As some of you may recall, I wrote my first (yet to be edited or revised) novella during the 3-Day Novel Contest a few months ago. But that wasn’t the novel I set out to write when I started this blog. I’m now super-excited, (and more than a little nervous) to admit that I’m writing that novel for National Novel Writing Month this year.
There were times over the past few months when I wondered if I’d ever manage to tackle it. There are so many ways to scare yourself away from writing a novel (and this novel is historical fiction, so I’ve uncovered a whole well of additional excuses related to research). Here are a few of excuses I’ve made to avoid writing this novel.
Excuses, Excuses & More Excuses:
- You need to do more research before writing.
- You’re not ready to write this yet (a.k.a. you need more life experience).
- You should save this idea for when your writing improves.
- You should wait until you take X writing class.
- You should wait until you’ve read more books about writing.
- You should wait until you can travel to some of the settings you’ll be writing about.
- You should wait until you have a detailed outline before you start writing.
- And on and on and on.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? I know (hope!) I can’t be alone in making excuses to avoid writing a particular book or story that you think has great potential.
Why Excuses Aren’t All Bad
Writers are notorious for making excuses. There are books and blogs and podcasts dedicated to helping writers overcome the great Excuse Monster and start slapping words onto the page. But after my experience with excuses over the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion that excuses are not ALL bad. Here’s why:
Some Ideas Need Time to Gestate:
The story I’m writing now wasn’t ready back in February. It was tormenting me and swimming back and forth in my head, but it still needed some gestation time. I was frustrated with it because there were gaps in the plot that I couldn’t fill, and characters that had not yet solidified in my mind. I think our excuses can serve to protect our ideas until we’re ready to tackle them. But there’s got to be a limit to how long we protect our ideas, so we don’t use idea-gestation as another way to put off writing that book we really, really want to write.
Excuses Protect us From Our Fears (Until We’re Ready to Face Them):
I believe we use excuses to protect ourselves from failure. I was terrified to attempt to write this novel and fail. But, now that I’m a few months wiser (said with sarcasm, of course), I know that my first draft will fail – if I attempt to consider my first draft the final draft. What a relief it is to give yourself permission to write (and I paraphrase Anne Lamott here), shitty first drafts. Just like idea-gestation time, we need to be careful that our fears don’t keep us from writing something all together.
What do You Think?
Of course, I may be making excuses for making excuses. What do you think? Do excuses serve a purpose in the writing life? What excuses do you use?
If you’re Nano’ing your way through the weekend, good luck to you!