It's not a dance, it's a list of excuses writers come up with when they are hesitant to sit down and write. For example, you might find yourself saying, "I can't write until I. . .
- have my morning coffee
- do the laundry
- run to the grocery store
- pick up Johnny from school
These are all Level I, excuses. Mediocre but normal. For some, they ramp it up a bit, coming up with, "I can't write until I . . .
- visit Aunt Marie in the hospital
- bathe the dog
- weed the hedges
- work at the food bank
While you will find Level II excuses more inventive and worthy, they are not necessarily legitimate excuses. My favorites, however, arise when almost anything sounds better than writing, even though the desire is deeply there. Level III include, "I can't write until I. . .
- clean out the garage
- build a writing room
- move to a new home
. . . and a host of other convoluted excuses you can't even imagine. The more complicated and time-sucking the better.
So here are a few things you might do to better understand your excuse-ridden, writing-avoiding actions.
First, do the Assessment: Write down a quick bullet list stating "why I want to write this book." The list might include items such as. . .
- I want to be famous
- I want to earn more money
- I want to help people understand ____ better
- I want to cause people to remember ____
I'm sure you can come up with a better list, after all, you DO want to do this, right? Really pour your heart out on this one. Take some time to really (really) think about it. Then rate each point as follows:
If the item makes you want to jump up excitedly, run to your writing area, and start writing the book, give yourself 5 points. If you feel your heart beating excitedly, feel enthused, but maybe not quite the jumping-up-and-down level, give that bullet 3 points. If it's the feeling of "eh, whatever; it's a reason," give yourself 1 point.
Next, add up all your points and write down the total. Divide that number by how many bullets you wrote down to get an average.
If your total is on the high end, you'll likely be writing now. If in the middle, you have some mental work to do to break free from your excuses. Consider working 1-on-1 with a coach, or see some of the additional resources below. If you're on the low end, you may need a new concept or a different hobby. (Where did your scores fall? Comment below and let me know.)
If you ranked in the middle your experiencing the Writer's Stall and it's perfectly normal, particularly for a busy entrepreneur, full-time working mom or dad, (or grandparent), or active college student. (Okay or even busy retiree.) Your scores show you are really into this but stalled. Here are some ways to overcome the Stall.
1) Re-prioritize. If you really want to go on a trip, really need to take time off, or really need to find 20-minutes a day, you can. You do it all the time. In the case of writing, you just haven't. Take a look again at your bullet points, see how "into this" you really are. If you're really committed, then re-prioritize and get cracking.
2) Know an excuse when you see one. If cleaning out the garage hasn't been a priority for seven years, and suddenly you have the itch, it's probably the Writer's Stall. Just be honest with yourself when you step into the Stall. You'll be surprised by how many things you don't really have to do.
3) Learn the power of "no." Use it often. "No, I can't volunteer for the thirteenth annual duck-lovers picnic." "No, I'm not free on the 22nd to take the Love-Your-City tour." (You get the idea.) "I'm booked solid that day," is what you say when someone asks. And, no, you are not required to tell them why. And why shouldn't your writing time be just as firmly rooted on your schedule as some of the other items you write down there?
4) Carry around a stack of index cards. Whenever you have a few minutes of lull time, such as waiting at the doctor's office, sitting in the car waiting to pick up a child (or spouse), or any number of delays that come up in life, pull out the cards and begin writing 'one thought, one card.' These will help you later when you are pulling together a chapter or a storyline. Later, you will spread these out on a large flat surface and categorize them into neat little, go-together stacks. You'll be amazed how much you've written and how much more writing you'll be able to do with these little starters.
5) Listen to the Bookectomy free call replay. During this call, Pat Matson and myself offer tips on getting over excuses humps and other mind blocks that keep you from creating the book you want and the life you want to live. You can access the call here.
6) Weigh how much you want or need this book to be written versus your time to do it. Maybe it's time to seek a ghostwriter. You can learn more about that here.
I hope you find these helpful and you are able to break free from the Writer's Stall. Let me know in the comments below.