Sometimes You Just Need to Start Writing

busy excuseI have no free time.  I get up at 4:37am every day and I’m running all the way until I collapse into bed sometime after 10pm.  Between the day job, kids’ events, yard work, house work and any other multitude of things, my “free” time is that which I spend at the gym in the morning, running or lifting and making myself miserable for some reason I haven’t yet defined.

What that leaves me with is no time to write.

And that’s okay.  I mean, I have a day job that pays the bills, writing is a hobby at this point because I can’t make that leap to where I’m ready to try to make a living at it.  So I know the world isn’t going to end just because I can’t find an hour to write today.  Not very many people will lose sleep over the fact that I haven’t published a story to my blog in a while. The sun will likely still come up tomorrow morning even though Microsoft Word didn’t get pulled up and typed into for something other than the daily TPS Report at work.

But, as I thought about typing that paragraph releasing myself from the guilt of not writing, it dawned on me that the more I thought about reasons why it was okay for me to not write today…the more reasons I could come up with for not writing today.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy to some extent: my schedule is full, so I can’t write. I can’t write because my schedule is full.  My schedule says I can’t write.  My schedule…. Hmm… I can’t write.

I know I am not the only person suffering through thoughts and schedules like this.  And I also recognize that every day I am finding it easier to just let the “I have no time” excuse wash over me and become my default, go-to excuse for writing, for listening to music, for watching the game on TV…for anything I *like* to do but know I probably shouldn’t do because of all the other things I have to do. Admit it: you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So today, I want to take a stand against this thought pattern.  Today, I want to write. Even if just for a few minutes.  Sometimes, the key to getting a story started is, well, to start it. So my challenge to myself and to you is simple:

Wherever you are right now, be it on a train commuting to work or school, in a cubicle at the office, at a table in your favorite local coffee shop, or on the spot on your living room couch which is shaped perfectly for you and no one else to sit in… wherever you may be, look around you.  Look out the nearest window and then write down what you see. Look at the desk next to you and describe what’s in the mug in the corner. Take note of the person who is sitting alone, who never talks to anyone at all and write about what he or she is thinking about.  Do this and write it down.  Write a paragraph or a page, 50 words or 100 words or 1000 words.  This challenge isn’t about the quantity or even the quality, it is about getting the first words down on the page.

So who’s with me?   What do you see outside your window today?


26 thoughts on “Sometimes You Just Need to Start Writing

  1. OK. Here’s my attempt at “just writing something”. No editing, no revision, just the first words that sprang to the page based on what is happening outside the window to my right:

    The faint tap-tap-tap on the window catches my attention. Squinting into the dreary, gray – yet oddly bright – light of the outside world, I see a single branch of my favorite rosebush. The wintry wind compels a single cane to whip back and forth, bouncing up and down as it alternately scratches its thorns against the glass of the window and the vinyl siding. The few leaves on this waving branch are the only green amongst the drab grays and browns of winter, the only sign of life amongst the cold backdrop of an approaching mid-January storm. My mind wanders off to the past, to the day thirteen years ago when this rosebush came to me – a gift to celebrate life amid the grief and pain of a miscarriage. Every year, when this rosebush springs to life and is filled with hundreds of bright red flowers I am renewed and filled with the knowledge that we are all connected, in life and in death. The tapping of the rosebush on my window is like the tap of a friend on my shoulder, reminding me that I am not alone, even in my darkest hours.

  2. Sometimes the reason TO write is bigger than TO NOT write. Maybe it calms you, makes your other ‘required’ tasks go faster and smoother. Maybe that hour a day writing keeps you focused the rest of the day.

    That’s what it does to me. Sometimes, I write just because I need to unwind.

    • That is what always used to drive me. I *needed* to write or I’d lose it! Now I just can’t relax enough to enjoy the process… I find I need to see positive results really quickly or I’ll just give up because I don’t have time! So… I’m working on it.

  3. Rob,
    I’m with you, but this is harder than I thought it would be. I ache to write- but I don’t sit down and do it. I WANT to do it, but I stop myself every time. There is always a reason. So I will force myself to sit here until something appears on the page, no matter how it comes out. I really think the biggest reason I don’t write is because I am POTENTIALLY a great writer. As long as I don’t write, I still have potential. What is scary, is writing something that isn’t good. Then I’m no longer a potential writer, but a terrible writer. So, more procrastination in writing this preamble which just gets longer…. STOP.
    She was forever entering Sweepstakes. Clicking those links to potential millions kept the hope alive that she would one day have all the things she dreamt of. She didn’t ask for much.
    She wanted the time and freedom to write. And to travel. And to have homes on two continents (or maybe three). She didn’t require expensive cars or flashy gadgets, but she wanted to buy them for her children. She wasn’t being greedy asking for two homes (having the third would be a bit greedy)- it was just too difficult to choose between her husband and children in one country, and her mother and siblings in another. It was too hard to worry about how long Mom would be alive, and how many precious moments she would miss if she went back to England to be with her sons. But it was equally hard to see her sons becoming men so quickly, growing out of her reach, while she spent this time away from them.
    She was afraid.
    She was afraid that if she returned to her home in England, she would lose her mother, and her chances of making a home ‘back home’. She was afraid of losing touch with those who knew her best from infancy and beyond.
    But she was equally afraid that the longer she stayed, the longer she worked at the dead-end job hoping to buy the dream home that would convince her husband and children to join her here, the less the chances were that it would happen. She was afraid that they would never come, and she was missing their transition from boys to men- wasting the last precious years that they would belong to her; come home to her; rely on her.
    She felt trapped and forlorn and afraid.
    So she put the heavy decisions out of her mind. She returned to the treadmill of daily life. She focused on the job. She took care of her mom. She spent hours entering online Sweepstakes.

    OK. Not thrilled with the result- but I know I need to do sometimes just let go and write. So thank you.

    • You have the beginnings of something here! Save it somewhere. Look at it on another day. It may not be perfect, but it is four paragraphs you didn’t have before… four paragraphs you wrote for the sole purpose of getting them on the page. And it sounds like you and I both need to let go and do that more often. Good work!

  4. I have the same schedule restrictions that you describe in your post. And yet, I actually do find time to write, even if it is only for five or ten minutes. The more difficult part I have is coming up with writing material that I consider “worthy” for lack of a better word.

    When you complete a piece that you are proud of, that came off exactly how you wanted to, it is so difficult to face the blank page again and/or the gibberish that appears on it as you clumsily trip over every other word. To be a perfectionist – it is a blessing and a curse. I am currently decidedly in the curse state.

    I continue to write hoping that somewhere along these random musings that appear to be throw away material, the next personal masterpiece will reveal itself 😉

    • Yes, I find myself dealing with the need to see some “worthwhile” results right away. I often find things I thought was “throwaway” at one point that now has value, so anything I put on the page is saved, even if it is for a later day. Back when I worked in an office, I would get to work early and write most mornings before I was supposed to clock in. Now that I don’t have that (I work at home now), I don’t do it. Perhaps that’s something I will work on trying to get back into doing — writing before the grind of life, school preparations, etc. get going in the morning. Easier said than done.

  5. Reblogged this on Matt Roberts and commented:
    I’m with you 100% on this Rob, and if I wasn’t going to bed in a few minutes I’d be all over this right now. I’ll get it when I wake up. Hopefully. Great advice!

    • Thanks for the reblog! I hope you wake up this morning and get right on it. Just a paragraph or two, inspired by whatever you see when you look around you. Good luck!

  6. So true. We all have to make the time. I’m struggling with this at the moment too. Thanks for the inspiring vision you have created. Now, I must get a writing diary together so I have no more excuses! Oh, by the way I have a very strange view through my window at the moment and I may just write about that soon on my blog. 🙂

    • Having a dedicated place to do this exercise – a diary, journal or even one of those marble essay books from school — can really help you to actually do the exercise every day. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  7. I think this is why I don’t believe in writer’s block. The idea of just looking out a window to get the brain in gear is something I hadn’t heard before. Next time I find myself floundering for post material, I’ll remember this. 🙂

    • Well, I do believe that writer’s block is a thing. It may just be a mental block, it may be a true inability to write due to fear or frustration. But I think it is very easy to lump any period of non-writing into the “writer’s block” category, even though it may simply be more aptly defined as “schedule block”.

  8. Even making a small commitment to spend just ONE HOUR this week to write is enough to kick-start some stalled progress.

    • I agree. It doesn’t take a lot, but to be honest… when the habit is gone, for me at least it feels like an insurmountable mountain just to get that one hour!

  9. It’s night time here, so there’s nothing to see out the window. I’m on my own watching cricket on TV.

    It’s been weeks since I’ve written anything and posted to my blog. At first, I used the excuse that our internet was mucking up and taking ages to do anything—just sitting there, spinning its wheels. So I announced I would be taking Christmas and New Year off. I switched off all my notifications with the exception of Today’s Author and two other blogs.

    Now it’s almost three weeks into the New Year and I still haven’t written anything. My excuse for the last ten days is that I have a lung nasty infection. I don’t have the energy to do anything more than walk from my bed to my recliner. It doesn’t help that the temperature has been around 100 degrees (sometimes up to 109) for weeks, and the humidity is around 85-95%. Yeah, I’m in the southern hemisphere. Tomorrow is going to be a blessedly cool 71.

    I miss writing. I miss the way the words play hide and seek with me as they whizz around my brain. I love the way they hold hands as they skip across the page. Maybe I could write something. Maybe I’ll give it a go.

    • So, it’s been a few days since you left this comment. Did you give it a go? I hope you did, as I enjoyed seeing what you wrote for the Write Now prompts! Hopefully you will feel better and have recovered fully and that with it you will find a way to rekindle your creativity. Good luck!

      • Sadly, no. I’m still fighting the lung infection. I have managed to edit a few pages of my MS, so that’s something. On top of me being sick, my little dog has hurt her back and is walking around with her back arched like a Halloween cat. It’s off to the vet again tomorrow. The visit on Sunday cost $250. This time it will be x-rays. Hate to think how much that will cost 😦 Just grateful they’ll let you pay it off.
        I’ve saved the prompt from 9th December because it’s perfect for a continuation of my flash fiction “Beyond the Waves” and “The Quest”. As soon as I saw it I knew what I wanted to write.Thanks, Rob, I’m glad you like what I write for the Write Now prompts 🙂

        • I hope you and your dog both recover quickly and fully! This summer we had a veterinary ordeal with one of the cats — the bill for that came to $14,000. The remodeling of my bathroom cost less than that!

  10. Reblogged this on Plumtopia: The world of P.G. Wodehouse and commented:
    This is my life exactly! I get up at 5am and write before work. It doesn’t give me a lot of time, but I usually get 1-2 paragraphs down. Then I also write on the bus to work. That’s another 1-2 paragraphs each way. I have had to ban myself from editing, as I might otherwise spend my commute rearranging the last paragraph I wrote. Once I get home to family, there is no chance for writing or exercise, so I have developed an unfortunate girth around the middle. I don’t even know if what I’m writing is any good (or how much of it will need to be cut when I have enough to pull together) but right now I can only think one paragraph , one scene, at a time. I do have a plot and characters mapped out so I know where they’re going, but it’s an agonising, drawn out process.

    • I am glad you’ve found a way to get those one or two paragraphs a day down. That’s a big win. Quality is nice, but sometimes it’s just as important, or even more important, to just get the words on the page. Don’t focus on the agonizing process so much as on the victory which is getting the words on the page.

  11. First, Rob, I am so sorry about the miscarriage. I doubt that thirteen years past lessens the pain.
    Second, you wrote, something beautiful and touching.

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