We hear it all the time: a writer writes.
(We hear it all the time because it’s true. We don’t yet have a consensus as to how often a writer writes, though. But most of us are fairly certain on this point: talking about all the great ideas you have or the special and unique way you see the world does not a writer make.)
But sometimes a writer doesn’t write. I’m not talking about a day off – I’m talking about months off. Months of not-writing. Years, perhaps. Sometimes this is necessary – it might be editing-time, or idea-incubation time, things that are writing-related. Sometimes they’re publishing-related, if promotion-time or paperwork-time is consuming them. There are things related to writing that mean that the actual putting-words-down-on-paper doesn’t happen.
And then there’s everything else. Our reasons for not writing, our too-busy too-stressed too-uninspired too-crazy too-sick reasons.
So I’m curious, because it’s an immensely personal thing – for you, what’s an excuse and what’s a reason?
I don’t have children. But from what I gather, the first two years of your child’s life, particularly when one is a mother, leave your brain in a melted mess. It’s not the case for everyone, I’m sure, but I’ve met a lot of women who’ve only really got back into their writing after that two-year mark.
I read a (locked) blog post recently about mental health and writing. And while it helps to be a little bit crazy as a writer, serious mental health issues (and what’s ‘serious’ might be different for everyone) obviously impact on one’s writing. Writing is sometimes used in a therapeutic way, of course, but that might be a different way of conceptualising it for someone who’s been writing for other reasons.
The same goes for physical health, of course. Physical health issues are often, but not always, more visible than mental health issues, and we tend to accept them more as valid reasons for not accomplishing certain tasks. Both are distracting and draining – while some people find solace in writing, it’s off the table for others.
Then there’s bereavement, illness of someone close to you, being a caregiver, financial pressures requiring long work hours… lots of things to take away the headspace or the time for you to write.
But then there are excuses. And for some people, I know, some of the above things are to them excuses – they know their own limits and the way they work.
The number of excuses we make when we feel like we ‘have’ to do something, or we’re unsure about where to start, are why bits of writing wisdom like ‘If you want to write, you’ll make the time’ exist. They apply to lots of things – anything in life we want to pursue while also meeting the necessary demands of life.
We have to decide for ourselves what’s an excuse and what’s a reason – no one else is going to do it for us, or should. What are yours – and how do you decide?