Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Yesterday I discovered I’d been driving an unregistered car for who knows how long. I hadn’t overlooked the paperwork. My car was registered until the middle of this year. Unfortunately, the car registry computer had been told otherwise. A missed key stroke or other error had fooled it into thinking my license plates had been handed back to an office in Sydney, five hours’ drive away.

The only solution was for me to take my car to the nearest registry and have them physically verify that the plates were still on my car. They did, and all was well, but to sort the problem out, I had to risk driving unregistered.

I don’t usually catastrophise but even my positive outlook was shaken by all the things that could have gone wrong.

The first was that I could have delayed opening the letter, worried it contained a traffic fine I’d been unaware of incurring. Or I could have been so confident my registration was OK I’d left the letter for later.

Luckily, I didn’t fool myself into leaving the letter untouched. I took immediate action and all was well.
I realized that the habit of not fooling myself works with writing as well. I’d dodged the first two of the ways many writers fool themselves. Check to see if you recognize any of them.

1. I can write it tomorrow.

None of us is guaranteed another breath, far less another day. This isn’t gloom and doom; it’s simply a reality check. Even if you do live to tomorrow, and I pray you will, tomorrow brings its own issues. You could spend half a day fixing a problem you hadn’t expected, like me with my car. There went the precious hours I’d planned to spend writing. Luckily I’d kept my bargain with myself and written the day before, and the one before that. Losing a couple of hours wasn’t a disaster, but what if today had been the only day I’d set aside to enter a competition or meet a deadline?
Good writers don’t put off writing. They write today and every other working day, even if it’s only a couple of sentences.

You may fool others, but never yourself

You may fool others, but never yourself

2. Someone else has already written my story.

They may have written about the same events, but they haven’t written “your” story. A very dear friend talked a lot about a story she wanted to write about what she called the battle of Sydney, when Japanese mini submarines invaded Sydney Harbour. Working for ABC Radio, she’d had a box seat to see the events of that night unfold. Her perspective was unique; her writing style very much her own. Yet she passed away with the book unwritten for a whole stack of reasons, I suspect mostly 1. and 2. here.
Good writers tell their own stories in their own way.

3. I don’t have time to write.

If we let excuses make the running, the joke is definitely on us. Nobody ever has all the time they need to write. In my book, The Idea Factory, I supply a long list of reasons not to write, from the weather to kids being home on holidays, to broken technology (there’s still paper and pen) to other demands on our time. There will always be reasons not to write. Writing is work. I tell others that I’m working rather than writing, because we’re hard wired to respect work. Writing is often seen as a hobby, something to be picked up or put down on a whim. Wrong, so wrong.
If you have a love affair with words, and stories you long to tell, you make time to write them. Good writers don’t fool themselves with excuses.

4. I’m not good enough to write this.

This is the saddest April fool’s joke of them all. Someone in your life – perhaps even you – made you think that you don’t have what it takes to be a writer. The real joke is that nobody knows what makes a writer.

You may be the worst writer in the whole world, although I doubt that, but how will you know what you can achieve until you try? No writer thinks they’re good enough, even those most of us regard as the greats. In my career, I’ve found the opposite to be true – the writers most strongly plagued by self doubt are usually those whose words make the sweetest reading. The story in your head is shining, perfect gold, but turns into base metal as soon as you start to write. Accept this as the way things are. Be glad of your fears because all the best writers have them.
Write your story in spite of your fears. Do the best you can at the time.

Now, over to you.

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Do you resist these April fool’s jokes? Can you think of other ways writers might fool themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Order Valerie’s Beacons’ book, Birthright, at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You
at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

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Comments on: "First Monday mentoring for April – 4 ways good writers avoid fooling themselves" (6)

  1. Angie the Hippo said:

    All of these are excellent!
    I do however disagree a bit about number 3, “I don’t have time to write”.
    Because sometimes there really isn’t any time left in the day to write, unless you chose to give up sleep. And that worked a few nights in college, but not while working a day job full time to support yourself and your children, and dealing with everything that comes with that, since you can’t support yourself on your writing. Especially if you’re already barely hanging on by getting 5 – 6 hours of sleep every night all the time.
    Sorry for ranting… this just tends to annoy me a little. 😉

    • Hi Angie, you’re welcome to disagree, and no-one understands your life challenges better than you. I wouldn’t presume to say whether this advice applies to any individual. I only know that it is one of the most common reasons people give for not writing when they say they really want to, and my experience is that we generally make time for the things we consider important. Sometimes family has to come first. I spent over a year caring for my terminally ill husband, while spending more time on running a business than I’d anticipated after partners let me down. In the same year, I completed a masters degree, all while having writing deadlines to meet. It was a hideous, stressful time and sleep did become the first casualty. But the writing also helped keep me sane when everything else was falling apart. I can only recommend using what of this blog is useful to you, and hope life gets better for you in time.

  2. Health issues, (including brain fuzziness to point of being unable to read or construct sentences), have left me with re-grappling and stamping on No. 4. Some days it wins, other days, I win. Returning to study (and marks) has helped me see my brain does work. Now to trust it (again) with the creative.

    • Commiserations on the health issues, Nicky. I think the “some days it wins” is a part of life. I succumb to all four points as often as anyone. It’s a never-ending battle against universal entropy for all of us. All we can do is keep fighting day by day (sometimes minute by minute). Good luck with your study.

  3. Thanks for this inspiring article, Valerie. I hear all these reasons NOT to write from writers (and I am guilty of them myself, too!), but when one finds their passion – the story that must be written regardless, then the author is unstoppable. I try not to put off the important stuff, because I know that tomorrow may never come. My husband died 20 years ago and his most profound comment to me days before he died… “…do not put off what is in your heart. Look at me (he said). I finally found what I wanted to do in life (build musical instruments), but it’s too late for me. Promise me… ” So I try very much to live up to my promises to him and to me. Interesting that this morning as I sat with my coffee, I faced this dilemma — to follow my heart or to be practical. Heart wins and after reading your article, I realise I made the right decision. Hugs. xxx

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