Just Do It

I fell in love with Nike’s slogan the first time I saw it.
I’d just joined a large, slow-moving company and was going nuts. It felt like my colleagues were eagerly and energetically looking for any and every excuse to NOT do something. Especially if it was difficult.

Like writing.

On these pages and others, I frequently hear the woeful cry … but I don’t have time to write.
Raise your hand if you’re among them. And by writing, I think you mean a specific passion. Maybe you are writing marketing copy, technical manuals or obituaries for your hometown newspaper but your passion is to write a children’s book, young adult fiction, a novel or magazine articles.

Innocently or not so innocently, I’d like to suggest that you just do it. Forget about time. There will never be enough time. Instead of putting your writing on hold until your youngest child enters kindergarten in three years or you retire in 2035, ask yourself a few questions.

Is Writing Important to you?
Can I hear you shouting? Are you telling me – of course it is (you idiot)! It’s all I want to do. All I ever wanted to do. It’s who I am!

Okay then, so …

What’s changed?
Maybe you were writing, at least sporadically, and now you’re not or you’re having a horrendous time making progress. Maybe you’re cursing me right now and calling me a useless twit because the reason is obvious. Don’t I know that:
• You just had a baby? Or you just had another baby?
• Or your tween or teen is going through a difficult time?
• Or your mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
• Or layoffs have turned your nine-to-five into a seven-to-seven?
• Or _________________________________ (you fill in the blank).

Then again, a few of you might answer – my wonderful spouse loves his/her job, just got a fabulous promotion with more money so I quit my job but I still don’t have time to write. Hmmmm.

Or after writing your memoir in your head for a decade or two, you  retired with plans to make it happen. But you are still writing it in your head. You still don’t have to write. Again, hmmmm.

And finally, some will sigh loudly or wistfully because they have never had enough time, not now, not never.

While it might seem redundant, the next question is …

What Prevents You from Writing?
If writing is your passion, you should be writing. So why aren’t you? I don’t want the obvious or easy answer (I just had a baby, etc.). Instead, I ask you to dig down and take a hard look at this time thing. (Unless there is something else and you’re ready to own up to it.)

So … how much time do you spend on FaceBook and/or Twitter? Guess what? I spend more time on FaceBook on days when I have something I don’t really want to do, like mow the lawn.

How much time do you spend blogging? Has writing, reading and commenting on blogs become a full-time/almost full-time unpaid job?

And here’s a dicey question … how much time do you spend making cupcakes for the class Halloween party, running the Boy Scout Christmas tree sale and/or chaperoning class trips and school dances? I applaud you but on a scale of one to ten, where does being Super Mom or Dad fit versus writing? If writing is your passion and you’re not, is being Super Parent your Super Passion? Your children will not disown you and you will not burn in hell if you don’t make cookies for the bake sale and miss a soccer game, even two. If it helps, neither of my parents were SP’s but both were wonderful and still are.

Another tough one … are you willing to take a new job with fewer hours and, most likely, less money if it means you’ll have more time to write?

Now I’ll throw caution to the wind and ask … can your spouse, parent, sibling, cousin, friend or neighbor lend a hand with your kids or elderly parent to free up some of your time to write. Before you say no, have you asked them? Can you afford to hire someone to help you? Before you say no, can you afford not to?

I ask these questions because, maybe, just maybe time isn’t the issue. Or at least not the only issue. So ask yourself again and a third, maybe a fourth or fifth time, what prevents you from writing?

Writing is hard and takes more than passion. It takes discipline and dedication. It takes confidence and courage. Writers write. It doesn’t matter that it’s scary or presumptuous to think they can succeed, they write. They make it a priority. They don’t talk about writing. They don’t write about not writing. They throw caution to the wind and just do it.

So okay it’s scary, it’s presumptuous but why not, you know, just do it? What’s the worst that can happen?
As writers we put ourselves out there and, unlike in the movies, failure is an option. Big deal. You write, rewrite and finally finish your book or pitch your article. You look for a publisher. You get turned down. The earth is still spinning. The sun will still rise and set.

You write another. It’s better. You find an agent or editor who believes in you and helps you. You rewrite or write another one. It gets published. Maybe it sells well, maybe it doesn’t. You write another one. Writing is really hard work but if you truly love it, if it is truly your passion, you’ll keep at it and you’ll get better. So good you might  just succeed.

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout, writer and chef. Feel free to visit her food or photo blog. © Susan Nye, 2011

30 thoughts on “Just Do It

  1. It’s true: it’s easy to make excuses, to complain and/or find reassuring formulae. But self-indulgence breeds laziness and ultimately mediocrity. So thanks for the wake-up call! Your frankness is very refreshing!

  2. I forwarded this to the Southern NH Writers Exchange via email with the following comment:

    Nuf said!
    Guilty as charged -me and my damn whining about how I never have enough time for the creative writing! Smack me hard, Susan Nye.

    This is why I have “Professional Development Day” in my weekly routine. It lights a fire under my butt when I read stuff like this – when I SEE other writers doing stuff, puttting anything and everything out there in articles, blogs, etc. I read something technical, read something literary (preferably an author whose style I’d like to emulate or someone who has demonstrated mastery of a technique I would also like to master). I learn something, get inspired, feel antsy. Then I give myself an internal pep talk.

    Works for me. What keeps you moving forward?

    Laura

    THANK YOU FOR THE PEP TALK!

  3. I really really want to write and I like it but when I actually do sit down to write I get worried and blank out. But like you say I think discipline plays a huge role in actual productivity.

    • Geetanjali – It may sound like a strange response but … stop worrying. I find deep breaths calm me down. Writing is really hard work so don’t add worrying on top of it. Write about things you love, things you know and have fun. Maybe that will be my next post – girls just want to have fun! Take care, S.

  4. Now that i am being serious about the real writing, i have created a slot of time to write.. It starts at 11 and finishes at 2. I may edit, blog or muck around at other times, but this three hour slot is now designated. i am SO LUCKY. And i loved what you wrote because that is a slogan that resounds loudly with me. i talked about it long enough. just do it! it is 10.01, i had better get a few things done before i sit down at the real writing desk at 11! c

  5. THANK YOU for this posting! I love to write, but I don’t do it often enough. When I read this and asked myself the questions you posed, my answers were all about fear! What it boils down to is I’m afraid nobody will like what I write or people will judge me, etc. I still flinch when I post a piece I’ve written on my blog. I WILL overcome this because my passion is writing. So, THANK YOU for reminding me that my passion is much more important than my fear! 🙂

    • Thank you Joy. The great thing about writing often – you can’t help but get better and better. And if people don’t like it or judge you – so what? Unless someone makes a mean-spirited comment … just take a deep breath, hold your head up high and learn from it. Maybe you’ll learn something that will help you write better – maybe you’ll decide that a particular reader doesn’t know what he/she is talking about or doesn’t get you. You may also decide a few weeks or months later that he/she was right! The important lesson is not to let fear stop you or even slow you down…or at least not for long! Take care, Susan

    • We are in wholehearted agreement! One of the many wonderful things about life – we have so many choices. The tough part – we have to make them! It’s all about setting realistic priorities and then making those priorities happen. Sometimes I think our list of priorities and goals are so long that they are meaningless. If you set too many priorities, you’ll end up with none or the really important stuff will lost in the muddle. While circumstances can and do set limits, we have choices. Some choices, many choices take courage to make – I think being a writer is one of them. BTW – I love the photographs on your blog. Take care, Susan

    • Dory – My pleasure. Love your being brave project! I’m curious about your decision to write from a prompt everyday. Have you thought about writing with intent instead of writing for an exercise? Writing with intent is writing for real – writing to get published not to practice. Why not try a series of polished essays and/or articles … stuff that might take more than a day but not forever. Real events in your life or in the world – things that move and interest you, things you know will be your prompts. Start with 500-750 words and gradually move up to 2,000-2,500 words. Interview people and tell their story. Write about yourself, your family, your being brave project. Research and write about something that interests you – the mating habits of goldfish, ancient Middle Eastern calligraphy or cooking with chilis. Enter them in contests or send them to an editor. Most magazine and newspapers don’t take unsolicited articles but you could get lucky or just use them as samples of your work when pitching a story. For more on Exorcising the Writing Exercise – visit Marion Roach Smith’s blog (http://marionroach.com/2011/07/texorcising-the-writing-exercise/) Take care and thanks for reading, Susan

  6. Wow…looks like you struck a nerve Susan! Great job. Terrific post and I am loving reading all the replies.

    We really ARE in the same boat. Everybody feels this way at some point.

    When writers like you post something that hits hard, it serves to inspire, to get us thinking and moving.

    Just do it. Not to be perfect, only to keep moving. Progress.

    Again, thanks to everybody, especially Susan.

  7. Pingback: What I learned from the writing prompts | If I Were Brave

    • Thanks Pnyks. You’re absolutely right – it is terribly difficult to get past the excuses – new obstacles pop up as fast as weeds in my oft-neglected garden. However … (just a polite way to say BUT) … while there will always be limits, it’s important to remember that we do have choices. Take care – S.

      • You’re right about us having both our limits and paths to choose from. At the same time many persons choose to just go nagging about life circumstances, obstacles from outer space, or (just) those nasty politicians, all preventing them for getting their work done. It is good to remember though that the first person to control one’s life is oneself.

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