Monday, March 4, 2013

Starting Out #7: Which excuses are holding you back?

One thing I love about blogging and social media is the opportunity to meet other writers (see, it's not all procrastination, some of it is actually useful). I've discovered several authors who, just like me and Sarah Ayoub, are trawling through the process of publishing a first novel - and facing the daunting fact that, to have a career, you have to do it over and over and over again.

Gabrielle Tozer, debut YA author, fulltime magazine employee, part-time freelance writer is, like all of us, learning to juggle time. Writing fiction is her first love, but she admits that it took her a long time to overcome the world's best excuses for not writing fiction and actually sit down and do it. She shares both her excuses and her tips for getting over them here.

What’s sabotaging your writing process?
AKA How I overcame my excuses and made creative writing a priority, once and for all*

Excuses – I’ve always been full of them, especially when it comes to creative writing. I’m too tired. Too full. Too enthralled in this episode of Girls (and consequently, too crippled by Lena Dunham’s writing prowess to put pen to paper). Sound familiar?

Yet, over the past few years, my attitude towards making excuses has changed. It had to. Thanks to two book manuscript deadlines, freelance writing commitments and a demanding fulltime magazine job, I was forced to send my excuses packing. Sure, I wanted to hold my excuses tight and grow old together, but due to the limited hours in the day, it was no longer possible. If I wanted to become an author then I had to pinpoint my excuses then gently push them from the nest.

So, in the spirit of sharing wordsmith tidbits, here were a few of the main excuses holding me back and the (often surprisingly simple) ways in which I overcame them…

Excuse: “A blank page looks too daunting”
Solution: I chose to see a blank page as an opportunity to do what I love most – and then I gave myself the freedom to write without guilt, pressure and rules. Whatever raced through my brain was allowed to spew onto the page – and that helped me to unlock and unleash my voice. No longer worrying about being perfect for the first draft was a delight. I created a system to help me do this, too: my writer side had permission to unleash free-flowing writing onto the blank page, then my pedantic editor side would swoop in much later with a red pen and a fresh perspective to banish poor grammar and poorly formed sentences.

Excuse: “I don’t have enough time”
Solution: After years of flogging this excuse, I finally admitted I had enough time (we’re all given the same number of minutes in a day, after all) – I just hadn’t been using it efficiently. I’d snooze my alarm, trawl social media or watch mind-numbing TV repeats, which were all pockets of time that could’ve been used to write. So, that’s what I did – I used them. I pumped out my novel by waking up earlier, quitting Instagram and only watching my cream-of-the-crop television picks. And to help me stick with it, I scheduled writing sessions into a kikki.K planner (which I truly believe makes it 71.5% more fun). Sure, it’s a little military-like, but without it I end up fretting on the couch because I’m not as talented as Tina Fey. Which brings me to the most writer’s-block- inducing excuse of all…

Excuse: “I’ll never be as good as everyone else”
Solution: This is a big one. A whopper. And, to be honest, I still struggle with it. Motivational coach Craig Harper encourages people to do what frightens them, despite self-doubt. You know, feel the fear and do it anyway. I’ve been giving this method a go: sitting and working with my self-doubt – despite the icky, stomach-churning butterflies – and hoping my passion, drive and creativity is enough to help me wade through the muddy pond of feeling like I’m never going to be good enough. Mostly it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But mostly is better than never so I’m sticking with it.

I also remind myself that the first draft of everything is crap, and a page of average-to-good writing beats a blank page – after all, a blank page is impossible to edit. But mostly, I remind myself why I’m doing this. I want to write books, and share stories, and make people smile, cringe and laugh. Sure, my body is constantly charged with nerves, but loving what I do keeps me stepping up to my laptop. And for me, no excuse – no matter how mighty or overwhelming – is worth giving up my passion. Not even the all- powerful awesomeness of Tina Fey and Lena Dunham.**

*Okay, okay. Not once and for all. Let’s say ‘most of the time’.

**Seriously, these women blow me away. Girl crushes x 1000.

Gabrielle Tozer is a Sydney-based features and creative writer, who has written for titles including Cosmopolitan, DOLLY, Girlfriend, Prevention and Her debut novel comes out in February 2014 and she is currently writing the sequel. Say hello at her website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Other posts in the Starting Out series that you might find interesting:
You've signed a publishing contract ... now what?
How to build an author platform
What kind of writer will you be?

What’s holding you back from achieving your writing goals? What's your favourite excuse? Any tips for overcoming it?


  1. Kikki K definitely makes everything 71.5% more fun.

    Great post, thanks again Allison. And thanks Gabrielle!

  2. I love this post. I often find I am struggling with time but I know that if I just planned it would be better.... maybe a kikki-k planner is what I need. I found you via Maxabella.... xox

  3. Self doubt is a huge one for writers. It can literally cripple you if you let it. With writing fiction, I find taking it one scene at a time can really pull you out of the dreaded writer's block. Even if you know what you're writing is total crapola. That's what the editing stage is for.

  4. Thanks Allison for another terrific post (and guest post!) on writing! What's holding me back? Where do I start?! Confidence, seeing other established writers having issues with publishing, changing platforms... Also, being a mother and thinking about the way I spend my time. If I'm writing - potentially just for my own sake at the end of the day - I think that perhaps that time would have been better off doing paid work... I always have in mind Augusten Burroughs and how he writes about his mother's slightly delusional creative ambitions. I hate to think that I may one day be seen as 'that crazy woman who thinks she can write...'

    But, by the same token, you can't get a knockback without that finished manuscript. I have a long way to go, but really want to follow that course. Time to get a move on!

  5. PS I've been so inspired by this recent series, I had to sit down and share my own writing truths! You'll find it over here: Hope you have time to visit - but no procrastinating, I'd hate to keep you from your own writing!

  6. Oh yes I can relate to this post! The turning point for me was actually NaNoWriMo last year. I finally gave myself permission to write without guilt and with purpose. That was the game changer for me. And although it was a bugger of a month to pick (moving house, busy at work) and I didn't manage the 50K I proved to myself that I can do it and excuses are just that - excuses.
    Great post!

  7. Thanks for all your lovely comments, guys! May the words be with us xx

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you! In one blog post you have confronted all those niggling little moments of self doubt that have seen me file away weeks of writing never to be looked at again. I'm bookmarking your blog for next time I find myself using one of the old excuses and digging out some of the work I've started and never finished to give it another go! Thanks again!

  9. Great post. I think I use all of those excuses and more... What I really need are deadlines - someone to come and stand over me and make me report in. Too many years of school and work reporting to other people!


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