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.
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.
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.
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