In every story idea workshop I lead, I get at least one student who prefaces their e-mail with, “I didn’t get the work done this week because …
… my kids were sick and then my husband and I caught the bug.”
… I had to work late every night and I was exhausted by the time I got home.”
… I couldn’t get out to the library/bookstore this week — too busy!”
… it was crazy around here. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up.”
I even had one student e-mail me with at least three long paragraphs about why she didn’t do the work. It must have taken her 30 minutes to write each e-mail, a half hour she could have spent writing down ideas, fleshing out a query, or researching a topic.
I’m going to be honest here, and maybe sound a bit cold-hearted. When I see these excuses — and that’s exactly what they are, excuses — I roll my eyes. And if I were a betting woman, I’d put money down that these folks will never get their freelance writing careers off the ground. The excuses aren’t holding them back. It’s the belief behind them, which is, “I can’t do the work because the time isn’t right.”
I’m here to tell you the time will never be right or feel right to begin a writing career.
Moreover, if you manage to overcome that hurdle, you’ll find the universe won’t cooperate when you do have work, when there are sources to interview, deadlines to meet, and editors to appease. Over the last year I’ve known professional writers who’ve kept their careers humming despite cancer diagnoses and treatment, crippling financial problems, the death of a spouse or sibling, divorce, layoffs, their dog eating string and needing emergency surgery, sick kids, crazy full-time jobs, unsupportive spouses, and wedding planning — either their own or a child’s. Still, they got their articles assigned, stories written, and checks in the mail. Life happens. Of course life often knocks you off your feet and you need time to pull yourself up.
But if you find that you’re continually blaming the universe’s curveballs for why you’re not developing story ideas, writing queries, and sending your work out into the yonder, maybe it’s time to realize what you’re really doing is waiting for your life to be perfect.
Does this sound like you?
If you’re really serious about freelancing, you need to stop waiting for an immaculately organized home filled with super-immune kids and a dog that behaves around string. Every time you hear yourself making an excuse for why you can’t write a query or jot down notes about a potential story, ask yourself, “Is there something small I could do instead”” or “How can I break that task down so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming”” Taking this tack gets you thinking like a performer instead of an excuse-maker, and taking small steps in the face of resistance is way better than giving in wholly to that resistance.
Do you find yourself waiting for “the right moment” to start your career, or even a story? How do you overcome this feeling? Please add your comments below. [db]