Keep Writing, Even When You've Got Great Excuses Not to

Last Friday, Feb. 26, I was on top of the world. My spring break was beginning, and I had so much energy. I got rid of paper that had been in my basement for over 15 years! (I’m a college English teacher, and I USED to save everything that could be used as a model for my students. Oy.) This past weekend, I filled more than 8 bags with paper and recyled it. What an amazing feeling. Bins became empty as I removed files and discarded them; several huge boxes are now ready for the garbagemen.

I also worked on Chapter 5, the final chapter of my monograph. And, I set up an author website and wrote three blogs. I finished a couple of books, too. My spring break looked like I was riding on air and going to accomplish so much.

On Monday, Feb. 29, I gave a writing workshop at the South Euclid branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. I was so excited to present and ready to do so. I woke up late that morning only to discover that my hot water heater had died and was leaking in my basement. I could hear the gas. Oh no. I couldn’t get in touch with a single friend who knew about these things. All I could think about was that my animals would die in a fiery explosion, I had no money to get a new water heater, and in about 45 minutes, I had to give a two hour presentation on the other side of town.

The following day (by the way, nobody died the day before in a gas explosion) the water heater guy came out and needed to drain the tank. Except that my drain in my basement is clogged, and he couldn’t drain the tank. I’d been putting off plumbing repairs, of which there are many, for months, waiting till I had money. Now I needed to hire plumbers to fix the drain so I could get the hot water heater in.

That night, while eating gummy, chewy candy, I realized that my crown was gone (the one in my mouth, not on my head). It didn’t hurt, but I knew I would need a dentist.

That night, last night, I didn’t want to write. My goal is to write every day for a minimum of 26 minutes. (See the post cleverly titled “26 Minutes.”)

Last night, I decided, I had had so many things go wrong, all of them expensive, that it was perfectly reasonable that I not write. In fact, I should take Bailey on a longer walk than usual, and I should watch another episode or two of Psych, and then read. No one, and I mean no one, could blame me if I didn’t write. Life was really sucking, and I shouldn’t have to do anything but self-care.

My brain is so tricky. I had just explained on Monday at the writing workshop that I am what Gretchen Rubin ( of The Happiness Project) would call an abstainer. There are people who can write every few days or weeks without schedule, and they do good work. I’m a person with severe writing anxiety. I am not one of those people. I can go a day or two without writing and still be sort of OK. Longer than that though, and there is a problem. And that’s the thing. My brain is very smart. It knows the angles and knows that I will seize at anything to get out of writing when I don’t feel like doing it. I told my class, don’t allow that to happen.

So, despite not wanting to be at my computer last night, I chose to write. Was it the best I’ve ever written? No, but it wasn’t bad. In fact, I finished a segment of Chapter 5 that has been troubling me for quite awhile. I’m down to 2 more sections to do. That is exciting. And you know what? Accomplishing that goal made me feel better. I lost the panicky feeling, the out of control feeling I’d had with the third disaster. Actually, I no longer thought of any of it as a disaster.

Here’s what I know: I have to finish this chapter. Then I have to revise the book. And then I have to send it out and try to get it published. That is what I need to do whether the roof is caving in or the car needs work. As long as I’m eating and my animals are eating (so they aren’t inclined to eat me in my sleep), and I have heat and electricity, I need to push on through. The alternative is that I don’t finish this book or my future writing projects, thus leading in turn, to my dreams being crushed and my life ruined.

Don’t let your circumstances stop you from taking those baby steps to your success. Last night, I was able to “spare” 32 minutes to do my writing and finish the section. I’m one step closer to finishing this book. Someday, I might even make enough money from my writing to pay for the water heater, the crown, and the plumbing. For now, I just have to keep writing.

2 thoughts on “Keep Writing, Even When You've Got Great Excuses Not to”

  1. This was phenomenal, exactly the inspiration I needed to get out of my writing funk! Publishing a novel is my dream, but I think because of my fear of failure, I keep making excuses to put it off. I had been looking forward to Monday’s writing seminars for weeks, but when Monday actually came, I had the flu and didn’t go. I’m so glad to have this little piece of Leap (Into Writing) Day! Thank you!

  2. Oh Bridgette–Thank you for this wonderful comment. I am so glad that I could help. I wish you great luck as you write your novel. I”m sure it will be a success. Just keep writing!

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