As many of you know, I make it a priority to get enough exercise. It doesn’t always come easy (sometimes I slack off) but I try to find ways to motivate myself. Unfortunately my mind is always full of all the reasons I “can’t” exercise.
- I have way too much work to do.
- My family needs me.
- My ankle hurts.
- I hardly slept last night.
- I’m too old for this.
- I worked out really hard yesterday.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
And strangely enough, those voices in my head sound exactly the same when it comes to writing. I have all these great book ideas…all these grand plans to write a bunch of books… but somehow it never happens.
- There’s no way I can find time for that!
- Nobody would want to read it anyway.
- I don’t want to spend all that time just to have it rejected.
- It takes too long to write a book!
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
Excuses, excuses, right?
What advice do you have for me? How can I stop making excuses?
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Oh so excited for you and proud of you. Have to admit I was disappointed to read that the book is for an audience of three…I love children’s books, and the cover and the title made me want it bad!
Oh so excited for you and proud of you. Have to admit I was disappointed to read that the book is for an audience of three…I love children’s books, and the cover and the title made me want it bad!
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I blogged about this very topic in June! There are so many similarities between writing and working out. A friend of mine offered a quote that I’ve found myself repeating often since he told me: The only workout you’ll ever regret is the one you don’t do. Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
I read an amazing book called “The Slight Edge” (by Jeff Olson). It was UH-MAZING and really helped me out. It talked about those minor habits in life that are easy to do, but equally easy not to do… but that pay of great dividends when compounded over time. Even if you just have time to work out hard for 10 minutes… it’s better than nothing.
Applying the Slight Edge…. just the reminder helps me when I come up with excuses! 🙂
There’s an old line from some random country music song I heard once that I quote myself when I start making excuses (excuses regarding anything):
“Just shut up and drive”.
It usually works for me – although my mom taught me “shut up” wasn’t a nice phrase. 🙂
Read Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art.” He talks about all the sneaky forms of resistance and how to overcome them. Just finished the book, and I have to say, he has kicked my butt into high gear! (and even though he writes about art, namely writing, his theories can be applied to anything we resist or procrastinate).
As for the exercising, all you can do is Nike. Although when I used to exercise I found myself playing mind games with myself pushing harder while telling myself I was taking it easy, that sort of thing.
As for the writing, again, just do it, but hurry up and do it so you can see the joy of submission and rejection that others feel. Seriously, I imagine you’re probably thinking non-fiction books and at least one would have to be on some of the things you blog about. You have already gotten a great start, all you lack is finishing.
This works for both writing and exercise – or for anything that you know you need to do but maybe don’t want to do (i.e. finishing that project around the house before your in-laws come visit).
I know that if I have a partner to meet at the gym, I am 100% more likely to go, even if my ankle is hurting and my eyes are bleary from staying up late reading the night before.
Likewise, if I have a trusted friend/ group of friends to report to on my progress and who check in regularly on my writing projects, I am much more motivated to complete them in a timely manner.
Stop making excuses? Not possible as long as you’re human. It’s plowing through them that counts. When I figure out the perfect way to do that, I’ll practice it myself first and then share it with you.
Funny, I don’t find I have to talk myself into making time for writing. Almost always, I can’t wait!…unless it’s a chapter giving me fits. In that case, I take a break or wrestle it to the ground. Either way, I don’t make excuses. I save those for when I should have put down that red velvet cupcake, or when I’ve dropped a wad on MORE books or kitchen gadgets.
I’ve done the “I’m too old for this” which almost works for me (I’m 71). I’ve also been thinking lately that I’m too old to write a second memoir, but enough friends have talked me out of this, thank goodness. And I’m doing what Kat above says: writing it for the sheer joy of writing. Having published a first one, I’m determined to really enjoy the ride this time!
Write for the sheer joy of writing, there is no other reason to do it. Once you accept and endorse this, you no longer need to find excuses.
The unwritten book in your head is always 20 times better than the first draft you put down on paper/the screen. If you never write it, it can always STAY perfect… in your mind. It will never be rejected, no one will ever tell you they don’t like it.
So what? Gonna be proud on your deathbed you had twenty great book ideas in your head you COULD have written? Or would you be mad at yourself for not daring to TRY?
I say, go Nike (just do it) and kick Fear’s ass. You’ve got plenty of company for the journey. 🙂
Buy yourself a cheap kitchen timer. Set it for 60 minutes and then write something.
When it goes off, quit writing–until the next time.
Something about working within the knowledge of that timer seems to work.
Ha. Usually I have the opposite problem. I’m a workaholic. However, when I get discouraged, it seems pointless to write. At those times I remind myself of that happy/confident/awesome feeling that comes just after completing a days’ work. (Sometimes that helps.)
Now you’re sitting on my couch Rachelle. If I could create prose as effortlessly as I can conjure up excuses to not write, I’d be a New York Times best seller!
Great post. Thanks for sharing.
The only advice is to just do it. For exercise, I get up first thing and do it because I know later I won’t. I have to focus on nothing but getting out there and gettting it done.
The same holds true for writing. You have to put your butt in the chair and just start typing.
I recently wrote a blog post about this called “The Poison of Procrastination.”
You can always find time to do the things you really want to do.
If you really want to exercise, or write a book, or take a class, but you don’t, then you really didn’t want to do it bad enough.
You may not feel great while writing, but you’ll feel great for having written.
Get to be 72, survive a “complicated” coronary, then tell yourself you have 1000 days left to live and everyone of the is precious. Then repeat that every morning when you wake up, “I’ve only got 1000 days left.” Makes you serious about a lot of things. 🙂
An accountability partner who will demand one chapter a week and the 25-minute tomato timer at least once a day. You can always find a place to squeeze in 25 minutes.
You can’t get up, you can’t eat, you can’t watch videos or check email or read your last chapter or answer the phone or text message your daughter. All you can do is write or stare out the window.
Stephen J. Cannell said, “Inability to get to your writing is a disease that affects most writers.”
Read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It deals thoroughly with the problem of NOT getting to your writing.
When I know I should do something, but I am not motivated to start or stick with something, it’s always because I need to be reminded of the benefits I’ll enjoy if I’ll discipline myself to do what needs to be done–whether it’s writing, exercising, etc. This goes also for the blessings I’ll miss out on if I stay in my comfort zone and never take that first step, and discipline myself to stick with it til I reach my goal. It all boils down to if I really want to do it. In Christ, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13) so it’s not a matter of can I do something–it’s a question of do I really want this bad enough to put forth the effort needed to accomplish this? Someone brilliantly observed, “If you really want something, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”
Find actors/actresses/musicians/etc to represent your characters. I find it easier to motivate myself to write when I’m staring at a physical representation of my characters — plus, they’re usually pretty, which is always helpful. 😀
Another way is to tell people about it. Like Jon Stolpe said, find someone who will hold you accountable for not finishing — I did this with one of my longer, more complicated WIPs, and even though my sister didn’t finish reading it, knowing that she’d started got me to finish. 🙂 Plus, when I tell people about my stories, I usually end up blurting out parts of it I hadn’t even realized I’d thought up, thus making me think I should write the thing down. ;D
You’re making it too hard!
If it’s not essential to you or your family, then only do what you want to do.
If you don’t want to write a book then don’t…and stop acting like you do want to. Excuses gone…you decided not to do it.
If you do want to write a book, then get started on it! Why would you want to put off or make excuses for something that you’re only doing because you want to?
I started exercising regularly when I was 17. Thirty years later I finally got into the shape I wanted to be. The secret was P90X. I think it was the combination of intensity that I lacked on my own at the gym along with Tony Horton being a great motivator and teacher. The same thing is true for writing. When I started ramping up the intensity by going to conferences and having other people to work with, my writing picked up too.
Find someone who will hold you accountable to the actions that are required for reaching your goals.
Regarding making excuses for not writing, my advice would be…don’t write!
If you can imagine life without writing just let yourself off the hook. Writing well is an awful lot of trouble and only comes with lots of sacrifice. If you can avoid it and still live with yourself, count yourself lucky.
Regarding exercise: Depends on cause of excuse. Many don’t exercise because they judge their performance. If that’s you, practice non-judgment (of yourself) instead of practicing exercise.
I’ve often failed to exercise because I think I don’t have a big enough time-block. Lowering the bar has worked for me. Exercise for 10 minutes when you have them. You’ll find it feels good and you’ll make more time. Same thing goes for things like contemplative prayer.
If you’re a runner, read Born to Run. What a blast. Since I read it, something inexplicably fun about running has gotten into me.
P.S. These work for exercise and for writing. : )
1. Make a schedule that is realistic and mostly likely will work. (A little a day is better than nothing at all.)
2. Try to incorporate exercise into other activities, like spending time with your family.
3. Find someone who has similar goals and who can help you be accountable so you don’t slide. (Spouse, friend, fellow-writer, family member, etc.)
4. As in Nanowrimo, you can work up a reward and penalty system for when you fulfill goals or become lax. (Family members particularly like to help with penalties, and they can be as crazy as you want them to be. To avoid these, keep on track.)
: ) Beth
Okay, that’s “most likely” rather than “mostly likely.” OOPS!
There are only so many hours in a day.
Don’t beat yourself up. You can only give so much.
Just know you did the BEST you could do in that day and be happy with that.
Making excuses is unavoidable, unless you stay motivated. With exercise, motivation can come from a few places. One place is from the self, and it requires reminding yourself of the benefits, feeling good, de-stressing, looking good, etc. The other motivator is external, most often in the form of received compliments, for your dedication or for losing/maintaining weight.
So, you look marvelous, darling. Keep up the good work 🙂
Is it bad that I sometimes have used the excuse of needing to write for not exercising? Ha! Sad but true.
For working out, I have had to view it as part of my job. It’s not always going to be fun or what I want to do, but it’s my job to keep myself active and healthy. I also have a packed gym bag in my car most days and I drive right past the gym on my way home from work, so it makes it easier not to skip. I also give myself grace for missing days. We have to watch how we treat ourselves too. We are not failures for skipping a workout or not writing for a few days. But hopefully we recongnize when we need to push ourselves back on track.
Maybe it’s actually not a matter of being tough with yourself, but being kind to yourself. Maybe you need to give yourself permission to do something you love! The excuses might just be ways of staying “safe.”
Here is a great quote from Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
(and as far as exercise- I think finding the right one for YOU is totally key. I didn’t like any type of exercise until I found power yoga- that was it- I actually enjoy going-I WANT to go)
Keep God in the equation, surround ourselves with positivity, say “no” to naysayers, time stealers, and attention-grabers. Get up, get out, and get moving. “Resting in Him” is intentional; it’s not an excuse to stick our heads in the sand. 🙂
This was my blog topic today. For me, I thought about my next milestone birthday, that coupled with the premature death of my brother. I said to myself, “What’s it going to take for me to not fudge around for another decade, time I may not have?”
Then, I made little changes to help me move in the direction of my goal. Notebook vs. have to be in front of laptop. A few minutes here and there vs. have to have a block of time. softball targets I was sure to hit to boost my confidence and propel me forward. And I surrounded myself via FB, Twitter and ACFW NovelTrack with voices that would encourage and inspire me to do the work and challenge myself beyond what I thought I could do. Bottomline, I decided to get out of my own way. http://bit.ly/qWafRP
I am currently tackling this problem. I am following advice I have heard or read (I don’t remember which but I am sure it is not original to my brain). Make a plan. If you aim at nothing, you hit it every time.
This is what I am currently doing. Let us know how you go on this.
Early morning prayer with a cup of coffee does it for me.
The coffee wakes me up as God sprinkles me with creativity and motivation.
There IS something powerful about MORNING prayer.
I needed to hear this today. I’ve been trying to get back into a good rhythm for writing after a summer of unexpected circumstances. I love all the ideas.
One thing that is helping me to stop making excuses is to remember that my hubby has been very supportive of me pursuing this dream. I don’t want to disappoint him. I, too, have friends who are reading my chapters. They’ve begun asking if they’ll ever see another one. Another good incentive to get writing.
I’ve also determined in my mind that I am going to complete my story. Done deal. Once this battle is settled in my mind, it is easier for me to make writing a priority.
This is a great point. Our family and friends want us to succeed. That can be a great motivator.
Rachelle, you need to put those excuses out of your mind. Here’s the reason – there are people who NEED you to write. You’re not writing only for yourself. You’re writing for the people who need to hear what you’ve got to say. And God didn’t put the words into your head for nothing. He did it for a specific purpose. So get on your horse and write!
(Wow. I’m not usually a pushy person. But that felt pretty good!)
Practise positive procrastrination–put off the thing you really don’t want to do, like exercise, by writing instead. And vice versa.
An avid rider of the excuse train myself, I’m hardly qualified to offer advice. However, one little trick I’ve found to get myself motivated is the Marble Jar. It’s an old trick we used with our kids to reward good behavior. Keep a dish of marbles on your desk, they are pretty and a visual reminder of your to do list. Each time you work out, write – whatever you are putting off – drop a marble in the jar. When it’s full – treat yourself to something fun. Personally, I’ve got 2 marbles in my jar and 6 deadlines to meet by next week – I guess I’m going to lose my marbles either way. Best of luck!
make the prize/results more compelling or enjoy exercising with a funny friend!
I’ll echo another posters’ comment. The old Nike slogan: Just do it.
You know what you need to do to reach the goal, achieve success, whatever. You’re an intelligent, professional adult. Decide what needs to be done, and just do it.
First, so what if no-one will publish your book idea? Are you passionate about it? Does the idea grip your soul and make you want to write. Then do it. As you know, readers’ tastes are as variable as the wind. The book you finish this year may be just what people are looking for in a few years. Just because you don’t try to sell it now, doesn’t mean you never try to sell it.
Second, as a Christian, is God glorified when you exercise–both your body and the gift He has given you for writing? If the Lord has gifted you with an ability to tell stories, do you not want to please Him by using that gift? Is God honored when you neglect that gift? Isn’t glorifying and honoring God your number 1 priority in life? Hmmm, Rachelle?? Hmmm??? Okay, I’m preaching to myself here too. 😉
looks like you’ve gotten a ton of great advice!
i would say, and forgive me if it’s a repeat,
reward/deny yourself. whatever you are doing instead of writing (that you enjoy, for me it’s blogging) set a goal to reach before you allow yourself to be rewarded with the fun activity.
i tell myself to blog while treadmilling, that way i can exercise and do my thing =)
I know for me, excuses are usually about anxiety – sounds like for you as well. (“No one will want to read it… it will just be rejected…”)
I usually get around it by telling myself that I’m going to write for a short, well-defined amount of time (like 10 or 20 minutes) and give myself permission to just write absolute crap. No one’s going to see it, it doesn’t have to be pretty, just sit down and do SOMETHING. By the time 10 or 20 minutes are up, I’m usually engaged and don’t want to stop.
I also find that, on any given day, telling myself one or the other of these things can get me past excuses:
“They said it would be hard; well, this is what hard feels like. You don’t know your own limitations until you push up against them. You can do this.”
“You’re making this too complicated. No one is asking you to perform brain surgery here. Just write down the next thing that happens. Then write down the thing that happens after that. It’s not that hard!”
I get rid of the excuses, except my excuses are not quite so clearly stated. My excuses are time wasters, like movies, television shows, etc. I got rid of the cable and stopped watching TV. I do have a lot of work but make time, minimum one hour a day, to write. It’s hard starting, but I find once I get going the going gets easier.
If this was your last year on earth, what would you write????
If I change into my exercise clothes I’ll go exercise. If I sit in front of the computer, open my document and write one sentence, I’m guranteed to write another sentence. IF I show up, I’ll follow through.
Only give yourself one day a week to listen to the excuses. Every other day? Barrel through them.
I’m great at excuses! But I’ve found that if I write down my goals for the day or week I am more accountable for my actions. I like to cross things off my list and this is a great way for me to get past the excuses. That and my husband reads the list and pesters me until I do what I said I was going to do:)
With exercise and with writing, I’m constantly telling myself that even if excuses got the best of me yesterday, today’s a new day. I used to get sucked into the excuse, “Well, I haven’t excercised all week, why start now? I’ll try again Monday. Or maybe on Janurary 2nd.” How about that for ridiculous logic? So, I always get up with the intentions to exercise and to write (or whatever the thing is that I’m putting off). I set small goals and try to exceed them.
This post really amazed me. I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and I have seen nothing but great knowledge, great competency and confidence. The fact that you make mention of excuses towards writing baffles me; I guess I always thought published authors no longer have that problem!
As for me, I have excuses all the time and they vary in number:
“I’m too tired from work.”
“I’m too busy.”
“I’ll get to it in a little bit.” (This one in particular means it never happens.)
“I have to research to do first.” And then the research never gets done.
“It can wait.”
It’s hard to motivate. I usually use movies based on books or read books myself to get motivated. It reminds me that someone has been in the exact same position I have and if they can get to published, so can I.
From what I read on Twitter, I understand you are a moving machine! I’m on fire with the writing right now and have slowed down with exercise. Hoping to sync those up sometime soon.
What works for me: Reminding myself the benefits of “just doing it”—how exercise and pouring into my passion change me for the better.
(Believe it or not, all your exercise tweets have been a motivator for me. Encouragement from others does wonders.)
When I find myself making excuses I have to stop and ask myself, “How bad do I want it?” It’s only when I truly realize how much I want something that the excuses stop. Having an accountability partner ask that question is even better.
Despite having a full-time job and three little ones (under 6, so very time intensive) at home, I manage around 800 words per day.
I carry a little notebook with me at all times. And while I’m standing in the breakroom waiting for my tea water to boil, I jot down ideas. Then when I get home, I fill in the blanks.
Love yourself enough to do it. You’re an incredible person. You deserve the time to exercise and the time to write!
For me, embarking on a new writing project is like jumping into our local open air pool. You have to psyche yourself up to get changed and stand on the edge. You know the first few seconds when you hit the cold water are going to be really painful, but once you’re in there and swimming, it’s great!
I really needed to hear this! With summer in full swing and kids underfoot, I have made excuse after excuse to not write. Today, it’s time to crack down on myself!
There’s research that shows that if you picture in your mind specifically *when* you’re going to do something (e.g. 9am) and *where* you’re going to do it (bring the laptop to the chair by the window, and put a glass of iced tea on the table), the odds that you’ll actually follow through go up by something like 60%. Including specifics apparently matters as much in avoiding procrastination as it does in good writing.
I think that when it comes to writing a book you should have the mindset that if you can write at least 500 words per day then in 4 or 5 months your novel should be completed. It always seems like such a long journey until you get over the hump and your story starts flowing. In your case you can take comfort in the fact that you know a good literary agent. 🙂
As far as the diet and exercise go….I need advice on that one! lol
Excuses are a way of saying something you think you want to do is really not that high a priority. When it becomes a priority, when you decide you must do it, excuses melt away.
Time is something that is running out for all of us. We don’t have time to procrastinate. Decide what you will do today and what can be done tomorrow and do it 🙂
What motivates me is visiting a bookstore and looking at the books written by authors I admire; I always think of how they all took the time to sit down and write.
What also motivates me are to-do lists. That way, if I look back on my list and see that I haven’t crossed off enough (or) any tasks, I’ll feel motivated to get them done so that I can cross off everything on my list.
Definition of “excuse”:
Best way to end up excused from the game.
Just do it.
Writing should be something you do for yourself, because you take pleasure from it, like going out for a nice meal, or buying a sexy dress, or taking a weekend getaway. You make sure you leave yourself time every now & then for those things, and you make time to write, as well. It brings such a sense of joy & accomplishment, why wouldn’t you want to reward yourself with a little bit of something that’s all & only you, no one else? It’s also a way to be a better you, whether that’s mother, wife, agent…or whatever.
I stay motivated best when I can find a “buddy” to prod me along. For exercise, we encourage each other to at least go to the gym and do *something* — on days I don’t feel like it, she drags me along and vice versa. In writing, I have several friends who can’t wait to read my latest chapter — having a “deadline” keeps me pushing forward.
Exercise: Git er done the minute you get home from work–before you have a chance to relax in front of computer or TV.
Writing: If I get my word count in before I leave for work in the mornings, my reward is getting to read some fiction during my break times on the Kindle.
I usually have to give myself a pep talk when I start making excuses and get myself to realize that my exercise time or my writing time is far more important than any reason I can come up with not to do it.
I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. I realize what’s at stake if I don’t do it (achy joints and books left unwritten).
I shouldn’t write because I should focus all of my attention on my Master’s degree. I should wash my dishes, and I should fold my laundry.
But I love to write. When I remind myself that I’m not writing primarily for others, but because if I don’t make the time to write I get a little bit crazy inside, lose a little bit of myself, then I find that I can push aside the excuses and get to work.
Sure, I’d love to finally get that publishing deal, and I am getting closer to that goal, but deep down, I know that if I don’t write, I’m losing something. Something that I am pretty sure is essential to my sanity.
So, really, I write for the greater good and safety of my community. 😉
Tell lots of people you’re gonna write so they’ll ask you about it. Shame is a great motivator. 🙂
Exercise is like writing. You won’t FIND the time to do it. You must MAKE the time to do it.
If it’s really a priority. 😉
I agree with Donna. We must make it a priority because its good for us. Its good for our souls.
Same as exercise.
Sometimes we might not feel like writing (exercising). But after its done, man, we’re on cloud nine. 🙂
Ironically, the post that I’m going to have tomorrow relates exercise to writing too!
Maybe it’s not just about the excuses… Maybe it’s about amping up your override button? Ie, when you feel the excuse bubbling up, you hit the override button and WHAM! you just get it done.
Alternatively, you could pretend you are a Marine 🙂
* There’s no way I can find time for that!
Everyone has the time to write. But there has to be a sacrifice. The time you spend socializing, engaging in other hobbies or even doing the cooking or housework has to be trimmed.
* Nobody would want to read it anyway.
If you’re only writing a book for yourself or using it as a catharsis, yes, you’re right. Write for everybody *but* yourself.
* I don’t want to spend all that time just to have it rejected.
You don’t have to put it out there if you don’t want to; all you have to do is write the book. Don’t put the cart before the horse. 🙂
* It takes too long to write a book!
That means you’re doing it right!
* I’ll do it tomorrow.
Okay. That means you need to draft your outline tonight.
Make all the excuses you want – but do the writing/exercise right now – WHILE you’re making the excuses. Win win 🙂
Excuses are like a two-year old throwing a tantrum. The first time you give in to them, it feels like a small price to pay for peace and harmony. But the more you give in to them, the more power the excuses have and the less power you have.
Ignore their cries and pleas, stare them down, and make it clear that you’re the one who calls the shots. The more often you win the confrontation, the less likely the excuses are to rear their ugly heads.
Wow, loved this post. Maybe because I have a two year old but it really spoke to me.
I love this analogy of the two-year temper tantrum and the power of excuses. This will stick in my mind!
Even if this one gets rejected, you’ll have learned so much from it that your odds of the next not getting rejected go up exponentially.
Time? What’s that again? You just have to decide once that something is a priority, that it’s worth doing or needed in your day, and stick to it.
The story you have to tell might be exactly what someone needs to hear. It’s just something you don’t know.
It only takes too long if you aren’t dedicated to the process. Otherwise it seems like you don’t spend enough time with the characters you’ve lovingly crafted. (Sometimes. Other times those characters turn to buggers and refuse to cooperate with you.)
“Even if this one gets rejected, you’ll have learned so much from it that your odds of the next not getting rejected go up exponentially.”
Exactly what do you learn from a standard “thanks but no thanks” rejection other than that the agent in question isn’t interested?
In this scenario the odds of not getting rejected the next time are exactly the same as before.