Why you shouldn’t be a writer

For every person out there who writes the book he’s dreaming of, ten more sit on their hands and whine. Trust me. I hear from them every day.

I’ll never get published anyway, so why bother?

I work 12-hour days. I’m exhausted.

I have kids and a husband and a full-time job.

Good, then go take a nap and quit bitching about the novel in your head. The rest of us stay up late and get up early. We function on four hours of sleep (sometimes less) and all but kill ourselves to get the words onto the fucking pages. Because. We. Must.

Because the burn – the desire to write – is so great, we can’t sleep anyway.

I’m officially declaring war on bullshit excuses

I work with writers who get up at 3 a.m. and write until they have to get the kids off to school. Some stay up until dawn instead. A few do both. Some writers use their lunch breaks. Some record their words on their cell phones during the commute.

“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve,” Ray Bradbury once said. “So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”

But I’ll be too tired to work.

But my kids need me.

But my relationship with my spouse will suffer.

Really? Your family won’t understand if you need an hour or two to yourself every day to do what you love? You can’t muscle through a workday on too little sleep? Or is the truth simply you’re afraid you’ll fail?

Ernest Hemingway – Nobel Prize in Literature, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Bronze Star Medal – said the most terrifying thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.”

Writing is hard. It’s not lucrative. It’s isolating and often heartbreaking. So if you’re not getting it done, don’t beat yourself up.

Not everyone is meant to write

Not everyone has the fire, hears the thunder, feels the promise of the moonlight.

And that’s okay.

But the rest of us can’t help it.

Nelson Algren, who won the National Book award for his novel The Man With the Golden Arm, spent five months in jail for stealing a typewriter. That is dedication.

“In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me,” Kurt Vonnegut said.

Perhaps the late, great E.B. White said it best: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

So decide. Are you finally ready to write your book?

No one one will blame you if you’re not.

But if you are, take every excuse and flush it. Pick up the pen, the keyboard, the freaking crayon, and get to work.

Then go here to see what we can do to help you WRITE.


Subscribe in the upper right hand corner and grab my free book A Writer’s Voice, designed to help you write like YOU. So you can say what you want to say, how you want to say it – and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. (And quit writing like a pretentious asshat). It matters.

15 replies
  1. Samantha Anderson
    Samantha Anderson says:

    Amen to this! This is the best post I’ve seen in a while. I get into the same argument with people who ask how I, the single mom with a full time job, have managed to find the time to write three novels. They wrote me in all honesty. Nothing else can describe it because I simply couldn’t stop.

  2. Jenniffer Wardell
    Jenniffer Wardell says:

    I say writers all over the world officially adopt this as our rallying cry. I’ve bookmarked this, and will regularly reread it every time I’m trying not to fall asleep at work because I stayed up too late typing. (And I will dream of forwarding it on to all those people who have told me the plot of their nonexistent books 20 times).

  3. KjM
    KjM says:

    “Pick up the…freaking crayon…”

    As Kris Kristofferson once sang: “You’ve been reading my mail.” 🙂

    Well, I don’t use a crayon, but pen and ink and paper and also a keyboard. These, yes. Not as often as I should, because I’m really good at excuses. But more and more often, yes.

    Thanks for the virtual kick in the rear. I need all the help I can get.

  4. Steve Holak
    Steve Holak says:

    You’re right about that writer’s fire; I stayed up late last night working on the *next* book, despite no deadline and this one (Bexster and I are wrapping the final edits now on the first novel in an epic fantasy trilogy) hanging over me.

    I have a job that takes me away from the house 13 hours every day, with a two-hour door-to-door commute. I work nearly 50 hrs a week, and am on call 24/7 and have a day a week where I also have to work from 1 AM to 4 AM, *and* be up and working at 7:30 the next morning.

    I have a family, *and* I teach scuba on weekends. But I find the time–no, I *make* the time to write–on the train, evenings, lunchtime, etc. Some days it’s only 500 words. On rare occasions it’s 2,000. So if I can find the time, no one should have an excuse.

  5. Ellen Harger
    Ellen Harger says:

    I’ve been up late and pushing through excuses and a fiesty internal editor until the summer cold from hell laid me low. But after sleeping 20 hours, the first thing I did (the only thing I did) was edit three scenes, start two, and finish three more. I was awake 7 hours yesterday and writing 5 of them.

    Trying to look as pitiful at work as possible so they’ll send me home and I can keep writing. LOL

  6. Li @ FlashFiction
    Li @ FlashFiction says:

    One thing I struggle with is the desire to read instead of writing when I have a spare moment – and that spare moment turns into hours…a really good book is like a drug. Fortunately, I don’t have a Kindle. 🙂

  7. Jane Lovering
    Jane Lovering says:

    Oh this was so good to read! I’m tired of people saying to me ‘oh, I’d write a book – if only I had the time’…then describing the plot of last night’s soap opera to me! “I don’t watch TV, THAT is when I write my books…” is what I’d say, if I weren’t such a terrible people-pleaser, and too busy nodding.

  8. Crazy Mama
    Crazy Mama says:

    “writer’s block is just a fancy phrase for fear”~ Love that. Thank you for explaining that I am not alone in my insanity – staying up way too late trying to articulate my thoughts into ink, and running right back in the morning to create and re-create some more. I put off writing for years, until I realized all the worrying I do is just me wasting my imagination. Now I try to put it to better use.


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