I get this question sometimes — that is, when the question isn’t, “Have you written anything lately?” The thing is, I should be writing. I’ve wanted to write since the fifth grade, and probably earlier.
10. I work 60 hours a week.
Which is a temporary situation, but doesn’t explain why I haven’t written for years at a time. Let’s look at the rest of the list to examine other reasons, shall we?
9. Fear of rejection/success.
Both sides of the same coin. Consider: I write and submit, I’m rejected, my self-esteem takes a hit, and I become depressed. Conversely: I write and submit, I’m accepted, people view me as successful, people start asking me questions I can’t answer, my self-esteem takes a hit and depression sets in. See how that works?
8. There’s too much else to read/watch/surf.
I ripped out cable recently, but there’s still Hulu/Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Project Gutenberg/Facebook. This is going to take a lot of work. (See number 6, below.)
7. No idea what to write about.
This happens all too often. Was it Herodotus who wrote that there’s nothing new under the sun? Or was that Heraclitus? I get my ancient Greeks mixed up too easily. Seriously, when I sit down to write (rare, but it does happen), whether it’s a short story, an email, the beginning of another unfinished novel, or a blog entry like this one, it’s hard to come up with a subject, let alone an interesting one. Ten to one, you’re already bored with this entry. Shit, I’m already bored with it.
6. Easily distrac–SQUIRREL!
This has already become a tired joke, even amongst fans of the Pixar movie Up, but is all too often true. This blog entry would have been finished more than an hour ago if it hadn’t been for the Webby Award ceremony that was streaming online. Plus, did you know you can play Angry Birds online now?
5. I have no idea how to end a
The best story I’ve ever written (a horror story, “The Angel of Lies,” on sale now at your favorite ebook store) employed a jarring end-of-story viewpoint shift that weakened the overall impact. Even after cleaning it up and keeping the viewpoint with the story’s protagonist, I think the story has a weak ending. At least I share this weakness with some other illustrious scribblers, like Stephen King.
4. Research. Too much research.
I’ve tried to write science fiction. I know nothing about physics. I’ve tried to write a period piece. I know nothing about history. I’ve tried to write a mystery. I know nothing about intricate plotting. And finding out is TOO DAMN HARD. (See the number two reason, below.)
2. It’s too hard.
Writing well is work. Hard, grueling, sweat-inducing, seat-numbing, brain-farting work. Stringing words together intelligently, entertainingly, and engagingly takes a lot of fucking work. And I avoid hard work like the plague. Just as I avoid cliches like the pla . . . oh, hell.
1. A loud-mouthed, opinionated, sarcastic internal editor.
Everything I write is shit, according to this guy. A friend of mine quotes Anne Lamott on this subject: “Every first draft is shit.” That’s not enough for my internal editor. Every . . . single . . . word . . . as . . . I . . . write . . . it . . . is . . . SHIT. Sometimes, I can’t shut this guy up enough to even write a sentence. A number of writing books suggest doing a some kind of free-form writing with no thought to it. Just put a pen in your hand or put your fingers on the keyboard and GO. Don’t think about it, don’t read it back, don’t stop. Just keep moving forward. The trouble with me is my internal editor has a fucking megaphone and he constantly interrupts my thoughts. Right now he’s shouting at me for using so many vulgar words and for whining like a little two-year-old.
That’s a lot to work on. Now tell me, why aren’t YOU writing?