3 Ways to Quit Waiting for “Perfect” Writing Conditions

3 Ways to Quit Waiting for “Perfect” Writing Conditions

My brain’s too foggy. The kids stressed me out. I don’t feel good. I’m too tired. My to-do list is calling. I only have a few minutes. The house is a mess. I need coffee. I’ve had way too much coffee. It’s better for me to write in the morning. I have no good ideas. I’m not good at writing. It’s too loud in my house. The kids will be up soon, anyways. I don’t know what to write. My desk is cluttered.

Do any of these sound familiar? Am I reading your mind? Are these types of thoughts keeping you from writing?

Perfect conditions

I could list 100 or more of these thoughts.

I come up with new ones every single day (if only I were so creative in my writing!).  I have not written anything for about two weeks and this perpetual way of thinking really flatlines my writing efforts.

Most of the time, I feel like I am just waiting for the perfect conditions for writing. And as you would expect, those magical conditions never happen.

It’s like I am putting off getting what I need to done until the sun and the moon and the stars align just so.

Then, and only then, I believe I will be able to sit and write with no worries and the words will just flow effortlessly out of my brain and into my fingers as they tap delightfully on my keyboard. And nothing will distract me from my incredible focus because my brain is fresh and clear and I’ve had just the right amount of caffeine to keep me going until every last thought has been captured in the most eloquent way possible.

And yet, even the cosmic rarity of the sun and the moon meeting in a total solar eclipse was not enough to get me to write. Not even one word.

writing conditions Reality

The truth is, the conditions will never be perfect.

I mean, they might have been if I had chosen to be single. And if I had been independently wealthy. And maybe if I lived in some beautiful remote location, with not a care in the world and even a personal chef to boot!

But I’m not and I don’t. Sigh.

I have 3, soon to be 4, kids and a husband who runs his business from home.

My house is loud and disorganized. I don’t even have a desk. Well, actually I do, but I had the brilliant idea to set up my writing station in the kids’ playroom. As if I would have been able to work while the munchkins screamed and played and climbed all over me. Now the desk is so deeply buried that I couldn’t even sit there if I wanted to.

Talk about imperfect conditions!

So, now I’ve come face to face to with reality. All my “perfect condition” requirements are just fantasies that are preventing me from getting into the nitty gritty. The hard aspects of writing. The sitting down and actually doing it, without the reasons and excuses that I allow to hold me back.

The hard part

Writing is an exercise that must be strengthened with practice. Is it hard to sit down at the computer and write while the kids are playing (or screaming or fighting or worse)? Yes.

Is it frustrating to be interrupted just when you’ve gotten to a really good stage of the writing process? Yes.

But, if you don’t work at it, you will continue to get the same results. Day after day of blank pages.

How can you get past the excuses and learn to write no matter the weather? Try these three tips.

1. Recognize the BS thinking

Learn to catch the habitual thoughts in action and recognize them for the excuses that they are. Just doing this removes their power.

Take “The house is a mess” for example. Is it really true that you can’t write until the house is clean? Or, perhaps, you can recognize that the urge to tidy up might be because it is easier to do that than write, and set a goal to pick up the house after you’ve accomplished a writing goal.

2. Stop taking your own temperature

Letting your mood dictate whether it is a good time to write is a quick way to end up not writing. It’s time to stop being so concerned with whether you feel “right” enough to write.

Instead, put pen to the paper, no matter what you are thinking or feeling.

3. Treat writing like the job that it is

Writing is hard work, especially when you don’t have a formal job structure to keep you on target. Setting strict deadlines and blocking out dedicated times to write can really help get you past the excuses.

And with that, you can get back on track. A writing schedule keeps me committed regardless of how I am thinking or feeling about the task at hand. My silver spoon fantasies still linger but I know what happens when I heed them. Nothing. Nothing at all.

What is your most creative (or ridiculous) excuse not to write? Or, if you’ve conquered your own excuses, share your successful strategy to help other writers.

Filed Under: Craft
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  • Matt says:

    thank you for sharing this. a friend sent me the link and it’s exactly what i need right now. it’s easy (at least for me) to get idealistic and lost in my mind when it comes to writing. a fancy way of saying to procrastinate. sometimes we need the hard truth, which you so succinctly and directly describe here. thanks again!!

  • MT Global says:

    Thanks for sharing such an informative article.

  • Brian says:

    My early mornings are my “writing” and “reading” times. Unfortunately for me, I let my “reading” time overtake the entire morning and before I know it I have to get ready for work. This, plus my years-long procrastinating habit prevents me from getting real writing done. Looking back over my dozens of flash and short pieces that I’ve yet to polish and submit it seems I was at my most creative when single, broken up and drinking, and now I’m very happily married, much more upbeat than ever before, and imbibing much less that ever. Gotta figure this one out…

  • Chelsea says:

    OH MAN, this speaks straight into my soul. Thank you a million times!

  • Ebony W. says:

    This is so true! I’m always making excuses and will definitely use these tips. Thank you so much.

  • Oliver Loren says:

    My excuse: I’m out of Monsters. Time to go get another 24 pack.

    This is one topic that will never run out of content. 🙂

  • Katie says:

    This hits home for me! I currently live in an apartment that doesn’t have the extra space to make myself an office, so I have to sit at the kitchen table or bedroom to write. With two roommates, it gets a little difficult to stay focused and I find myself making excuses to not right. Definitely time to suck it up, though. Thanks for the wake up call and great advice!

  • Theresa says:

    I would say comparing myself to others. Thinking that everyone is a better writer than me.
    I am trying to tune that voice out – and writing something every single day seems to be helping.

  • Number two is what gets me every single time: I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve told myself I’m not in the mood to write. And every time, it turns out I am apparently in the perfect mood for almost everything else, up to and including staring at the wall wishing I had something to do.

    • Sarah Gilbert says:

      Yes, this really is a good one! There was a time when I would say, I want to write, although what about? I would get my page, & it wasn’t long til I had my subject & would start typing. I had my general thought & expaned on it.

  • Emb says:

    Put your book on pre-order. That guarantees sleepless nights.

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Sarah Gilbert says:

    Sometimes, it can be tempting, however, we must resist all tempting things that will keep you from writing. Messages from friends, special people, it will all be there when you the writer do your writing things. This is all a good lesson in self disipline.

  • Colin says:

    Really good three tips. When I fire up my lap top, I go straight to a novel, poem or short story and write. Not divert to reading emails etc… Sometimes it’s a splurge through to a complete chapter, but it might be a few sentences. A thousand words a day is a target figure, but it’s important to keep alive in your mind the story development. Also a regular daily write time is important. Two to four pm works for me. This enables other tasks to be achieved, but also preparation to be made, ideas to form- ready for lift- off on the keyboard. Sentences might be sketched on paper before a chapter begins. Scheduled dates for completion do focus the mind and that felt demand to write-whatever else! Re-writes can be ruthless or nuanced, but these are inevitable. You need to go with the flow on a first write.

  • This is so great, Sara! And so true! Thanks! 🙂

  • Mia Anstine says:

    This year I’ve made it my goal to work through this exact thing. That is to say, I’ve quit making the excuses and I’ve found ways to just write. Some days it’s only a paragraph and others an essay. What I’ve noticed is that it gets easier as I go. Yesterday was a particularly tough one for me and I managed to orate an article about my struggle which was relevant to my readers and helped me unclog the mind process. Now to go submit one before the deadline. Great share. Thank you.

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