Excuses are Easy

I just read a blog post about what the blogger called the “one” book, the one that you’re apparently destined to write because you’ve been whacking away at it for ten years and can’t leave it be. The chances are that any book that’s been hanging around your neck for that long is an albatross, not destiny. If you’re writing other things during that time, then it’s a harmless case of wishful thinking. But if it’s keeping you from writing anything else, the excuses you make are just that — excuses. That abortion of a book isn’t an inspiration or a goad, it’s simply a dead weight that needs to be cast overboard.

If there’s one thing that humans are good at, it’s making excuses, finding rationales and justifications. They’re the lifeline that would-be writers cling to, afraid to admit that they’re never going to write that book or any other book.

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6 thoughts on “Excuses are Easy

  1. I agree that it is easy to put things off. Sometimes it is easier to call yourself a writer, or (fill in the blank) rather than to step out and prove (or disprove the claim) by the attempt.

    But I think there are reasons for some books (in this case) to take a great long time to be born.

    I for one, have a very old story on my waiting list. I won’t tell you precisely how many years it’s been percolating, but we were all much younger when the idea began to be developed.

    Initially I put it off because I didn’t really know how to write. That didn’t keep the story from growing, however. Over the years attempts were made to write the thing, and in fact three drafts were done. Each of the drafts had a little something special, but they each had a lot of something not so special. Lack of skill, poor craft.

    Wanting to write was still a part of me, but the fear of making a poor job of a book I feel to be important (to me, at least), has kept me from making it a single-attention project

    Instead, I’ve writ5ten a good many “lesser” works. Many, many short stories, more essays than I can count, four novels (one of which has serious worth, and some critical acclaim), and a ton of blog posts.

    I write every day, now. This is not something I could have done when “Chaiantra”, the big book, was born. Putting off an important piece until I feel ready to do it right may seem wimpy to some, but to me it is a little like sending your kids to a very bad school today instead of to a much better one next week.

    Perhaps your thesis is correct. Perhaps it is lack of skill or absence of drive, of pitiful self-discipline, or some other glaring lack in drive, talent, or personal worth, but I wonder if the situation really is a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.

    1. You’re right. It isn’t one-size-fits-all. But if you’re so devoted to the *idea* of that one book that it stands in the way of writing anything else, than what I said holds. Unless, of course, you’re doomed to be a one book or no book person. In that case, any rationalization that will support your view of yourself as a writer will do just fine.

  2. I am afraid that my first novel is becoming that dead weight. I’m giving myself till the end of this year and I plan on starting a new one in June. I hate to see my first story trash and die, but it might be the best thing for it.

    1. It may be that this just isn’t the right time for it, and that can be for an infinite number of reasons. Just put it away for now. It may surprise you some day. My very first novel, the one I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2009 is still unfinished. I’ll probably finish it eventually, and it will benefit from the writing skills I’ve developed since then. But in the meantime, I’ve set other writing goals and met them. I’d be willing to bet that most writers have unfinished projects waiting for the right time. Some will get finished; some won’t, but it’s best not to let any one of them weigh you down and keep you from moving forward with new work.

  3. I understand what you’re saying, Catana, but everybody’s different. Re being ‘doomed’ to be a one-book writer, they’re a pretty illustrious crew, e.g. Harper Lee, Boris Pasternak, Emily Bronte and Margaret Mitchell – who took 10 years to write GONE WITH THE WIND; these are just a sample. I could live with having written any one of those books, and wouldn’t care that it was only one. But everybody’s different.

    1. I can’t disagree with you, but how many one-book authors can you name, when it comes down to it? Of course, that was a side-issue anyway. Most writers hope to produce more than one book, and becoming a known name, with however many books, is something that very few achieve.

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