The three big excuses why you don’t write

Guess what? They’re all horseshit.

You can write 50,000 words in 30 days. You can win NaNoWriMo. This November. No really, you can.

Oh I’m sorry, you say you can’t? You have three really big, really valid reasons why not? Well I never. Let’s look at those reasons.

1. “I don’t have time to write.”

Hold up: let’s look at how much time you actually need for a second.

During NaNoWriMo, time equals words. The more time you put in writing, the more words you’ll generate. The less time, the less words.

Every day during November you need to write a minimum of 1,667 words to reach 50,000 by November 30. The average typing speed is apparently between 37 and 44 WPM (words per minute), so say an average of 40.

At 40 WPM, if you don’t stop typing, you’ll get through your 1,667 words in about 42 minutes a day.

Of course you’re going to stop, even if it’s just to think about what happens next — but even if you stop writing every other minute, dropping your average speed to 20WPM, you would still be at quota in 84M.

You have a spare 90 minutes in your day. I guarantee it. Even the busiest people on the planet — like the President of the US — have some free time in their day. And the ‘November is really busy’ excuse? C’mon. When was the last time you had 30 days totally free of distractions of any kind?

So skip that TV show (stream or DVR it later). Stay home a few nights. Get up a little earlier. Go to bed a little later. Write on the bus or the train. Dictate when you’re walking or scribble when you’re eating.

Whether you find a whole 90 minutes, or three blocks of 30 minutes, or ten 9 minute sprints… the time is there, every day, or at least within the month. You know it is.

Remember, time equals words, so:

Make the time to make the words.

(And if you find yourself at the end of a week and the writing didn’t happen, and you’re moaning and writhing in self-loathing — zip it! Get your butt to a write-in or lock the front door and throw a bag of chow at the dog and tell him you figure it out. Get it done. Carve out the time.)

2. “I don’t have a good environment to write.”

Everyone has a special place where they can write. It’s the space between their fingers and the keyboard, or their pen and the paper, or their chisel and the stone tablet. When you write, you create that place.

The idea that you need to physically be in a special sacred place to write is bullshit. But, human habits (and superstitions) die hard. As I sit here in my favorite coffee shop with my favorite drink and least favorite Spanish flamenco music playing over the house speakers (forgot my headphones)… I feel at peace, at ease and as a result, productive.

The truth is though, that productivity is coming and my fingers are flying because I am writing. The environment may help you get in the mood or fire you up… but if you’re stuck and the words won’t come, as a paradoxical as it might sound, you just have to write some words. Any words! Anything! Just move your fingers. Engage brain. One after the other. Again and again.

That said: sure, find your place. Whatever works for you. Cabin in the woods? Secluded hotel room? A bath half-filled with coal? A cat sanctuary? The mystical land of Shangri-La? Wherever works for you. You only need three components in your special sacred place:

Your ass + a chair* + your writing implements of choice

Got those three? Then you’re good to go. Write.

(*Unless you’re one of those standing desk people. But you still need your ass to stand, far as I can tell, so my point… uh… stands.)

“One day my muse will come….”

3. “I don’t feel inspired to write.”

Ah, this old chestnut. You haven’t been imbued by a mystical force that gives you a finished book. You haven’t had your muse turn up and write the novel for you. Here’s the problem with that: your muse doesn’t like to work.

The muse is lazy. It’s a dilettante. It’s not a little fairy that you get to summon on command to make words. It’s a trickster that flits around our collective imagination, drops in ideas now and then, and then sits back and watches us struggle with them. The muse likes to tease you with the possibility of writing something.

Here’s the trick though. You can make the muse turn up. You can even make it stick around. You’re getting these ideas from your muse because it wants you to do something with them. It wants to see you consciously willing ideas into reality. It loves that.

Your muse might give you an idea. Your work will make an idea real.

In other words:

Don’t wait for the muse. Just do the work.

I know you don’t believe me. It’s because your belief in the muse has you thinking it’s going to come along and solve everything. But it won’t. Ideas are easy — honest — it’s the execution that’s hard.

So don’t wait for the muse. It’s not coming to write your book for you. Make it your morning mantra. “Hey muse! Thank for the idea and all but I’m good now. I don’t need you today. I’m going to write and get my words done. Later!”

When you’ve done that, apply ass to chair, pick up writing implements and make the time to make the words.

Your muse will not make words. Your inspiration will not write your novel. You will do that, with your fingers and your special place and your ass in your chair. Just turn up and write.

Make the time.
Put your ass in a chair.
Don’t wait for the muse.
Write.

See you on December 1st. With 50,000 words.


Thanks for reading. Want more rambling from me about writing? BAM. Oh also I’m on Twitter.