[author life] what’s sabotaging your writing?

How I overcame my excuses and made 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 writing 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 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.

Come say hello at facebook.com/hellogabrielletozer and twitter.com/gabrielletozer – distractions welcome.

First published as part of Allison Tait’s Starting Out series.