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On Not Writing

Can’t find time to write? Don’t feel like it? Lost your nerve? If you’re not writing, you might be suffering from simple procrastination–but I’m here to say, it’s often not simple at all. Take it from one who has polished procrastination to a high art: Not writing can be eerily complex.

For one thing, there’s always a reason not to write.

A Dark and Subtle Drain

“I have to clear my email in-box, catch the matinee, finish the sports section . . .” Add to that: “What’s the use? I’ll never find an agent, finish the novel, write well . . .” But what if these distractions and loss of nerve aren’t merely annoyances, but a dark and subtle drain that is at odds with your highest aspirations?

If you long to write and aren’t, you’re paying for this deferment twice: once when you give in to trivial pursuits and negativity and again when you feel guilty about it. So many people wish they could do it, but know that it’s not their strong suit. You, however, may be a writer. If you could only buckle down. If you could only keep your negative thoughts at bay.

We may feel that resistance to writing is such a garden-variety ill that we should easily overcome it; then we feel ashamed when it wins. But it’s not an easy issue; most writers, in fact, let it defeat them. Deferring writing will bleed you dry. This comes from one who resents having to write in the summer, one who loves to be outdoors when it’s fine. Puttering in the yard is so soothing. Nothing says neglect to me so much as an unswept patio. I despise leaves and dust on the porch! But a pursuit like this is not a distraction. It’s a siren song. I’ll have to lash myself to the mast. As one who let not-writing win for years, I don’t think I’m over-dramatizing the problem.

Challenge the Monster

The first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Give it a name. Like Grendel, or something. Look it in the eye. Acknowledge its power as a kick ass foe and declare war.

Get a schedule, and a goal. Ally yourself with other serious writers, and give your writing goals respect. If that means that your email inbox is messy, if your car hasn’t been washed in a year, if you’re not going to make soup from scratch–so be it. If that means we stop indulging all the doubts and fear–well, good riddance.

Take your love of writing seriously. The stakes are high: The freedom to be creative. The joy of pursuing your highest gifts.


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