Too many times writers use this phrase: If only . . .
This is a way that we doom ourselves. Excuses. We all use them. All the time. So when you catch yourself saying “If only. . .” take a step back and look at what impact this has on you and your writing dream.
What would happen if you would turn these around? Shift these “if only” statements?
OLD: If I only had the time to. . .
NEW: What could I accomplish if I wrote 2000 words a day? 1000 words a day? 500?
After 30 days you’d have 60,000 words written. (Or 30,000 or 15,000)
In two to three months you’d have a novel drafted.
You DO have time. We all do. You are the one who decides how to use it.
Maybe you could write five days a week or even two days that you don’t have to deal with a day job or other obligations.
Think about how many words your novel might be and create a plan, based on how many words you can write a day and how many days a week you are going to write. Think of this as your own personal NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month). Same concept—just a different focus of days and word counts that suit you.
OLD: If I only didn’t have all these interruptions. . .
NEW: What might I get done if I found a different place to write?
Can’t write at home because of interruptions? Maybe your significant other has questions that must be answered right now. Your children need help with something or want to tell you what a friend just told them. Your dog wants to go out for a walk. Your favorite TV show is coming on in ten minutes and it’s the season opener, so you can’t miss it.
When you can’t avoid distractions of the home, take your writing elsewhere. (Or put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign and stick to it unless someone is bleeding to death or the house is on fire.)
Try working at the local coffee shop, library, or your favorite restaurant. What about a park or other outdoor area if the weather is good.
I know a writer who goes outside, starts her car, and writes from the driveway while her husband is inside with her small children.
OLD: If only I could finish. . .
NEW: I can finish this novel or short story if I make a plan or have goals.
Do you have a story you’ve been working on for years? What if you JUST FINISHED IT?
Instead of your friends and fellow writers asking you when you’re going to finish, their questions can move to ones like: Have you heard back from that agent or publisher? When did you say your story was going to appear in that magazine?
Don’t just have an ongoing story. FINISH. Finish one story. Begin another. Submit. Submit. Submit.
Make a workable plan that you know is doable for you.
OLD: If only I didn’t have all this other stuff. . .
NEW: I can decide what’s important to me and focus on that.
Make a list of the “stuff” in your life. What are you willing to shift around or give up in order to finish your story and move your writing dream to the forefront of your life?
Prioritize your list of “stuff.” If you put your writing at or near the top, what falls below your dream?
You’ll always have “stuff” in your life that you feel you must do. The question is: Is it more important than your story?
OLD: If only I could quit my day job. . .
NEW: When my writing is making me money, I’ll consider giving up my day job.
Some writers are more of a risk taker than I am. They take the plunge and go for their dream. I am proud when anyone has that kind of focus.
For many of us, quitting a day job would create more stress, more frustration, more distractions than keeping the job AND moving forward with our writing dream.
You CAN do both, if you choose. Remember that what you fill your day with is YOUR choice. I only ask you to choose wisely, in a way that you come to realize your dream.
OLD: If only I had a good idea for a story. . .
NEW: I’m a creative person who has many great story ideas.
Writers have ideas. Revisit your list of story ideas. Brainstorm new ones if none of those on you list speak to you. Ask yourself questions: What am I passionate about? If I could volunteer with an organization, what would that be? Why do I care about this <fill in the blank>?
There are a thousand ways to generate story ideas. If you are drawing a blank, consider this two-day experience: During this time, jot down your childhood memories as you think of them. Start with the earliest thing you can think of from your past. Use one or more experiences to create a story idea as a starting point.
Challenge for today: What is your “If only” excuse? How might you shift that around? Feel free to share your thoughts.