Let’s just be honest. Writers and authors are the masters of making excuses as to why they aren’t writing. After all, if you never finish your book and publish it, you can’t be a failure. You also can’t succeed, and you’ll never know your true potential. Not to mention, you won’t inspire your readers, and you won’t be able to share your worlds with your potential audience.
1. I Have Writers Block/ My Muse Has Left/ I’m Not Inspired
According to Wikipedia, Writer’s block is a condition that causes a writer or author to lose the ability to move forward in their work or produce new work. It’s other words, it’s a loss of productivity when it comes to writing. The term Writer’s Block first came into existence in 1947 thanks to Australian psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler.
The truth of the matter is that writer’s block occurs due to internal and/or external factors. It’s not a loss of inspiration. Your muse hasn’t left, but you do have one or more problems that you will need to locate and solve before you can get back to your writing. The good news is that it can be solved. The bad news is that you will have to do a lot of internal reflection in order to determine what is preventing you from writing. Common internal and external factors that may impair your ability to write include:
Extreme Financial Hardship – You may not be able to write if you’re starving or homeless or about to be either one.
You Have Problems in Your Relationships – Arguments with significant others and impending divorces or separations can negatively impact your ability to write.
You’ve Written 10,000 Words in 24 Hours – Take a break. This isn’t writer’s block. This is mental exhaustion.
There’s Something Wrong with Your Novel – A novel can lose forward momentum if there is something wrong with it. This could be a lack of character development or a failure to move the plot forward. You may have even zigged when you should have zagged, and now you’re stuck. The trick here is to reread what you’ve already written in order to determine what went wrong and fix it. Once you get it fixed, you’ll be able to continue your forward momentum.
You Are Experiencing a Family Emergency – Whatever your family emergency, it’s best to take care of that first rather than to try and write while dealing with the extremely stressful situation. Once things calm down or you find a new routine, you’ll be able to continue your current writing project.
Your Environment Is Filthy – Even if you are super productive and able to ignore the dishes, trash, pile of laundry, eventually, you’re going to hit your filth limit. At this point, you won’t be able to write until you get the filth cleared (the majority of it anyway)
Your Nutrition Is Through the Floor – You can only eat so much fast food, frozen pizzas and quick meals before your body starts protesting. While fast meals and delivery are a great way to stay productive, you may need to take a couple days and actually cook healthy meals in order to get your vitamin and mineral levels up.
You’re Not Exercising – Desk jobs will destroy your muscle strength and endurance. Not exercising also affects wakefulness and mood. If you haven't exercised in a while, it’s time to jump on the treadmill. This is especially true if you are experiencing back, neck, arm and leg pain. It’s time to get up and rebuild all those muscles you’ve accidentally let atrophy while you were writing and sitting on your tail end.
2. I’m Too Busy to Write
Being too busy is write is often an excuse, not reality. I know very few people who have every waking moment jam-packed with stuff they have to do. This is where prioritizing becomes very important. You may not be able to write every day, but you should be able to find some time to write every week. You may now find yourself thinking: “But between the kids, work, school, extracurricular activities, my own sports and hobbies, my husband, boyfriend, parents, nights out with the girls/boys, I just have no time.” If this is you, take a long hard look at your schedule. Is there anything you can remove from it in order to give yourself time to write? Can you have your husband take the kids out to Sunday brunch and write then? Can you find an hour before or after work? Can you write late at night? Do you spend a lot of time waiting? Waiting for the kids to get out of school, various doctors' appointments, at the DMV? To write, all you need is your cell phone and a writing app. You can break out your cell phone anywhere and type in a few lines of your current novel. The truth is that you may have to schedule your writing in order to make sure it gets done.
3. My House is Too Loud to Write
There are a zillion people traipsing through your house. Everyone is watching a noisy program on their tablets, laptops, cell phones and the TV. Someone is screaming, and all of a sudden someone is saying your name over and over and over again. You can’t hear yourself think, so you sure as heck can’t write. I know how it goes. I grew up in a 900 square foot house with five people. It’s noise hell. Thankfully today, there is such a thing as noise-canceling headsets. Pop on a pair of those and the outside world will disappear.
However, this may not be a solution if you have a situation where you really do have to hear everything in your house at all times. This can occur if you have rambunctious pets, kids or elderly parents living with you that may need random help. If this is the case, you may need some help. If you have someone else living with you, can you escape for a few hours to a quiet location outside your home while they provide the care in your home? Can you take your kids to daycare on a day off and your dog to the doggy daycare for a few hours while you write? There are even some programs that offer a break to caregivers of elderly family members where you can take your relative and drop them off to play games, talk and socialize. These are, of course, only suggestions, you’ll have to figure out what works best for your family and your writing goals.
4. No One Likes My Ideas
Do you like your ideas? If you like your ideas, that’s all that matters. If you are judging your writing off what your family members think or some of your closest friends, stop it. If my family doesn’t outright hate what I write, they should never read it, minus like two people. The rest of them aren’t the target audience. They’re not going to like it no matter how well it’s written. This is the way it is, and the truth of the matter is that there are 7.8 billion people in the world. The members of your family are not even one percentage point of that population. Even if you added in all your friends, coworkers and acquaintances both online and off, you are still not even at a single percentage point. Once you finish your book, edit it and publish it, you may find your audience, and that audience may be nothing like the individuals that surround you on a daily basis. If you are really concerned about the viability and marketability of your work, you can employ beta readers and trusted friends and family members to read it. I recommend extended family members, like aunts, uncles and cousins, if they’re in your anticipated demographic. Another option is to have an editor take a look at it, but that’s not typically free.
5. I’m Still Young. I Have Plenty of Time
That’s great. I’m glad you are still young. However, the human lifespan is not infinite, and as you get older, time seems to move faster. I no longer look at the calendar and go – OMG, there are still 25 days left in the month, and I swear we’ve had 10 days already, or better – UGH! There’s still 10 months till Christmas! Instead, I’m like – Shit, it’s already the 6th! I’m so behind! Or, OMG… There’s only six weeks till Thanksgiving, and I haven’t planned the dessert menu yet!
It can take years to build an audience and author platform AFTER you publish. You may even have to write multiple books and publish them in order to gain enough of a platform and audience to make your books profitable. This takes time. The sooner you start, the better, so if you are telling yourself or someone has told you – You are still young and have plenty of time, dismiss it immediately. If you buy into that thinking, you’ll be 40, 50, 60 or even 70 before you publish your first book. The average human life expectancy in the US is 78.7 years. The average life expectancy for the world is 72 years old.
6. I’ll Never Make any Money Writing
No one buys books anymore. This is what you’ve probably heard. You may have also heard that it’s incredibly difficult to sell a book as an unknown author. It is, but you’re suffering from analysis paralysis. Maybe you’ve even crunched the numbers by locating all the books in your given category and the annual sales and dividing that amount to try and figure out what you might make as an author. While it’s important to know your market, the overall pulse of the book industry, your demographic and specific numbers and metrics about your preferred genres, don’t let those numbers intimidate you to the point of not finishing your novel. The bottom line is that if you do not finish or publish your book, you will be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t sell books or make any money if you don’t publish.
7. I Can’t Afford to Publish, so There’s No Point in Finishing
Here’s another case of analysis paralysis. In an effort to research prices for certain services, you’ve looked up editing prices, cover design prices, marketing prices, advertisement prices, formatting prices and probably even vanity press publishing packages. Once you retrieved all your numbers, you added them together and came up with a number in the tens of thousands. Once you saw that number, you have a mini-panic attack. You don’t have that money in the bank. You can’t even save that amount over the next ten years. It’s hopeless! It’s not hopeless, and while it’s good to have those numbers in your head, very few authors have any money they can put into their books.
You will have to get creative. If you plan to self-publish, there are plenty of predesigned covers you can use. If you spend a little time with GIMP or Photoshop, you may be able to create your own custom cover. Take a little extra time with your book and focus on self-editing and proofreading to eliminate mistakes. Places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo allow you to publish directly to their platforms for free.
If you plan to go the traditional route, all your editing, formatting and book cover design will be done for you. You will have to proof the edits, and you will be asked to perform additional edits based on the publishing house’s editor’s feedback, but you won’t spend a dime for that upfront. Instead, it’s covered in the cuts the publisher and agent take for your work (if you have an agent).
8. Everyone Screws Me Over, so I’m Done Writing
You’ve had a bad experience with publishing, editors, agents or someone else in the book industry. Maybe even more than one bad experience. Bad experiences happen. Every writer and author that’s been selling their work for any length of time has a horror story, and some of them have more than one horror story. Don’t let your bad experiences stop you from writing. Take time to reflect on the experience and learn something from it, even if the lesson is – I’m never working with X again. It’s all about overcoming and persevering in the face of opposition. Just because you get screwed or you run into someone unscrupulous, doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you should double-down. Instead of thinking “I can’t”, think “Watch me”. There’s nothing more satisfying than proving your naysayers wrong, and the best revenge is success.
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