Writing Excuses 5.8: The Excuses You’re Out Of

We’re off to a great start, with a dangling preposition right there in the title.

We end each podcast with the tagline “you’re out of excuses, now go write,” but many people still come up with plenty of excuses. How does the professional writer deal with these sorts of things? We talk about the absence of the muse, the wrong space, the absence of ideas, discouragement, lack of time, distractions, and pants.

Howard’s pants, of course.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.

Writing Prompt: You need to change your shoes, or something awful is going to happen.

Full Circle: Pants at the beginning and the end. Oh, good. That means we wore them the whole time.

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73 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 5.8: The Excuses You’re Out Of”

  1. I am an engineer, I run a 140 acre farm with my wife, I have two kids, I am the instructor for a local riding club, I have friends and family that need attention, and don’t forget the other hobbies. I used to think I was out of time or too tired and needed to “recharge”. I found the answer in a fable where the man complained about his house being too small to the guru. The Guru told the man to move his parents in. The next week the man came back and said “This is horrible, it is worse.” The Guru told him to move in his animals. A week later, the same thing again, so on and so on. In the end, the Guru tells the man to move everyone out of the house. All of a sudden the man thinks “Wow, my house is really big without all that other stuff in it.” The point is, take on a few more things for a month. The next month you will find you have a lot of time and energy.

  2. @Miriel – you are amazing!

    As far as ending with a preposition, if it’s okay with Winston Churchill, it’s okay by me.

    And Howard’s pants are (is?) my favorite running joke of this podcast.

    Many thanks again for this one. I’m going to forward it to some friends of mine who need it, and insist they read the comments as well.

  3. @Miriel: You’re my hero. :)

    All these comments are making me realize that my life is really not all that busy, and most of the excuses I use not to write are pretty weak. The biggest ones are that feeling of inferiority that others have mentioned, and also a debilitating lack of motivation (not just to write, but to do much of anything) during the times when my struggle with depression is at its worst. Actually, that’s a podcast I’d be interested in: how to keep yourself writing while dealing with something like depression. Some might not find the topic useful, but I’m sure I’m not the only one with problems like that. Of course, I also suspect that better writing habits would go a long way in helping me on that front, so the answer is probably similar to what we’ve heard before: just keep going, even when you don’t feel like it or it doesn’t seem worth it.

  4. Laurie: Do you think they should start the show with… “This is Writing Excuses, only 15 minutes long, and Howard’s not wearing any pants!” LOL.

    As to the stay at home moms, I don’t know you all can take care of a house and a family and still find time to write. I salute the one’s that can. It’s hard enough to find the time even though I’m single with no kids. Instead I have two full time minimum wage jobs to deal with, one to pay the rent the other for everything else. I first wrote that my excuse was that I had no ideas to write about, but that is the result of my main problem, not the cause. Fatigue is the cause of my problem. After a 16 hour work day with only an hour between jobs to eat something and get to my next job, when I finally get home and find a few minutes to sit down in front of my computer to write, the only thing my mind wants to do is find a deep dark hole and crawl in.

  5. @Howard – the entire podcast, of course. :-)

    @Oletta – Well, of course! :-)

    The advice and support in Writing Excuses is invaluable, but I’m a sucker for a cheap laugh.

  6. @Howard – sorry, it’s late, I mean the entire run of Writing Excuses. I remember those early ones.

  7. @Howard et al: I hope it is clear that I wasn’t pointing the finger at anyone’s family situation and suggesting that any person here in particular is taking liberties at the expense of anyone else. To be clear, I wasn’t trying to comment on you and Sandra. My comment was about me and, as I’m planning to become a Mom as soon as possible, my own fears that in doing so, *I* will feel not okay about household tasks being my sole focus, because I am a writer and that’s important to me. My wife has her own pursuits, and I imagine she feels the same. I made the comment I did because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this lately, and the importance of balance. My writing isn’t more important than her love of music. I want to make sure I respect that going forward.

  8. Thanks, Oletta. Nice to know they are being read.

    Incidentally, for the engineers or any others who are feeling lonely, go over to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and sign up! Then, Monday, start writing. You’ll also get invitations to various events and other stuff to remind you to write. Come on in, the waters fine!

  9. As a software engineer who’s done NaNo before, Mike’s right. In some areas especially the community is amazing (I live in Denver and the people here are great, as an example :))

  10. Dear Writing Excuses,

    Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in NaNoWriMo this year because Brandon Sanderson is an evil genius who writes really, really long books, and I have two of them to read this month, although I’m re-reading one of them.

    Now see? THAT’S a good excuse ;)


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  12. Long-time listener, first-time caller. I like the podcast a lot. I listen to it while I’m running. I laugh out loud, and sometimes I pause it to argue with you. People give me looks. It’s okay.

    I am, like some people, a little bothered by Dan’s whole explanation of what his wife does. I’m sure that he didn’t mean for it to sound like “Sexist Excuses,” but as a bit of writing advice it was… what? Go find SuperWife who will watch the kids while you write, play video games and work?

    My stay-at-home wife would kill me.

    If you guys are having this much trouble with a female perspective, maybe you should just add one of your female guest-stars as a regular. The podcasts with Jessica, Mary and Janci were all really good. I would love to hear Shannon Hale on the podcast.

  13. Today I’m using episodes of Writing Excuses as rewards when I hit my wordcount goals. How’s that for no excuses?

    Btw Dan, you’re books don’t stink. They’re awesome!

  14. A long time since my last comment…

    I very enjoyed this postcast because there is something pleasant to hear that even great authors can have “bad excuses” to spend their time to another thing but not writing!! Sometimes, it’s, at last, good excuses to me (family, job) and sometimes this is very bad excuses!! Ah, ah! I’m human after all and it’s confortable to learn it from people I respect so much…
    The internet is a trap in a certain way because it is so easy to let the time passed away! But my most recurring excuses are, indeed, the fact that my job turned my brain in a complete empty space in the end of the day… Sometimes, I find ideas or inspiration in the evening but mostly, nothing come to me!
    An other excuse is that I loose my muse for weeks and suddenly, ideas come to me like flashes and whatever could be the tiredness, I write and write again!

    Thanks guys for the post !

  15. I appreciated the comments about the strain of being a stay-at-home-mom and a writing professional. From 7-6, I’m a SAHM to three young children. From 6-10 I’m a college writing teacher, and I’m either teaching class or immersed in reading and grading others’ (often bad) writing. From 10 to 7 I’m a breastfeeding mother who loses multiple hours of sleep each night.

    I don’t intend to give up or use these things as a reason to strop trying, of course, but it made me feel better to hear someone say that the lack of time and the exhaustion caused by each of these two occupations can be a significant obstacle to writing. I’ve been wondering if I was simply weak and inherently deficient to be struggling to find time and energy to write.

    I am most grateful, however, for the specific suggestions for overcoming time constraints and mental fatigue. I think they’ll be useful.

    Thanks again.

  16. THANK YOU! I’m only in 8th grade, but I have a lot of writing-nerd friends (I include myself in this group) who write constantly. I also have a lot of friends who want to write, but don’t because they “don’t have time”. I keep telling them: yes you do! If I can get straight A’s, watch my siblings 1-4 days a week, be a teenage therapist, be in showchoir (lots of rehearsals, have a boyfriend, AND write full-length play, then anyone else can write. So, world, you’re out of excuses. Go write.

  17. Glenn Cook used to work in car factory where the machine requires his attention for about 5 seconds every minutes. He cranked out the first 3 Black Company this way.

  18. I keep hearing practice, practice, practice. And understandably so. My question is … is there ever a time when it’s too late to start? Is there an age where if you just now started writing, along with working full time and (in my case) also being in school, writing whenever you can, when it’s too late to really get enough experience to have a chance at being a successful published writer?

  19. Raven: No. There are writers out there, having theire breakethrough pretty late in life. Don’t get intimidated by young talents, creating their first big novel and winning the first awards just aged 17. This happens. Even if your first novel will hit the shops when you are 70. It will be worth it.

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