By Writing Excuses | October 24, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Ideas

We’re off to a great start, with a dangling preposition right there in the title.

We end each podcast with the tagline “you’re out of excuses, now go write,” but many people still come up with plenty of excuses. How does the professional writer deal with these sorts of things? We talk about the absence of the muse, the wrong space, the absence of ideas, discouragement, lack of time, distractions, and pants.

Howard’s pants, of course.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.

Writing Prompt: You need to change your shoes, or something awful is going to happen.

Full Circle: Pants at the beginning and the end. Oh, good. That means we wore them the whole time.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 24th, 2010 at 8:00 pm and is filed under Ideas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

73 Comments

  1. October 24, 2010 @ 8:34 pm


    I worry that “Writing Excuses” is one of my biggest distractions. How’s that for a value judgement?

    Posted by Tony
  2. October 24, 2010 @ 8:43 pm


    Wonderful, now you guys make me feel bad for getting burned out on school writing before even starting on my personal project.

    Great podcast BTW.

    Posted by E. Antonio Colon
  3. October 24, 2010 @ 8:47 pm


    I was almost turning off the computer and I had the idea to access writingexcuses.com for the 20th time in the day. This time it worked :)

    Posted by Rafael Leon
  4. October 24, 2010 @ 8:48 pm


    I’ve actually never tried actually setting an alarm to get me to stop other activities and start writing – I can’t believe I placed so much trust in myself…

    Posted by Nick Burns
  5. October 24, 2010 @ 8:49 pm


    @Tony: That’s why we keep these ‘casts so short. Okay, if you listen to an entire season (available on CD-ROM!) in one go you lose about 9 hours. One entire work-day. And if you listen to the whole batch you’ve lost around 45. But that’s all we can account for — one work-week’s worth of distraction.

    Conclusion: Writing Excuses is no excuse. After 15 minutes (20 at the outside) you’re energized and ready to write. GO.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  6. October 24, 2010 @ 9:08 pm


    @Howard I actually listen to Writing Excuses while I write so I can’t use it as an excuse, sadly it’s the only bit of multitasking I can do.

    Posted by Nick Burns
  7. October 24, 2010 @ 9:10 pm


    I think you misspelled your ending tagline. Unless you’ve been telling us to go and do good deeds and I’ve just been sitting and writing instead. And if that’s the case, you need a grammar edit.

    One problem with the friend’s brainstorming session, at least for me. I’m studying engineering. Writing is an artistic hobby. As far as I know, I’m the only person I know who writes aside from a couple of online friends.

    Also, for the same reason (being an engineer), once I graduate, disconnecting completely isn’t really an option, just in case I get the type of email every engineer dreads: “The thing you just designed for me failed in a spectacular manner, killing a dozen people and costing me half my money.”

    That said, it is still possible to self dicipline oneself away from certain activities. So if you can’t disconnect completely because of your day job, you have to excersise addiction aversion to save your time. The crappy router is a good idea, though getting hard to find new ones these days (and can be annoying when you’re not writing). Alternately, you can determine how much time you’re spending on the internet vs writing (if you’re a programmer, you can likely figure out how to see how much time each window has focus over the writing session; for the rest of us, just time how long you’re working and know when you started and finished working – admitting you aren’t working is harder than admitting you are). The amount of time you’re wasting is a bit of a wake up call when you actually look at the numbers.

    Posted by Rashkavar
  8. October 24, 2010 @ 9:17 pm


    my excuse is that none of the good ideas seem to work. That is why I decided to do NaNoWriMo with every unfinished short story character I have and a bit of text I pulled out of my…thin air.

    Posted by Wesley Young
  9. October 24, 2010 @ 9:44 pm


    Rashkavar: As a Software developer I feel your pain, I do have friends/coworkers who read, but none who write. Honestly that’s one of the best things to me about NaNoWriMo (coming in just a few days eeeeeeeeeeeee). It’s allowed me to talk with fellow nearby writers who also love the art of crafting awesome stories. Being reminded you aren’t alone and so weird, on top of someone to bounce ideas off of, is a powerful motivator :).

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  10. October 24, 2010 @ 9:46 pm


    Okay you guys have really really convinced me now…great site!

    Posted by e.lee
  11. October 24, 2010 @ 9:51 pm


    One problem with being able to type at 80+ WPM is that the unfettering that this affords my brain results in my hands not being entirely sure how to spell what it was that my brain spat out three sentences ago.

    The original blurb above included the sentence “you’re out of excuses, now go right,” which is absolutely NOT the meaning we intended. Though I suppose it’s always important for you to DO right and to CHOOSE right, “going” right implies a political bent or maybe a handedness bias that has never been intended.

    You’re out of excuses, now go WRITE. WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE and if it’s handWRITING and you use your RIGHT hand that’s fine but LEFT is also okay, and sometimes what you WRITE may be WRONG and that’s okay too because the more you WRITE the more likely you are to eventually get it RIGHT and that’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all along, RIGHT?

    WRITE.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  12. October 24, 2010 @ 10:06 pm


    So let’s see if I have this right. All I have to do to become a successful author is to take a twenty minute power nap, play some videogames to reset my mind and help Howard change his pants. Got it.

    No really, thanks for all of your good advice. But still, the one excuse that plagues me the most is the first one you spoke of, not having any ideas. Too many times I have sat down at my computer, opened a blank word document full of desirer to write something amazing only to find that my mind is as blank as my computer screen and once again I can not think of anything to write. I would much rather suffer with being a crappy writer because at least they are coming up with something to write about. If there really is such a thing as a muse, I’m afraid that mine must have been playing in the freeway and got crunched by a bus. A moment of silence please as I place my hand to my heart and pay my last respects to the little dark stain somewhere on I-70.

    It also does not help that I have no friends to brain storm with. I live in central Ohio, not only do most people here not write, but very few can even read. The bookstore in the mall closed the other month due to lack of business. Maybe I should move to Utah where all the good writers seem to live.

    Thanks for the podcast and for trying to help.

    Posted by Oletta
  13. October 24, 2010 @ 10:22 pm


    Re: Ideas. Start carrying a notebook around. Even if an idea seems stupid to you, write it down. Once a day or every couple days go back through and review what you wrote down. Things may start to click/percolate.

    I promise, people have WAY more ideas than they realize, they just are over critical or simply not paying enough attention to notice them. Seek them out all the time, not just when you’re ready to write. That pressure of ideas on the spot doesn’t work for many people, think of it as performance anxiety ;)

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  14. October 24, 2010 @ 10:44 pm


    BTW for anyone looking for time management techniques, this one is growing in popularity among tech people

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

    May want to tweak the times based on personal needs of course, but the basic idea can come in handy if you need some down time mixed in with your writing.

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  15. October 24, 2010 @ 11:30 pm


    The absolute worst thing about being a Computer Science major is the lack of people in the same program who enjoy reading and writing.

    Posted by Nick Burns
  16. October 25, 2010 @ 6:25 am


    To the cast

    Another great episode as always.
    I was just wondering. I posted a short story on the Writing Prompt Forum on the Time Wasters Guide (which is now down for repairs). It was about the man crawling through the desert and being helped by a headless monkey. No one seems to have posted on that topic for a while. I had an idea for the latest one and would like to post it. Is there any place I can post the prompts where you guys might see them? I’m interested in hearing what you think of what fans make out of the prompts.

    Posted by fardawg
  17. October 25, 2010 @ 6:42 am


    Ideas are not so hard to come by. My problem is having them in the front of my brain when I need them. Don’t tell me to use a notebook to write them down on as my penmanship is so terrible that not even I can read it after a few minutes. Same with my memory.

    Of course I could always splurge on a fancy cell phone or some such device but my fat fingers can’t type on those tiny keyboards without hitting at least two keys in addition to the one I was aiming at. I know because I used to have a similar device that was about twice the size and I still had problems with hitting more than one key at a time. Actually I still have the device (Radio Shack EC-319) and it is so old it was actually made in Japan instead of China.

    But I do get some of my ideas recorded in a file on my word processor. Many of them are for novels but I’m not ready to write a novel yet. I specialize in micro-fiction at present. Sometimes I start with an idea and only get three or four paragraphs before the idea dwindles into nothing. Of course with micro-fiction that could be half the story.

    As usual, a great pod cast. I really look forward to these casts every Sunday evening. Keep up the good work.

    Posted by Derby
  18. October 25, 2010 @ 6:46 am


    My writing excuse is that I get started, with these great ideas and awesome thoughts… and then nothing gets done in the story, I grow bored, and eventually abandon the idea.

    That’s kinda why I like Play By Post roleplay. It makes it easy to incorporate random ideas I have before they get out of my brain.

    Posted by Dete
  19. October 25, 2010 @ 7:07 am


    My definition of a “Muse” is the overwhelming compulsion to create that often results in a burst of creativity. Mine uses a sledgehammer at three o’clock in the morning. Stephen King said you can’t depend upon the muse you need to write despite the muse not because of it.

    Posted by Darin Calhoun
  20. October 25, 2010 @ 7:21 am


    My excuse is that it isn’t on iTunes yet, so I’ll keep hitting refresh instead of writing! :P

    Posted by Nathan MAjor
  21. October 25, 2010 @ 7:42 am


    I agree with Howard and Dan. Naps for the win!

    When you prioritizing what other time consuming things to keep and what things to drop I have found that a useful distinction is:

    “What other stuff can I do while being really focused on my story mentally?”

    I’m a painter and do a lot of crafts, and for me sitting down and doing a pair of cyberpunk goggles for the cyberpunk story, or bind an awesome handmake book for me to write in, also gives me a few hours of thinking and exploration of the story concepts. My hands and half my brain will relax and do the craft work, the other part of my brain will be in an open mindset considering the concepts.

    Some things it works, some things is just don’t work. Going on walk or weight training really works for me, seeing DVD boxes wont give me any mental space to think about my story.

    Keeping the few side hobbies that let you keep your mental focus on your story can be a way to let the time you don’t spend on writing, still feed fuel to your writing. …But of course those hobbies can end up as just one more excuse.

    Posted by Elin Dalstål
  22. October 25, 2010 @ 8:54 am


    Gentlemen,
    Re: the title of the episode. Its not a gramatical error, you were just channeling your “Inner Yoda”, nothing wrong with that at all!

    Posted by Mike
  23. October 25, 2010 @ 10:01 am


    I was really hoping they’d talk about NaNo on this cast… :p Because it’s only a week awaaaay~~

    Great stuff. ^-^ But seriously. NaNo’s all in the spirit of writing and just making the time and not worrying about quality and going for it. So it was perfect. :p

    Writing Excuses IS my excuse. xD But at least it gets me thinking about writing, or so I tell myself.

    Posted by Celia
  24. October 25, 2010 @ 10:43 am


    I’m one of those stay-at-home moms (two children under the age of three). I also work as a writing assistant from home, oh, and watch other children several times a week. And bake all our bread, clean, etc. But, I’ve never written more in my life.

    For me, my biggest distraction is reading about writing. The only thing I allow myself (okay, sometimes I fail) is this podcast, because it’s really helpful AND I can listen to it while I shovel peas into the baby at lunch time.

    My biggest help is a supportive husband who says things like, “I was at that lecture where Brandon Sanderson said you’ve got to write a novel a year to be professional. Where’s yours this year?” He doesn’t take excuses like: I’m pregnant, there are three months left in the year, and I’m exhausted (at which point, I call him a meanie-head and get to work). So, in the past year, I’ve now written two books, revised the first one twice, given birth, revised a trunk novel, got a short story published, and have another half novel written.

    Mommyhood taught me multi-tasking (yes, I’m typing w/ one hand while holding baby). While I’m doing diapers and dishes, I plan out and replay the next scene in my head. Then, I take whatever ten minutes I can get and write. It’s amazing how more productive a focused ten-minutes is (ten minutes is what I’ve got) than the wandering, I-don’t-know-what-to-write hours I had when I was younger. Writing in little chunks also prevents burn-out for me. I always have more time to think about scenes than to write them, so I always have something to write.

    There’s a really great article on the SFWA website about writing and parenting, too.

    Guess I should go work on writing now.

    Thanks for another great podcast, guys!

    Posted by Miriel
  25. October 25, 2010 @ 11:22 am


    It looks like the RSS feed does not include the podcast enclosure for this episode? Can someone look into that (if I download the episode separately, it never seems to integrate properly with the rest of the series…). Thanks!

    Posted by Andrew
  26. October 25, 2010 @ 11:24 am


    Awesome episode, something i have been wanting to hear for ages now; some help from some people that know what they are on about. I thinki i feel more capable now of forcing my own hand to write this epic novel.

    I have been making excuses now for 13 monthes. I have many great ideas. I have great direction. I know how i want my story to pan out. But i came up with some terrible and lame excuses, World of Warcraft still among them.

    Anyway off to write while im working, just love my job :P
    Thanks guys.

    Posted by Ben Algar
  27. October 25, 2010 @ 12:40 pm


    I’m having the same problem as Andrew and Nathan MAjor–podcast isn’t feeding to iTunes… I was going to write today, but instead I’m going to keep hitting refresh until I get my 15 minute weekly fix…

    Posted by Eliyanna
  28. October 25, 2010 @ 1:00 pm


    I decided several months ago that loosing sleep wasn’t as bad as not wirting, so now I wake up early and write for two hours before I get ready for work. Now I don’t deal with feeling too tired after work to write, and I no longer feel guilty for turning the xbox on when I get home. The bonus is that if I’m really hot in the morning I can come home from work and write some more. It does help to have a wife… I wouldn’t get any writing done without her. I have written nearly 90,000 words in the few months since I started this schedule! When I wrote after work I was lucky to get 40,000 in a year. Great podcast as always guys.

    Posted by jordan
  29. October 25, 2010 @ 3:06 pm


    My current excuse is that I’m about to grump off and read The Rise of Universities. I’d rather use writing as my excuse not to do homework… but I did that yesterday, so I’m stuck with this now.

    Posted by Rinzi
  30. October 25, 2010 @ 4:38 pm


    Here’s an excuse to address: I don’t have enough support from my family.

    Not that I don’t, but it is definitely something that I occasionally hear, and I would love to hear what kind of solutions you guys no about.

    In any case, I believe that everyone needs to find ways to garner more support from their families. No one is going to have a family that is 100% supportive 100% of the time, except in a few rare exceptions.

    My habit right now is to exercise for 30 minutes, and then go write for 30 minutes. I set a timer for my writing, and I don’t worry about word count, I just worry about using my time as effectively as possible. If I need to do something like work on an outline, or research on the internet, or brainstorm a plot thread, or name a character, or design the room where the action is happening, or any other activity that isn’t actual drafting, I stop my timer until I am done. This forces me to focus on the activity that is going to get the most production. I still do the other activities, but I try to do them throughout the day, since it is something that I can use my brainspace to do while doing something else like driving, exercising, or doing the dishes. This allows me to crank out about 900 to 1000 words a day, which is pretty significant. My plan is to gradually scale up on my writing, adding another five minutes to my time after another month or so.

    Posted by Matthew Watkins
  31. October 25, 2010 @ 5:07 pm


    I always tell aspirants, “Don’t be like me! It took me 17 years to break into publishing, most of those having been (largely) wasted doing all kinds of crap which was basically a giant distraction from the work of writing.” Because that’s what it boils down to. Work. My wife Annie can tell you, the only reason I have the professional sales I have now — another one this past weekend, ding ding — is because the last three years I’ve worked harder at it than in all the years prior. Ergo, I’ve prioritized my life and how I spend my time, and I’ve not allowed myself the same list of excuses as before.

    Now, with some initial sales under my belt, it’s time to ‘Level Up’ — to borrow an analogy — and get even more disciplined. Much of my current web surfing has to go. I like Howard’s idea about getting myself a timer clock and putting it next to the computer, to watchdog my idle browsing. Having long ago abandoned television — save for occasional Utah Jazz games or spending time with m y daughter watching some of my daughter’s shows, like the ultra-awesome Sym-Bionic Titan — the InterToob really is the final frontier, in terms of finding more time. I suspect this is true for a mountain of aspirants and other professionals alike.

    Like Elvis said, shoot your Toob!

    Posted by Brad R. Torgersen
  32. October 25, 2010 @ 8:15 pm


    I think I fixed the RSS feed issue. A couple of check-boxes were unchecked.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  33. October 26, 2010 @ 4:01 am


    It is fixed! Thank you.

    Posted by Eliyanna
  34. October 26, 2010 @ 6:33 am


    A cry of sympathy for all those who can’t find writing buddies! I am an engineer by trade. When your’e an engineer, merely being able to spell can make you an outcast. I’ve tried to find a writing group in my area, but only come across highbrow literary wannabes with sweater-vests and permanent sneers.

    “The Muse” always used to be my excuse – because, every once in a while, inspiration does strike. Writing just /happens/. It /needs/ to happen. It’s fun, and it’s good. The rest of the time, it feels like a lot of work to produce a few terrible paragraphs. Now that I’m finally forcing myself to write anyway, things are going much better.

    Posted by G.W.Bancroft
  35. October 26, 2010 @ 7:54 am


    It is fixed indeed – thanks, Howard!

    Posted by Andrew
  36. October 26, 2010 @ 8:14 am


    When your’e an engineer, merely being able to spell can make you an outcast.

    Best. Typo in context. EVAR.

    Posted by Ed
  37. October 26, 2010 @ 8:46 am


    That wasn’t a typo. That was camouflage.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  38. October 26, 2010 @ 9:27 am


    I’m never out of excuses, but sometimes I can forget about them for a while. You guys help me with that. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by DH
  39. October 26, 2010 @ 11:51 am


    Ah, this one hits home. I’ve found things that work for me, but it took a while. The one piece of advice I wish I had known years ago is: Don’t wait to be inspired, just sit down and start writing, because if you wait for it, you’ll wait forever, but if you start writing, inspiration will come.

    But it’s still really, really hard to do this, even if we’ve made the time. I have done all kinds of dumb things rather than sit down and write – empty the dishes, vacuum, there’s always something to do. I heard P C Cast say “I have washed my cat rather than write.” For me, I found using a timer worked great, just to get me started. I’d set it for 20 minutes and tell myself, “Okay, all you have to do is write until the bell goes off.” Sometimes, I only wrote for 20 minutes, but mostly, I found I wanted to go longer, once I got started. But I had to use the timer to fool myself for a long time, before I really had a routine going.

    Naps don’t work for me so much, but pacing to music helps a lot, and we all have our favorite mood music for our stories, don’t we? (I was listening to the LOTR soundtracks but I had to switch because they depressed my parakeet).

    I also like to warm up with 15-20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing aobut the story in a cheap spiral notebook. It’s the equivalent of doing 15 minutes of warm up sketches for those who draw. I’ll ask myself questions about the scene, the story as a whole, where my characters are in their heads. Plus I do it whenever I’m trying to work out a story problem – it’s kind of brain-storming with myself. I’m amazed at what will bubble up in my head.

    Posted by Laurie
  40. October 26, 2010 @ 12:03 pm


    @ Ed: see? The stress of a dual life is clearly taking its toll on me. I’m becoming one of them! Resistance is futile. Itchy. Tasty. Powerpoiiiinntttt….

    Posted by G.W.Bancroft
  41. October 26, 2010 @ 2:30 pm


    Thanks for this. Couldn’t have come at a better time, as I’m about to try NaNo for the first time (I’m pretty sure that what will get me writing is the kind of pressure/competition from other people that NaNo is supposed to provide).

    Also, it’s nice to hear someone else be as enthusiastic about Hyperion as me; I’ve only met a few people over here (the UK) who’ve even heard of it.

    Posted by Rik Davnall
  42. October 26, 2010 @ 3:14 pm


    Love Writing Excuses. Took away all my excuses but one. Heh, I’m one of those stay-at-home moms who is ostensibly busier than Dan. I’m also one of those handy-dandy wife people who magically takes care of everything else so my husband can have time to write. :)

    My heart did a little pitter-pat when they first mentioned stay-at-home moms, and I was thinking that this would be the moment when they would finally, FINALLY, address the “what-if-you’re-caring-for-young-children-around-the-clock” question. Because for us, the value judgment doesn’t involve video games and television. It’s about choosing between writing, and keeping the house standing and the kids alive/fed/changed/clean/happy. And letting my kids veg out in front of the t.v. while I sneak away to the computer is NOT an option. Unfortunately, these guys didn’t delve into the issue much more than to say, “Gosh, it’s tough for them, isn’t it?”

    I know I don’t exactly fall into the average demographic of the audience. But I’d be willing to bet there are others out there (like all the women they said approach them at conferences) who are dying to hear what these guys — and especially their wives! — would have to say about finding time to write when you’re a full-time maid, cook, chauffeur, tutor, referee, secretary, and nurse. I would be all over that episode :)

    Posted by Lachelle
  43. October 26, 2010 @ 5:53 pm


    […] leading up to November 1, I've been picking apart worrisome details about my outline or routine. On today's Writing Excuses, the topic of 'feeling inferior and therefore not wanting to write' was brought up; I connected […]

  44. October 26, 2010 @ 6:33 pm


    Speaking of, I was wondering if we could get some NaNoWriMo tips and talking about on the next podcast. Sort of a get hyped type of thing. GO BRANDON!!

    Posted by Justin K
  45. October 26, 2010 @ 10:02 pm


    @Lachelle: My wife Sandra is in much the same boat you’re in. She’s a stay-at-home mom who takes care of things so I can be the creative bread-winner, but she’s also a writer with her own set of mad chops.

    Check out her blog at onecobble.com and post a comment or question. She can talk about this stuff in ways that Brandon, Dan, and I obviously cannot.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  46. October 27, 2010 @ 4:30 am


    I think that both partners in a relationship with small kids need to give the other space to do whatever is important to them, whether that’s writing or something else. It can’t be one person’s sole responsibility to take care of everything household so that the other person can really shine as a full human being. That’s just crappy.

    Posted by Eliyanna
  47. October 27, 2010 @ 6:15 am


    Each set of parents is going to arrive at their own balance in this matter. There isn’t a single solution that fits everyone, obviously.

    Sandra and I pass responsibilities back and forth quite freely, but the fact remains that she has provided over 80% of the child-care time in our marriage, and I suspect she’d take issue with anyone who suggests that she was doing anything other than “shining as a full human being” during that time.

    It can be argued that SHE is doing the important work, while all I’m doing is finding ways to fund it. That’s certainly how our kids see it.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  48. October 27, 2010 @ 8:45 am


    I like Howard’s perspective on this. Mostly because that’s how I’ve always looked at it too. My wife does the vast majority of truly important work in our lives, I’m just the guy shoveling coal into the burner of the choo-choo. Having said that, when my daughter was a baby/toddler, I did all of the overnight care — mainly because my wife is a bit of an insomniac and once she’s woken up, it takes her forever to get back to sleep regardless of how exhausted she is. Like Howard said, every parent duo will figure out their own system. Of course, it’s much easier — as the writer — to justify using home time to write, when money is actually being generated. Much.

    Posted by Brad R. Torgersen
  49. October 27, 2010 @ 8:54 am


    @Lachelle

    I don’t know what age your kids are, but I empathize. Some days, I get a lot of writing done and feel like a horrible parents — shouldn’t we have read Tiki Tiki Tembo at least twice more? And other days I don’t get any writing done and get very grumpy at the never-ending piles of laundry.

    Here are some things that have worked for me:

    — Afternoon quiet time. My littlest one takes a nap. The toddler won’t, so this is when I will let him watch a video, or pull out “special toys” — things he doesn’t always have access to. Since he’s really interested in cooking, this is usually a big bowl, a whisk, and some wooden spoons. He doesn’t get to play with these all day, so he’s perfectly happy to sit and play for twenty minutes, as long as he gets a sippy cup, too.

    — A really big gate. I’ve got a big gate that separates our main room into a computer-side and a kid side. If they children decide they’re happy playing and don’t need me, I can sit over here and still talk with them. Right now, I’m watching the oldest play with truck and feeding the younger squash.

    — Messy house. I do sacrifice house cleaning to a degree. The laundry gets done when my husband complains he’s about out of clean underwear (I really hate laundry). Every room in the house gets cleaned at least once a week, but it’s never all clean at the same time. For me, that would be a full-time job. Though the giant gate does contain some of it. We periodically invite people over so we’re forced to get everything very tidy. Then my husband pitches in on a two-hour cleaning spree. Once (and I should start it again) we also had a twenty-minute daily cleaning time for the whole family. It really is amazing how much cleaning can happen in 20 minutes when everyone’s focused and working hard. Setting a time instead of delineating chores also meant me and my husband didn’t argue about who got what job. (Because you sound like a jerk if you don’t have twenty minutes a day to work on dishes). I’ve also learned to ask hubby for help when I need it. He’s good at doing things when I ask — but most men I know aren’t great at noticing what needs doing.

    — Supportive hubby. Okay, I don’t know how to train a husband to do this. Mine just is. Both because he cares about my writing, and he knows that if I’m cranky, the best way to cheer me up is make me go write. He reads the first draft of everything and tells me I’m doing great, even when we both know it needs a lot of revision. It really helps me get over mid-novel slumps.

    — Keep the word file open. I just leave it open at the computer always. When I get five minutes, I write some more. In some ways, this is a great way to write. I almost never finishing writing and think “what comes next?” I’m usually interrupted, so when I get back to writing, I know just where to pick up. I don’t need to warm up or review or wonder what to write. A productive five minutes is still more productive than an hour of head-scratching.

    — Thinking about it. A lot of my daily work is mindless. Dishes, diapers, vacuuming. I use that mental real estate to plot out the next scene, or make decisions about revisions. I guess that kind of serves the function of Howard’s naps, except I’m getting Cheerios off the floor at the same time.

    — Goal-setting. I spent a lot of time telling myself things were impossible until I just set a goal to get whatever-it-was-done. It certainly helped that my husband was in on the goal, would check up on me — but with a goal, I asked myself how it was going to get done, not if it was going to get done.

    — Being flexible. Some days, I get to write a fair amount. Maybe the kids go to bed on time and don’t wake up. Other days, I just do mom things and spend time with my kids — which is also great. They’re cool little people. A lot of writers advocate setting aside a specific writing time and writing everyday for half an hour. That’s funny. I don’t even get half an hour alone to shower (you’ve probably experienced little fingers under the door and children yelling for mom, even though Dad’s two feet away — mine always want Mom right now). I don’t set my own schedule, so I just take writing time when I can squeeze it in. Being flexible also means that as my little children rapidly grow and change, I’ve got to keep adapting the way I find writing time to their needs.

    — Enlist little helpers. My oldest is a toddler. He can fetch things, and he can throw diapers away. I have him do both a lot. This both teaches him how to work and, I don’t know why, but not having to go and throw diapers away seems to give me a bit more energy — or avoiding that juggle-the-baby and pick-up-the-toy-with-my-toes thing (just sent toddler to get wipes to clean squash from baby’s face, in fact).

    — Get other tasks done while hanging out with kids. When my oldest was little, I’d wait until he was asleep to cook or clean anything. Now, we do a lot of things together. Folding the laundry takes a lot longer when the kids help, but I’m also playing and teaching kids at the same time (jumping into piles of clean laundry is great fun when you’re two). Then, when I have a down minute, I ignore the mess. Me and my kids will work on that when we’re awake. It might take twice as long to get things done, but it all becomes quality time.

    — Learn to type one-handed while holding baby. I get a lot of revision done this way. I think I probably get 30wpm with just my right hand now (I’m doing this one-handed).

    — Don’t beat myself up. I try not to. Getting upset at myself for not transmuting a 24-hour day into 42-hours isn’t good for me or my children or really anything. Moms might be amazing, but I know I get frustrated with myself that I get exhausted or want more than four hours of sleep (and that I get grumpy when that’s all the sleep the teething baby allows).

    I’m sure I’m missing something, but I hope there’s something helpful on that list for you! You’re definitely not alone in this.

    Aprilynne Pike, who’s been on writing excuses, said her secret for writing was low-maintenance children. :) I don’t know if she has any other ideas, but she did it. Lots of good luck to you.

    Posted by Miriel
  50. October 27, 2010 @ 9:29 am


    It’s a unique challenge to be a SAHM and write, and Brad’s right that it’s particularly hard to justify in the beginning when the writing addiction costs money (books, conferences, etc) instead of generating money. I have often said exactly what Dan said on the episode — that I just need a wife!

    I wrote my first manuscript when my kids were “in diapers” because I enjoyed daydreaming while doing the mindless tasks — like Miriel above. Now that my kids are pre-teens, I find that momming takes more mental energy. I have to actually listen when they talk. :)

    And, it’s pretty hard to write while driving them to their endless activities. Especially since they are chatting with me the whole way. But isn’t that really more important than my daydreaming? When they stop wanting to talk to me, then I’ll worry.

    So here’s what I tell myself: writing is the most awesome career because you never get too old to do it. I have tons of years left. Unless I lose mental faculty early, but then, will I care? Hee hee.

    I just keep up the writing dream, and live in my season. This year, I am doing Nanowrimo *with* my homeschooled daughter, so I think I may be heading toward the season where I can share my writing obsession with at least one in my fam. Nice.

    Posted by Amber M
  51. October 27, 2010 @ 9:53 am


    I am an engineer, I run a 140 acre farm with my wife, I have two kids, I am the instructor for a local riding club, I have friends and family that need attention, and don’t forget the other hobbies. I used to think I was out of time or too tired and needed to “recharge”. I found the answer in a fable where the man complained about his house being too small to the guru. The Guru told the man to move his parents in. The next week the man came back and said “This is horrible, it is worse.” The Guru told him to move in his animals. A week later, the same thing again, so on and so on. In the end, the Guru tells the man to move everyone out of the house. All of a sudden the man thinks “Wow, my house is really big without all that other stuff in it.” The point is, take on a few more things for a month. The next month you will find you have a lot of time and energy.

    Posted by Carl
  52. October 27, 2010 @ 11:36 am


    @Miriel – you are amazing!

    As far as ending with a preposition, if it’s okay with Winston Churchill, it’s okay by me.

    And Howard’s pants are (is?) my favorite running joke of this podcast.

    Many thanks again for this one. I’m going to forward it to some friends of mine who need it, and insist they read the comments as well.

    Posted by Laurie
  53. October 27, 2010 @ 1:18 pm


    Laurie: This episode, or Writing Excuses in general?

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  54. October 27, 2010 @ 2:35 pm


    @Miriel: You’re my hero. :)

    All these comments are making me realize that my life is really not all that busy, and most of the excuses I use not to write are pretty weak. The biggest ones are that feeling of inferiority that others have mentioned, and also a debilitating lack of motivation (not just to write, but to do much of anything) during the times when my struggle with depression is at its worst. Actually, that’s a podcast I’d be interested in: how to keep yourself writing while dealing with something like depression. Some might not find the topic useful, but I’m sure I’m not the only one with problems like that. Of course, I also suspect that better writing habits would go a long way in helping me on that front, so the answer is probably similar to what we’ve heard before: just keep going, even when you don’t feel like it or it doesn’t seem worth it.

    Posted by Ruthann
  55. October 27, 2010 @ 2:53 pm


    Laurie: Do you think they should start the show with… “This is Writing Excuses, only 15 minutes long, and Howard’s not wearing any pants!” LOL.

    As to the stay at home moms, I don’t know you all can take care of a house and a family and still find time to write. I salute the one’s that can. It’s hard enough to find the time even though I’m single with no kids. Instead I have two full time minimum wage jobs to deal with, one to pay the rent the other for everything else. I first wrote that my excuse was that I had no ideas to write about, but that is the result of my main problem, not the cause. Fatigue is the cause of my problem. After a 16 hour work day with only an hour between jobs to eat something and get to my next job, when I finally get home and find a few minutes to sit down in front of my computer to write, the only thing my mind wants to do is find a deep dark hole and crawl in.

    Posted by Oletta
  56. October 27, 2010 @ 7:23 pm


    @Howard – the entire podcast, of course. :-)

    @Oletta – Well, of course! :-)

    The advice and support in Writing Excuses is invaluable, but I’m a sucker for a cheap laugh.

    Posted by Laurie
  57. October 27, 2010 @ 7:25 pm


    @Howard – sorry, it’s late, I mean the entire run of Writing Excuses. I remember those early ones.

    Posted by Laurie
  58. October 28, 2010 @ 1:16 pm


    @Howard et al: I hope it is clear that I wasn’t pointing the finger at anyone’s family situation and suggesting that any person here in particular is taking liberties at the expense of anyone else. To be clear, I wasn’t trying to comment on you and Sandra. My comment was about me and, as I’m planning to become a Mom as soon as possible, my own fears that in doing so, *I* will feel not okay about household tasks being my sole focus, because I am a writer and that’s important to me. My wife has her own pursuits, and I imagine she feels the same. I made the comment I did because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this lately, and the importance of balance. My writing isn’t more important than her love of music. I want to make sure I respect that going forward.

    Posted by Eliyanna
  59. October 28, 2010 @ 10:36 pm


    Excuses out of you are, now go write you must.
    ~Yoda ;)

    Posted by Stacie
  60. October 28, 2010 @ 11:01 pm


    And for the textually oriented among us… a transcript.

    http://mbarker.livejournal.com/196034.html

    Posted by Mike Barker
  61. October 29, 2010 @ 5:36 am


    Thanks for the transcript Mike. I really appreciate it.

    Posted by Oletta
  62. October 29, 2010 @ 4:42 pm


    Thanks, Oletta. Nice to know they are being read.

    Incidentally, for the engineers or any others who are feeling lonely, go over to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and sign up! Then, Monday, start writing. You’ll also get invitations to various events and other stuff to remind you to write. Come on in, the waters fine!

    Posted by Mike Barker
  63. October 29, 2010 @ 10:24 pm


    As a software engineer who’s done NaNo before, Mike’s right. In some areas especially the community is amazing (I live in Denver and the people here are great, as an example :))

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  64. November 2, 2010 @ 12:38 pm


    Dear Writing Excuses,

    Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in NaNoWriMo this year because Brandon Sanderson is an evil genius who writes really, really long books, and I have two of them to read this month, although I’m re-reading one of them.

    Now see? THAT’S a good excuse ;)

    Tony

    Posted by Anthony Pero
  65. November 3, 2010 @ 6:42 am


    […] bit of a re-motivation, especially after catching up on my Writing Excuses podcast episodes. Their October 24 episode 5.8: The Excuses You’re Out Of was only one of many reminders in the past week of how much I need to keep at this, if only to keep […]

    Posted by Stephanie di Bona
  66. November 5, 2010 @ 6:37 am


    Long-time listener, first-time caller. I like the podcast a lot. I listen to it while I’m running. I laugh out loud, and sometimes I pause it to argue with you. People give me looks. It’s okay.

    I am, like some people, a little bothered by Dan’s whole explanation of what his wife does. I’m sure that he didn’t mean for it to sound like “Sexist Excuses,” but as a bit of writing advice it was… what? Go find SuperWife who will watch the kids while you write, play video games and work?

    My stay-at-home wife would kill me.

    If you guys are having this much trouble with a female perspective, maybe you should just add one of your female guest-stars as a regular. The podcasts with Jessica, Mary and Janci were all really good. I would love to hear Shannon Hale on the podcast.

    Posted by Spencer Ellsworth
  67. November 6, 2010 @ 12:35 pm


    Today I’m using episodes of Writing Excuses as rewards when I hit my wordcount goals. How’s that for no excuses?

    Btw Dan, you’re books don’t stink. They’re awesome!

    Posted by Sariah
  68. November 17, 2010 @ 4:04 am


    A long time since my last comment…

    I very enjoyed this postcast because there is something pleasant to hear that even great authors can have “bad excuses” to spend their time to another thing but not writing!! Sometimes, it’s, at last, good excuses to me (family, job) and sometimes this is very bad excuses!! Ah, ah! I’m human after all and it’s confortable to learn it from people I respect so much…
    The internet is a trap in a certain way because it is so easy to let the time passed away! But my most recurring excuses are, indeed, the fact that my job turned my brain in a complete empty space in the end of the day… Sometimes, I find ideas or inspiration in the evening but mostly, nothing come to me!
    An other excuse is that I loose my muse for weeks and suddenly, ideas come to me like flashes and whatever could be the tiredness, I write and write again!

    Thanks guys for the post !

    Posted by Clémentine
  69. November 19, 2010 @ 2:12 pm


    I appreciated the comments about the strain of being a stay-at-home-mom and a writing professional. From 7-6, I’m a SAHM to three young children. From 6-10 I’m a college writing teacher, and I’m either teaching class or immersed in reading and grading others’ (often bad) writing. From 10 to 7 I’m a breastfeeding mother who loses multiple hours of sleep each night.

    I don’t intend to give up or use these things as a reason to strop trying, of course, but it made me feel better to hear someone say that the lack of time and the exhaustion caused by each of these two occupations can be a significant obstacle to writing. I’ve been wondering if I was simply weak and inherently deficient to be struggling to find time and energy to write.

    I am most grateful, however, for the specific suggestions for overcoming time constraints and mental fatigue. I think they’ll be useful.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by Heidi
  70. December 28, 2010 @ 7:59 pm


    THANK YOU! I’m only in 8th grade, but I have a lot of writing-nerd friends (I include myself in this group) who write constantly. I also have a lot of friends who want to write, but don’t because they “don’t have time”. I keep telling them: yes you do! If I can get straight A’s, watch my siblings 1-4 days a week, be a teenage therapist, be in showchoir (lots of rehearsals, have a boyfriend, AND write full-length play, then anyone else can write. So, world, you’re out of excuses. Go write.

    Posted by Sheena
  71. September 26, 2011 @ 1:09 pm


    Glenn Cook used to work in car factory where the machine requires his attention for about 5 seconds every minutes. He cranked out the first 3 Black Company this way.

    Posted by BigFire
  72. November 29, 2011 @ 1:26 pm


    I keep hearing practice, practice, practice. And understandably so. My question is … is there ever a time when it’s too late to start? Is there an age where if you just now started writing, along with working full time and (in my case) also being in school, writing whenever you can, when it’s too late to really get enough experience to have a chance at being a successful published writer?

    Posted by Raven Marlow
  73. May 28, 2013 @ 12:41 pm


    Raven: No. There are writers out there, having theire breakethrough pretty late in life. Don’t get intimidated by young talents, creating their first big novel and winning the first awards just aged 17. This happens. Even if your first novel will hit the shops when you are 70. It will be worth it.

    Posted by Mela