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Five Good Reasons Not to Write

I gouged out part of my soul and hurled it into a wood chipper the other day. It was no fun, although I did get to eat pie while I did it. It happened because I’m trying to write something longer than the instructions for assembling an armoire made in Korea, and hopefully with better grammar. I’ve been racking up the word count, developing characters and making them suffer, and following my plot storyboard. Then a few days ago I wrote a scene that I adored, and I read it to my wife. That’s when it happened. After I was done, she paused and said, “It doesn’t really add anything, does it?”

Writers, like all artists, are by definition insane. They don’t perceive the world the way other people perceive it. People may or may not agree that I’m a writer, but I do have a piece of paper that says I’m crazy, so there. My wife had spoken the evident truth, which forced me to do the crazy thing and destroy those words, each one a child of my creative spirit. I wanted to make a surgical excision, but in the end I slaughtered them with all the finesse of a mustard gas attack.

I found myself a bit unmotivated after that. But motivation and inspiration should make no difference to writers. You write unless your hands have been crushed and you’ve been kicked in the jaw by a horse. So I sat at my keyboard, Diet Coke at my left hand, and discovered the Five Good Reasons Not to Write.

  1. My tools are defective. My monitor is dusty, and it’s giving me a headache, so I’d better get the Windex. I should wipe down the kitchen counters while I’m passing through the kitchen with Windex in my hand. Oh, and Windows is telling me to install a security update, so I should do that to avoid losing all my work through insecurity. I’ll defragment my hard drive too, just to be safe.
  2. My work environment is oppressive. The jumble of picture frames on my desk is breaking my concentration, so I should organize them. But I need to find places to put half of them, so I have to rearrange the bookshelves and move the printer. I’ll have worked up a sweat by then, so I should install the ceiling fan that’s been sitting in a box since I bought the house nine years ago.
  3. My thinking apparatus is under-fueled. I have a headache from staring at the screen in impotence until my blood sugar drops to single digits. I need a sandwich. However, I only have ham in the fridge and am trying to watch my cholesterol, so I have to go to the store. I should also get everything else on my weekly grocery list since I’m already there.
  4. I need to document my life. My cat’s sleeping amongst the orderly picture frames and looking cuter than any creature on Earth, including bunnies. I have to take a picture because this will never happen again. When I reach for the camera, my cat moves, so I have to wait until she reassumes a cute pose. It may take a while.
  5. There’s this thing called the internet. For my story I need to research how expensive bribes should be in Bangkok in 1948. Wikipedia has an invaluable entry on Southeast Asia, and on Google I find a photo of elephants dressed like panda bears. That has to go on Facebook right away, and while I’m there I like a bunch of posts, wish I could dislike a bunch of posts, and post about my sandwich. Now I’m hungry for Thai food.

Oh yeah, the sixth good reason. Update my blog.

Yeah, you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

Photo from the L.A. Times


  1. R O F L ” My monitor is dusty, and it’s giving me a headache… ”

    Read a poem on Sab blog yesterday about:
    If you know more about the author than you do about yourself when you are done reading, the author needs to rethink his point.

    Read this. I don’t know who the hell you are, or anything about you!

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Wow, great quote! Something about me… I have more stuffed animals in my house than I have pieces of silverware.

      1. Now I see their problem with my Velveteen Rabbit. Clan wars.

  2. You hate the Velveteen Rabbit?!

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      I hate to see anyone unfollow, but I have to admit that your reasoning is flawless. I feel chastised. And in a good way.

      1. rofl!
        Extortion actually works!
        You are to funny to unfollow.
        Specially on a whim from three words….zero research.
        Just that gut reaction. What the hell are you doing to my favorite religious experience.
        It must be funny.
        I’ll look our for it.
        Yep, my reasoning rocks. ; )

      2. unfolloing you is like breaking a mirror.

        And isn’t there bad luck attached to that?

        1. Bill McCurry says:

          Welcome back, I’m happy! And yes, unfollowing brings seven years of ice cream cones that leak.

          1. Your 5 ummh 6 reasons to not write is about the great Me. Didn’t see you in that story at all. You described me. Hence the poem. You are on point.
            Applying reason 5 as we speak.
            I will threaten to unfollow more in the future. That was fun.
            Now that I’m on the spot, thanks to you. Getting back to writing. Thanks needed for chastisement. tata

  3. writerdood says:

    Blasting the crap out of a story is just part of the process. I have a really good reader who continuously gives me feedback as I rewrite. (I’ve been rewriting a novel for about a year now). I will have to say the novel was shit before I started working with her. Okay, not entirely shit, the ideas were good, but the writing sucked. I think, overall, I’ve probably deleted 70% of what I had previously and reconstructed it entirely.

    One thing I’ve noticed is the anger and depression of having the review come back negative. And so I never write back defensively. It’s a rule. I NEED her help. So I never ignore the advice. She can see things I can’t. As a policy, I never respond until I’ve calmed down. I will talk logically about the difficulties or issues, but I will not talk emotionally. The process requires deletion. Initially, I will have feelings about it.

    The story is your passion. That’s why you have these emotions. They’re good! If you didn’t have them, you wouldn’t be writing the story. And if you’re not passionate about your story, then you’re writing the wrong one. So quit procrastinating, sit down and write some more. And, just as a suggestion, try not reading it to your wife and let her read it instead. If you’re lucky enough to have a wife that’s actually interested in your writing (mine is not) then you’ve got an awesome sounding board! Use it. Listen to her feedback. Have her make suggestions in the document. She’ll see stuff you won’t.

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Preach it, brother.

      After the massive negative word count from killing off my beloved child, I did get back on track, finish the chapter, and move on to the next one. I’m so lucky that my wife will give me feedback, but I think it’s good for me to read aloud and see her face as she reacts. It works kind of like an electric shock or a Scooby Snack, depending on the quality of my imagery.

      1. writerdood says:

        I understand the instantaneous feedback thing. You could do both – and give it to her to read through after she hears it. The cool thing about having people write comments inline is that they can think about their responses, plus they apply to specific segments. It might be that you don’t need to wipe an entire section, but rather re-write parts of it.

        I usually read my stuff out loud to myself as part of my own process. Helps identify flow issues.

        1. Bill McCurry says:

          Oh yes, reading it out loud to myself is an eye opener.

      2. Steve Reneau says:

        We can all use more Scooby Snacks.

        1. Bill McCurry says:

          [insert Scooby Doo noise that I don’t know how to spell]

  4. Jillian says:

    Interesting, elephants don’t make cute pandas…

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Oddly, I think you’re right. I wonder what other things we could dress elephants up as that would make them cute? Baby ducks? Death Stars? Halloween is coming up…

      1. Jillian says:

        Is there a blog topic in this??? 🙂

        1. Bill McCurry says:

          Woah! If there isn’t, there should be!

  5. aagghhh! I’ve gotten that remark from “beta” readers; “it doesn’t move the story forward.” So hurts to hear. But–as a writer, you know this–you will end up using that scene somewhere…in some story…7th good reason not to write: Brainfreeze….(this is me today..)

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      I know what you mean. I snipped out that scene and tucked it away in the “Someday” folder. Good luck on the brain freeze. That was me yesterday until 11:00 pm, sitting in bed next to my snoozing wife, trying to “type casual” as Han Solo might say.

  6. I feel your pain brother. Sometimes it seems everything calls to you to respond to them except writing. TO HELL WITH EVERYTHING ELSE

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Thank you for the solidarity! I’m moving along pretty well now and just waiting to climb over that next concrete wall. As soon as I wash the dishes.

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