Penmonkey Deception Here”

What lies do you tell yourself? Why do you tell them, and how can you be rid of them?

67 comments

  • As always, you know how to get me kicking ass on a project again Sir Wendig.

    From your list, the “I’ll write it later” lie pops up far too often. I have lost hundreds of hours to the blatant fiction in that statement. I’ve taken steps to change that lately. I signed a contract stating I would donate $200 bucks to an organization I hate, mediated by someone else who will hold my ass to it. 1,000 words a day or it will put a significant dent in my wallet. After a few months of wasted time, I put my own damn money on my abilities, and it is working so far.

    I’m sure most people don’t need that type of incentive, but if that’s what it takes to make me create good daily writing habits, then so be it. If I want to keep my money, I have to ignore doubt and excuses and simply write..

  • Oh, and an ergonomic chair. Okay, you don’t need it, but shit, you could damn well use one.

    Heh. These days I so totally do. This whole “living in a studio apartment and doing your work in your ten year old bed” is full of shit, yo. :)

    Funny you mention this post, Chuck. I might reference some of it in a post I’ll be doing soon about The Long Game. Because one of the lies I used to tell myself: “I need to get ten books done in the next couple years or I don’t mean shit.”

    Remember: Shakespeare got to get paid, son.

    The variant on that I’ve been saying for a bit is “Hamlet gots to get paid, son.” (And when pressed, “Motherfucker dies in the last act, but that don’t mean bills aren’t owed!”) Amused the we have a similar saying. WENDIG MACKLIN 2012 \m/

    - Ryan

    • @Doktor Macklin:

      Man, the chair. For a long time I wrote in an uncomfy chair — and, actually, most of the furniture in my life was “comfortable” but not useful for my body. My couch was cozy, but had no support. Bed was all screwed up. Once I replaced those things — and got a lumbar pillow for my new office chair — man, most of my back problems have disappeared. And, like an ass, I lived with this back pain for yeaaaaaars.

      *smacks self in face*

      Anyway. Yes! I long to read the Long Game. Patience is one of the slipperiest traits for me as a creative dude.

      – c.

  • Rule 1 – BIC time. Not the lighter, Butt-in-chair. (With hands on keyboard, or pen if you prefer old-school)

    Rule 2 – Writer inoculate thyself against Golden Word Syndrome (wherein one believes their electrons arranged into words on the screen or their ink lased onto paper is actually gold brushed onto silk and therefore cannot possibly be altered, lest the silkworms have died in vain.)

    The number one lie that I find annoying is “Writing is easy, anyone can do it.” (This is usually accompanied by someone saying they’re going to “do that one of these days” as though it’s something you can pick up at the store on your lunch break.) In a sense, sure, if you can write in your native language, then it’s “simple” to make sentences on paper. Turning those sentences into a coherent or compelling narrative… not so much.

    A cousin to this group are the ones who try and kick you off the computer so they can play Solitaire, since writing for hours on end apparently equals “playing on the computer all day”.

    For the “Non-profit” bunch –

    Granted, there are writers who only want to share their stories with their friends or family, rather than as a commercial endeavor (good on ‘em, storytelling is storytelling), but the “I don’t write for money” crowd usually makes my face do strange things. If it’s hobby, I get that, but if, at some point, you intend for you words to be on shelves or Kindle, then where do you expect your percentage of whatever earning comes from that to go? Likewise, I find it odd when people from that side of the “argument” call commercial writers sell-outs, like it’s an insult. I usually tell them that’s the whole point. I want to SELL something, as in exchange my work for payment. You know… like a JOB.

    (I may not need a “clean” desk, but I do find it difficult to write if my laptop’s buried under last night’s take-out. :-P )

    • @Josin:

      I’m not so concerned with the “I Don’t Write For Money” so much as the, “I Don’t Care About Money.” I don’t believe that writing for money is the default and necessary state — but I do think that, if offered money for one’s writing, almost anybody would take it. And you’re right that it gets more troubling when that meme moves toward labeling paid writers as sell-outs because they’re writing to get paid as much as they’re writing because that’s who they are or because that’s what they want to do.

      And, oh, MMMM, TAKE-OUT.

      LAPTOP STICKY WITH GENERAL TSO SAUCE.

      – c.

  • Your blog is the only blog on writing that I’ve read where I laugh as well as well as learn.

    In other words, if you were to make a book out of your blog, I would totally buy it.

    Just saying.

    Once again, you speak the truth. I’ve told “I’ll write later”, “It’s okay I didn’t write today…” and “I don’t have time to write” many times. I guess it’s time to stop lying.

    Another lie I tell would be, “Writing anything that isn’t fiction is selling out.” or “I’m not smart enough to write non-fiction or make my stories real by researching, but I don’t have to so it’s okay.”

    I tell myself this lie obviously because I don’t want to do the work of doing those things or learning how. It’s also the fear of losing track of my original, true dream of being a novelist and is linked to the “I don’t care about money” lie.

    In the end, it’s all about fear. I say the best way to get over these lies is to recognize them as lies and then prove them lies by doing the work and see what happens.

    • Oh, as a kind of counter-argument to the one tenet of this post — “It’s Okay I Didn’t Write Today” — go and check out Jason Arnopp’s “Fight For Your Right To Think.”

      Arnopp — a Dr. Who writer — argues that it’s important to sometimes just step away from the PC and think. It can’t always be about productivity and churn. I think he’s right — my only comment would be that you make gold from that straw and actually write those thoughts down. Too often I’ve taken time to “think” and then forgot to write any part of the damn thing down.

      – c.

  • “Having a platform is like having a dinner table — the most important thing about dinner is making the food, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need somewhere to eat it.”

    Best sum of platform evah.

    I can’t wait until we move next month. I’ll have my own office with a real desk and chair just for me! I’ll be able to write somewhere besides the dining room table! YAY.

    The Penmonkey Deception could be a band. Or a movie. My other favorite is, “But I was never any good at grammar./It’s not my job to know that stuff.”

  • I aim to write every day when I’m working on a draft, but I do take a bit of time off between drafts, otherwise I tend to burn out. I find it a good time to overhaul my website or do other career-related stuff that I don’t have the mental space for during the white heat of creation :)

  • I recently faced the truth to the lie “I don’t have time to write.” I was telling myself I didn’t, because with school, work, and homework I’m putting in fairly long hours. However, that didn’t mean there was no time. For one thing, I found the time to read some blogs or webcomics every day. I also generally had time for a couple of other small breaks. So, clearly, if I had time for those things, than I had time for writing.

    I’m not sure if it is just the rush from changing things around, but I’ve been happier this past week. I haven’t had time to write a lot every day, but I’ve found time to write – or at least outline – every day, even if only primarily for the blog or a certain bearded man’s flash fiction challenges.

  • The lie I told myself for years was that I didn’t have the imagination to be a novelist. I think I was hiding behind my talent for logical, analytical thinking. It never occurred to me that it could be a way into pretty interesting stories.

  • I feel bad that so many people write basically BLOG POSTS in your comments section. Don’t they know you need to work and not read their blathering?

    Yes, blathering :P

    Anyway, awesome post. Artists do the exact. same. thing. Going to reblog this post all over so my artsy peoplefriends can see. Thanks :)

    • @Jennifer –

      Nah, I’m a fan of longer comments. No worries about TL;DR here — I can’t always comment in return but I love the comments. Bigger comments usually have more context and all.

      Hell, anybody who comes here and is kind enough to drop a comment gets love from me. My hope is that people talk to one another and not just to me. I like to think of this place as a kind of tiny commune for other head-case writer-types and creative chimps like myself.

      – c.

    • @Eddy:

      “I don’t need an editor.”

      Word to that lie. Way too often you hear that one. I’ve been guilty of thinking it many a time, and I’ve always been wrong.

      – c.

  • I tell myself that, since my husband and the nice lady at church both love my work, EVERYONE WILL BOW AT THE FEET OF SCOOTER! AGENTS BEWARE! SCOOTER’S GONNA UNLEASH A WAVE OF AWESOME THAT’S GONNA CRASH ALL OVER YOUR ASS!

    Then I get smacked with a reality check, and get my ass back in the chair.

  • *bows at the waist multiple times*

    As the old folks say, PREACH!

    I confess that I have beachfront property on Deception Island and roam the streets of the Delusion Quarter like they’re handing out free cases of booze on Mardi Gras Day. Quite often I fall into the trap of the running word count total–”I didn’t write today but I’ll make it up tomorrow,” when I should just get it done each and every day.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  • The lie I tell myself is that I only write entertainment and that there’s nothing deep or thoughtful in my work.

    I think it’s a defense mechanism. That way whenever someone says genre fiction is all worthless, I can be all “Yeah, well, I don’t write it to change lives.”

  • Confession: I am a relentless lurker of your blog. You’re funny like those guys I hung around with in high school and I miss that. Usually, whatever I’d say gets said, so I don’t comment, but today, I’m totally busted.

    I am officially lancing that boil. Living in my head too much with this story. No more research. Time to get this shit down on paper.

    This is me punching you in the arm. Which is high school for thanks.
    ;)

  • “Nobody says that to someone with an office job. ‘Hey, cubicle monkey, you’re going to have a kid soon — guess you’re going to have to quit your job.’”

    THANK YOU. I don’t have children yet, but we’ve started trying. And because I want to be home with my children, I’ve been trying to build a career that’s more flexible (writing, editing, singing, coaching, etc.). I know that it will be difficult and exhausting and possibly even excruciating and crazy-making, but I hate it when mothers laugh at me and tell me I’ll fail.

  • Writing is an act of trepanation

    Love it!

    I struggle with the last one a lot, but I’m barelling past it by letting my first drafts be, well, first drafts. There WILL be suckitude in them, but if I demand utter perfection and angels singing right off, I’ll never get anything done.

  • “That tri-colored spiral horn growing out of my nether regions? That’s perfectly normal or just, like, a fungus or something. I did NOT catch that from the Unicorn whore.” No? Anybody? That’s just me? Oh, OK, never mind.

  • Thanks again for the slap to the head! I have spent the last few years saying “I am going to write when I have time”. Time is what you make of it and how you manipulate it. The other lie is “After I get these chores (or insert other procrastination device here) done I will do my word count”. I had an a revelation while reading your blog last week. “The words won’t write themselves”. Have accomplished 15k in four days. Thank you.

  • Excellent post, and today I believe I’ll sit and ponder all that you’ve taught me, O’ Guru of Writer’s Groan (or groin depending on how you look at it). Yup, just here meditating. And scarfing large quantities of Fat Tuesday food. And, ok, I’ll write now.

  • OMG! I should not have read this while at work. My co-workers must think…well corroborate, that I’m crazy. I was laughing so hard! All this is true, especially when you’re just starting. Thanks for calling me out on the self doubt and the procrastination excuses and now I leave… I have writing to do.

  • “I can’t look at it now that it’s done, I don’t like looking at my own work”.

    Tough noogies. Your first draft is a rancid piece of dog mess. Everyone’s first draft is a rancid piece of dog mess. It is the nature of first drafts. You must look at it again. You must rework it and make it better. Go pick up a book at random from your shelf. Think that was the first draft? Of course it wasn’t. First you make it. Then you make it AWESOME.

    @Kate Haggard

    I would buy that T-shirt. And wear it in socially appropriate occasions.

  • Conquering the “I don’t have time” lie is my most recent victory. I have a 7 month old baby and a full-time job AND a horribly wonderful video game addiction. I used to fall back on that old lie time and time again. Now I just have “priorities.” Funny how much that helps.

    I’m still plagued by the “I write for me” lie, though. I truly do enjoy the writing process and discovering my characters and world, and the types of stories I write are definitely what I want to read… BUT, I definitely want others to like it as well. In fact, I might even be willing to beg.

  • Another awful lie: My fear of rejection/failure/being laughing at/publicly mocked keeps me from writing/querying/revising.

    I’ve recently had to deal with crippling fear of failure. I am a hard core perfectionist. For years I toiled in solitude on my novels, until I realized I needed to actually figure out how writing works.

    Now I am wiser, but more jaded. It’s hard to sit down and just loose myself to the story when I’ve read all sorts of tales about how Hard Publishing Is, and How Often People are Rejected, and How You’re Probably Never Going to be Published, and Everyone is Just Laughing at You Anyway.

    In order to finish my last novel I had to forcibly ignore all of those fears and self doubts that grew fat and happy the more I educated myself. But telling myself some variation of “My fear is keeping me from…” was a crock of shit.

    Sure I am afraid of rejection. So is everyone else on this planet (and others, aliens aren’t immune either). Sure I am worried that I am just writing drivel and no one but my mom and best friends are ever going to read my novels.

    Sure I am worried that my dream of being a published author will never be realized.

    But none of that is an excuse for not writing. For not doing the work. I write books, therefore I am a writer, period. And writers write. They don’t sit at their desk and wring their hands, and excuse themselves from doing things because it makes them fucking terrified. No, we eat that stuff up. Terror is good, it keeps you on your toes. You just can’t let it cripple you.

    So again, Chuck, thank you for the brilliant post. Thank you for your candor and absurd yet plausible metaphors.

  • Its nightime in Dubai where I live and I wanted to thank you for making me laugh like a crazy person before my bedtime! I Also thanks for saying it like it is to us ‘writer liars’…loved the post and look forward to the next one:)
    Best,
    Zvezdana

  • I wonder if you’ve ever told this lie:
    “I’ve never tried to kill anybody with my writing.”
    Because I almost just choked to death on an apple when I read *voids bowels upon it* and laugh gagged. You are so dead on. I love this piece man, especially the thought about how a cubicle monkey would never be told they can’t work anymore because of having a baby. So true. Writing is perceived by most as a frivolous hobby as most. Great post.

  • “Nobody’s going to notice that problem.”

    Uh, no.

    Readers are remarkably good at catching the shit you thought you could sneak past them. I’ve already had a couple of things pointed out in my latest manuscript that I knew were problems. It’s not that I didn’t necessarily want to fix them… okay, that’s a lie – I SO didn’t want to fix them, but I also didn’t know how.

    In some cases it’s good. Particularly when you’re getting feedback. Because when you have a question about a plot point, or a character point and three other people are asking the same question it’s actually a little validating.

    Even if it is a pain in the ass.

  • Thank you. I laughed so much while reading this post. I don’t think I tell myself any of those lies, but I’m sure I used to tell myself some of them, and I hear them all the time. I particularly blanch at “I don’t need an editor/proofreader” and “I really want to be a writer…I’ll start someday.” I’ve even heard them both from the same person, in the same breath. My response? “Yes, you do, and no, you don’t.” I probably won’t win any diplomacy awards, but I think life’s too short to waste. I’m here to help people. I’ll hold a new client’s hand and make the process as comfortable as possible, if that’s what he needs, but we’re going to get things done. If I wrote fiction, it would have to be action-filled..

    My solution to a lot of the writing lies I used to tell myself was ABC. Apply Butt to Chair. I write some throughout the day as I can, but my dedicated writing time is first thing in the morning. I get in the chair at 5 am, and won’t get out until 7 am, or until I have written at least 1,000 words for the article or website content page I’m working on at the time. There are some mornings that my blue eyes have turned green and my back teeth are floating by the time I write that thousandth word and make a dash for the bathroom, but I will not move until I get those words written. Other things can come after that (such as prospecting/querying, emails, facebook networking, etc.), but not before. Some of you are still asking, “Why 5am?!” I have three young children, and if I don’t get those words written before the children wake up, the best I can hope for the rest of the day is a few disjointed sentences and a keyboard that may be dotted with granola bar crumbs and lemon pudding. And there’s no telling what the kids might get on it.

  • My lie– Oh I’m ahead in that project so there’s no reason for me NOT to squander the evening reading Preacher:Until the End of the World (or whatever)between jags of vapidly cruising the internet.

    The Truth– There’s no such thing as ahead. Even if I’m not behind on one thing, I have a bunch of other projects that need my time.

    Even worse, when I’m stressed, my reading habit becomes bulimic. I’ll gorge myself on books, neglecting everything else, until I can’t stand it anymore, then I’ll just word-vomit all over the page. By the time that happens, I’m behind on everything. It’s as bad for my mental health as it is for my writing.

    Funny how I know, “I write best under pressure,” is a lie, but I sometimes act like it’s true.

  • “I shouldn’t tell people I am a writer unless…”

    …unless I have a published book, unless I am making money from it, unless I am “legitimate”, unless I am “recognized” …Insert excuse here.

    Painters paint, gamers game. I write stuff. I write novels. I write stories. I don’t know why I let myself get in the way of telling people I am a writer when that is a large part of what I do outside of work. Hell, it’s a part of what I do DURING work as well.

  • As a former mechanic and construction worker I used to lie to my blue collar buddies and say I wrote romance for the money. “It’s the top selling genre, y’know!”
    But that lie got tedious, especially since I haven’t made a dime yet.
    I write romance because I like it. Suck it.

  • I’ll admit, I use the “no time” excuse more often than not. I do have a new one in the house (seven months next week), and I shifted my schedule to dedicate my nights to him (about four hours from the point I get home). I’m just getting into the pattern of waking up early to get some private writing time, but that starts to conflict with the “I need sleep.” Not giving up, just trying to find the right balance of sleeplessness, childcare, and that whole “work” thing.

    I think the most interesting thing is that I’m always doing a project. But, I’m balanced between being a programmer and a writer for my personal projects. Plus, the various household maintenance chores (finances, laundry, etc). That means that I have very little idle time, and I’m always doing something, but it isn’t always writing.

  • In order to shame those who require more butt in chair time -

    I just returned from a three day edit-a-thon with a writer/friend (myself wielding a blue pencil like a lumberjack). After we bashed 2 books into publishable shape in 3 marathon 14-hour days, we started planning book 3.

    When asked about the schedule, his reply was – keep this in mind all you excuse monkeys -

    “I want to take the summer off to play golf, so we should plan to have it wrapped up before June.”

    That’s less than 90 days folks. He’ll do it too. Plenty of 3,000+ word days, and I bet I see that m/s crossing my inbox before the May long weekend.

    type type type . . .

  • Procrastination is a huge issue for me. If I say “It’s okay that I didn’t write today…” then that one day always turns into a week. Then a month. Sadly it goes on from there. It seems like if I don’t do something on my WIP EVERY day then things slide a little, which turns into a lot.

    Some of the other excuses have cropped up from time to time. But this is the big one for me.

    Adding writing to my calendar for this evening because I realize that I haven’t written in two days. Thanks for the post!

  • @EddyWebb – “I don’t need an editor.” Amen, brother! I hate hearing that one. Yes, yes you do … and YOU aren’t your only editor.

    At one time or another, I told myself every single one of those lies. I’m getting better. I’ve got the “sit down and fucking write, you’ll make it good later” mentality rocking right now and it’s working. I’d gladly take money. Commercial is not a dirty word. (Shakespeare got paid. Epic, sir!)

    Still working on this one: “Can’t write today, the kiddo is at home.” Bullshit, Jamie. You wrote a goddamn novel in 3 weeks with the kid at home, you can write a novella, or flash fic or a blog post SOMETHING with the child at home.

    The one that I have the most trouble letting go, though? “This sucks. I’m not good at what I do, this is crap and no one will ever want to read it.” It doesn’t stop me from writing or putting my stuff out there to be read, but it’s still a voice in my head.

    And, Chuck, thanks for this little commune of crazy here. :)

  • Awesome post, absolutely loved it!

    I think as writers, we KNOW when we are saying something to make ourselves feel better or to cover up an insecurity.

    There are actual times when you genuinely *are* too busy to write, we do have day jobs, partners, families… and we can’t just go around completely ignoring them, but it’s about the discipline of knowing when you are saying that you don’t have time, when you really do.

    I wrote an article on Video Game addiction that I think you’d enjoy to read ;) It really is one of the biggest modern day time wasters and procrastination enablers.

    I enlist Beta readers to keep me pushed, they continue to bring back chapters with thoughts, and I want to be far ahead of their reading, works for me ;)

  • Just ten more minutes? Lol My problem is the lies I tell others so I don’t have to quit.

    I will have you know It is no lie – I don’t write for money – hehehe never have – Of course I would If some was offered, I am not insane – I am NOT – I am telling the truth – I am FINE – and when I’m not they adjust the medication……Psssst come here – hey you were just kidding about the unicorn thing – right?

    Loved your Post!

  • I’ll fling some words of wisdom at you from the other side of the childrearing chasm. I have three children, ages 15, 24, and 25. When I was a divorced mother working full-time with two kids in diapers, I wrote. Sometimes it was haiku, but I wrote. As they got bigger, I wrote short stories, but regardless…I wrote.

    When I was told that I’d be on bedrest for the third pregnancy, while the older two were in elementary school, I thought, “Hey! I can finally write that novel I thought I’d never have time to write!” And I did. It got me an agent, but it didn’t sell. So while the littlest one was napping or when she was in preschool two mornings a week, I wrote another book. It sold. Now that people actually wanted my stuff, I *really* needed to write it, so in the intervening eight years, I’ve sold seven books, five short stories, three essays, and let’s not even think about the blog posts and marketing stuff I’ve flung into the internet.

    And you know what? All three kids have turned out astonishingly well, so it’s not like I neglected them while I pursued my art. My son finished a mechanical engineering degree in 3.5 years with near-perfect grades. My older daughter was at the top of her Le Cordon Bleu pastry chef class. And my high schooler is the top mythologian in her age group in the country. (She wants to study classics…and I thought *writing* was impractical…)

    If your kids see you pursuing your dream, they’ll pursue theirs. Enjoy your new baby!

  • Damn you for not lying here! All too bloody true and all directed entirely at me (See, must be a writer, mountain-sized ego and still insecure….) Currently surrounded my unfinished projects and making up excuses like “I don’t feel energised by any of these.” Please arrange for a large Teutonic Woman with ahairy upper lip to call round and slap me at your convenience. By the way, came here from Kristen’s blog. Blame her.

  • Ah, I can count on getting a kick in my ass and get my back into gear whenever I read one of your posts. The ol ‘I only write for me’ is one I just got past, haha! I write for people to read! BAM! Yeah, that’s right, I confessed.

  • The biggest lie I tell myself is that I don’t have time. That I have to wait until after each semester ends that I can really churn out fiction. Which is half-true; I’m very busy while I teach, and I have very little free time. I CAN write a lot more when I don’t have to grade and prep, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get a few minutes a day of writing in. What free time I do have is typically squandered instead of being productive. If I only spent half an hour a day working on fiction instead of insipidly reading entries from my RSS reader or checking WoW news sites, I would be a lot closer to being done with the second draft.

    I also tell myself that since the average advance is so low and that so few slush pile manuscripts are picked up by agents that I would be better off e-publishing than going through the traditional channels if I want to eventually make a living through writing. I’m not sure if that’s a lie or not, especially since I write genre fiction. I have no delusions I’d be the next Isaac Asimov or Stephen King. If I were lucky, I’d hit it midlist, which may mean I would be better off taking the reins and investing in myself. But who knows? It could be a lie or it could be justified. Too early to tell right now.

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