Writing Excuses 7.14: Writing Excuses

Today’s episode of Writing Excuses is about writing excuses — all those handy tricks that the great authors use to prevent themselves from finishing any book before its time  (let alone its deadline.)

Get out the vacuum, grab some Q-tips and a bottle of alcohol, and make today the day that you fill your life with the sense of wonder that will permeate  your book forty years from now.

“Here, kitty kitty…”


Write a series of 16 numerals. This is probably Jordo’s credit card number, or at least one of them (in one of the many universes where he is still allowed to use credit cards.) Go shopping! Oh, you’ll need the expiration date! It’s April 1st, 2012.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies,  by Rob Wilson and Rhena Branch, narrated by Simon Slater

73 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 7.14: Writing Excuses”

  1. I think Samuel Delany actually writes in the way you say. He doesn’t put words on index cards, but he writes the same line different ways down a page and then picks the one he likes best.

  2. I might actually use “write a number of rejection letters to yourself, each in a different voice” as a writing prompt.

  3. This is easily the best and most informative podcast you guys have ever done. Thank you!

  4. In past episodes you talk about Outliner vs. Exploratory Writer, finally you discuss the Procrastinary Writer. It reminds me of Mike Resnick’s “His Award Winning Science Fiction Story” (which unfortunately is not on Audible Dot Com).

    While this episode of Writing Excuses was only slightly over 15 minutes, it took me over half an hour to listen to it. I had to keep hitting pause to catch my breath.

    I think “Write fifty rejection letters to your first page, each in a different voice” is perhaps one of your best writing promps this year.

  5. You forgot Ed Greenwood when discussing epic beards. How could you?

    I suggest we start taking a collection to get Mary a beard. I’m sure with enough money or hair donations we can do it!

  6. UPS requires door answering? What planet do you guys live on?

    They leave packages at my doorstep all the time. They generally put a price tag on it saying exactly what it’s worth. Nothing like leaving a $60 package clearly labeled as such out in public view in a big city – I don’t know of any possible problems that could occur in such a situation.

    Not quite what I was expecting, but hilarious podcast, nonetheless.

  7. I have been working on a beard for some time, but it doesn’t seem to be coming in as thick as I would like. Is it possible to use the cat hair from the vacuum to fill in the patchy parts?

    Also, I did find that watching all seasons of Perfect Strangers helped quite a bit, yet what helped even more was repeated viewings of “Second Sight” with Pinchot and John Laroquette.

    Oh, and one more thing, do you have a link to some good, bearded-lady, short fiction?

  8. There’s actually a lot of good advice here for procrastinators, either in the form of a nice slap in the face for their own personal writing excuses or maybe for some new ideas if they need more excuses to not write. As Brandon said, “You have no excuse to not…. write…. now. I think.”

  9. I have the same problem growing a beard that I have finishing a book. I give up the book after a few months when it gets too tough and I give up the beard after about a week, when it gets too itchy and uncomfortable.

  10. I hate to say it, but I’ve already tried all of those excuses and it’s still not enough. I need a couple dozen more before I feel prepared to sit down and write. (I am a total hack, after all.)

  11. The way I do it, is I wrote a little computer program that applies the genetic algorithm to a chapter-length text of random words. On each iteration it creates a bunch of variations, and then I pick the most coherent one to be varied next. Slowly but surely, a coherent chapter emerges. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to automate the literary selection process yet, so I still have to read each text myself and make a selection for every generation of the process.

    I expect to have my first novel out in a couple million years.

  12. Have you considered doing an episode on Script Frenzy? Since Howard does graphic novels, I think it would be appropriate.

  13. I simply cannot write because my cat clawed my hands into bloody stumps after I tried vacuuming him.

  14. Few things are as enjoyable than listening to smart & funny people be smart & funny. With the internet you usually have people who are under the delusion they are smart & funny failing in a most cringe inducing fashion. Not here. You guys knocked it out of the park. Thank you. :)

  15. Thank you guys, this was awesome. And psychologically very helpful. I often sit in front of the screen, wondering what to write after that first page, only to suddenly realize how I absolutely must vacuum my orchids (I don’t have a cat, sadly) or – even worse – edit once again that first line because “it doesn’t sound right”. From now on, your sarcastic comments will echo in my head, making it much harder not to just get over myself and write the rest of that novel.

  16. “Creative Procrastination” by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and Howard Taylor. Read by Stephen Fry.

    Head on out to Audiblepodcast.com/excuse to pick up a free copy of “Creative Procrastination” and start a free trial membership… after you’ve read the news and checked your mail.

  17. Howard nails it again!

    DNA diligence truly is key, people! One never knows when the TSA _might_ decide to monitor keyboard DNA for the purposes of determining who could be a security threat on our highways and byways. Those who fail the DNA test will not be allowed to drive automobiles, sidewalk surf (that’s sk8 for you young ‘uns), or use walkers–with or without tennis balls attached.

    Although giving your keyboard a thorough rubdown with grain alcohol will do the trick for removing all traces of your DNA, the TSA will not only condemn you as an alchie who slobbers booze all over his keyboard, they will post pictures of you naked all over the Net, using their DNA-resistant keyboards.

    The best strategy is to avoid having the TSA DNA-test your keyboard. For total exemption from this, join any local keyboard terrorist group and DO start dressing like one of ’em. Everyone knows that if you look, act, walk, and talk like an average citizen–especially if you use a walker–you’re probably a keyboard terrorist and a major security threat to the nation’s system of roadways and you need a shake down–a naked one. If, however, you are clearly a terrorist, you can whine about profiling and then you can claim all sorts of rights that have nothing to do with terrorism, security, state of dress, or anything else relevant to anything, and forgo all keyboard DNA testing.

    Who can write–naked or dressed–with the world in the state it’s in?

    member Bombsalot local 911 since 2001

  18. Hey! You’ve been eavesdropping on my excuses!
    I knew the little camera square on my laptop could be used to spy on me. How can I write now unless I take my laptop into the Geek Squad to get the camera taken off.

  19. Stand on the shoulders of giants and reach for the stars! Inspired by your wisdom, I have gone the extra mile and written rejection letters for the rejection letters that I wrote myself for every failed one page of novel. Thank you, dear podcasters, for enriching my life and empowering me to once again take control of my procrastinatory goals.

  20. My cats write everything that I post on the Internet.

    It is very cheap labor.

  21. @Michael: It’s bound to happen. I was plugging the podcast at this weekend’s World Horror Convention. I just wish I could survey the poor victim immediately after the experience.

  22. I got mistaken for Brandon by a bookstore employee at one of our signings. Neither of us had beards at the time. I thought I was a good evil twin and then he up and grew one on me without telling me. I didn’t find out about the beard till I met him at a library event almost a year later. Then at LTUE this year, it was gone again! His must have been growing in wrong and he needed to reset it.

    How can I be a proper NY Times best selling doppelganger until I get my beard matching his? I can’t write till I get this one pinned down.

  23. I have to agree that cats do enjoy inserting themselves into any creative process. Be it laying on the keyboard as you attempt to type. Between your pen and the paper if you try to write. And my personal fav, between you and the book you are attempting to read. I’ve even had one tug the earbuds out of my ears while attempting to listen to Writing Excuses (the little fiend knocked the phone off the desk to do it). It’s a plot I tell ya, an evil plot!!

  24. Um. I just wanted to say thank you for this week’s episode. A few minutes in, I realized what was going on (yes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake) and I began mentally writing my own memoirs. Since I’m not really well known, I’m not sure how that’s going to go down, but I think that you have triggered my instinct for mindless rebellion and for that I feel as though some gratitude is in order. Thank you from the bottom of my somewhat confused heart.

    And now, back to the show.

  25. Holy *&$% –

    The greatest WE podcast ever recorded! I love you, every one of you. Even you, Jordo. Thanks for the card.

  26. Oh, that was fun. And amazing how easily you guys were able to think up these things, too. ^_^

    On cat-vacuuming and keyboard cleaning – why is it that trivial and unpleasant tasks become absolutely necessary when one should otherwise be writing? The problem is, they are things that do need to be done, so it’s so easy to justify them.

    You did miss my favorite one: “I’m not feeling any inspiration and, until the Muse strikes, I am completely unable to write” – which is just a high-falutin’ way of saying “I don’t WANNA!” I lost years waiting to FEEL it, the way I did when I was a kid, until I learned I had to start anyway. I’d even set a timer, for only half an hour at first, and I had to write every day. And after a couple of days, I found inspiration came quite easily and was writing beyond the timer limit with no problem.

    And, of course, there’s always all those blogs I MUST read, or I won’t know what’s going on! Or the research I must do – I simply CANNOT continue unless I know exactly what kind of stockings my characters are wearing, or whether the kitchen that cooked their meals has an open spit or an iron stove, or what goes into the local beer.

    And I can’t believe you didn’t mention Dr. Who – it is imperative to keep up with Dr. Who! (I’d missed it on tv, so I got the first 4 seasons on dvd, thinking I’d watch an episode or two a week and make it last. I started watching, and lost three weeks of my life.)

  27. I may be the oddball and/or fish out of water here, but while I recognize the wit and humor that you four have in spades, I think this episode is the single episode that I did not enjoy. I did find it amusing, but it seems to be different from what your podcast really seems to do better than everyone else, giving great craft-related advice or information. I think other podcasts spend more time addressing the emotional side of writing (“You Should Be Writing” is likely the best, and I’m sure you all are familiar with it since I think everyone but Brandon has been interviewed for her podcast).
    I always enjoy how typically a solution is proposed or explored rather than merely pointing out a problem. I will continue to listen as you do have the best writing podcast anywhere, I just want things to go back to normal.

  28. I was going to post a comment earlier, but…I had to vacuum cat DNA out of my keyboard. (And I don’t even HAVE a cat! Boy, they’re sneaky.)

  29. Clearly, you are writing too hard. It’s time to take a well-earned break, and relax a little, with another thrilling episode of Writing Excuses! This time, the intrepid team takes on the incredible task of providing you with a good, solid collection of writing excuses — reasons not to be writing! Starting with the old standby, writing is hard, and quickly developing the reasons you shouldn’t be writing for at least 40 years, how to reject yourself, and better research into pop culture and character voice, along with a short excursion into the strange success of bearded women from carnivals in the short story genre, our team gives you every reason not to be writing, and then some. And here’s the transcript, so that you can keep track! I suggest printing it, and using it as a checklist to make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid writing today. Don’t procrastinate, stop writing now!


    (FWIW — the podcast is dated April 1, with a tag of humor)

  30. I enjoyed your podcast, it was funny, but in a way I was disappointed that it didn’t address a serious issue that many writers face. I thought I should share my experience just in case it can be of use to others.

    Over the last year I had nearly destroyed myself as a writer and I want to share how I reached that point and how I turned it around.

    It started with two things, lofty goals and my own harsh inner critic. I wanted to push myself as a writer so I made goals of writing so many pages and so many hours per day. But my goals were such a reach that I couldn’t accomplish them at first. I beat myself up for the failure. I knew I could do better the next day. But the next day came and it was harder to write. Again I beat myself up for failing. This cycle of negativity compounded on a week by week and a month by month basis. I failed to realize what I was doing to myself psychologically. I reached a point where I could barely force myself to write. I hated it. It was torture, and even when I wrote I felt it was never good enough.

    Not only had writing become difficult, but I began to hate everything I was writing. I had always been a harsh critic of my work, but I didn’t realize my own criticism was destructive rather than being constructive. For some reason it was never good enough, I don’t even think heaven blessed prose would have been good enough. I did one of the things you mocked here, rewriting the first chapter over and over, well, it wasn’t only the first chapter, it was the whole novel. Nothing was ever good enough. I think I rewrote my whole novel a half dozen times, drastically changing it each time, and the first chapter a half dozen more.

    It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was thinking about my little boy (I recently became a father) and I was thinking about how I praise him for standing up and for babbling, and that makes him want to do it more. That was when I realized I was doing the opposite to myself. I was punishing myself for my writing, psychologically breaking myself down over my accomplishments. Where there should have been praise there was only criticism. That was when I realized that psychologically I am no different from my three month old son. I respond to praise in the same way, and to criticism the same way too I’m sure – not that I’ve ever criticized my little boy.

    That realization marked a dramatic turning point. In the last couple weeks I have been able to completely turn around my writing. I am enjoying it again, and I am loving what I am writing too. The key is that I praise myself for the small victories, each paragraph, and any time that I spend writing. I still can criticize my work, but I limit it only to constructive criticism, and I always remain positive about any accomplishment. It is amazing to find joy it writing again, and to write something I enjoy so much.

    Maybe no one else shares my particular psychological issues, but I hope that in part someone will find this useful in overcoming their hurdles.

  31. it was 15 minuets of sarcasm.
    I tried skipping ahead and it was just you guys, again, but a few minutes into the future, still being snarky and unhelpful.

    This was the most aggravating waste of time I’ve listened to in a while…
    The first few minuets were funny but I kept waiting for the actual show to start, and it didn’t.

    I do have a sense of humor–but I was just disappointed, because I like your normal show.

  32. Well, the votes are in! Both naysayers outnumber the rest of you folks who loved this show, so we won’t be doing a gag episode like this one until April 1st of 2018.

    (Unless we decide to do one again next year.)

  33. @Howard Sorry if I came off as rude.
    And i certainly didn’t mean to inform policy.

    … okay, it wasn’t THAT aggravating.
    it was just aggravating… and I really should have looked at the date.
    I admit I was wrong and I apologize.

  34. This was a fantastic podcast. I laughed so hard on my run that I scared the birds. But your evil plan backfired because I couldn’t wait to get home and write. Or maybe you were using reverse psychology. Rats, I fell for it. Great job. Writing excuses is my favorite writing podcast and this week I’ll be telling everyone why.

  35. This was exactly the sort of sarcastic kick in the pants I needed right now. Thank you!

  36. An superb idea for April 1st. Now I will admit that listened to it a couple days after the first so it took me a bit to realize that it was for April Fool’s day. Totally hilarious. And totally makes me realize that I need to get out of the military so I can grow a beard. How else am I ever going to become a sucessful writer? Darn military regulations.

  37. I am seriously tempted to write something in second person omniscient, instead of working on my current novel. You can’t ask for a more beautifully futile writing excuse than that… Or perhaps you could. Perhaps you would have all kinds of excuses like the many other writers across the world that you can’t possibly know about but that are right now making their own beautifully futile excuses to avoid writing as you are also avoiding writing as you sit here at your keyboard now, reading blogs and imagining greatness that is not yet yours…

    (See what trouble you’ve started? LOL!)

  38. As hilarious as it was, I found it to state a single important point. There are a million reasons not to write, but if you want to be a writer, you have to stop making excuses and start writing.

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