Quit Making Excuses

At least until you get six-figure advances, when you meet people and they ask what you do, beware of telling them you’re a writer. Too often they’ll think you make lots of money. If you’re honest, you’ll admit you don’t. And suddenly they won’t appear to find you as interesting as they did when they saw dollar signs.

Or they’ll tell you they too are going to become writers as soon as they can find the time.

Nobody I’ve ever met has ample time to write. We get the time by stealing it. We take jobs that give us long weekends, and/or find part-time jobs or husbands or wives who won’t expect much money out of us, and/or take our kids to day-care and hustle or pray for tuition money, and/or resign ourselves to five or six hours of sleep a night and/or pass up weekend softball leagues or vacations. When our family suggests a day trip to the beach, we often ask them to go without us and spend our first hour of freed writing time suffering flashbacks of their parting looks or comments.

One evening in Tae Kwon Do, when the time for my black belt test was nearing, I encountered Master Jeong in the locker room and explained why I wasn’t coming to class often enough and admitted I realized that to progress required at least three classes a week. I meant to come more often, I told him, once Little League season ended and released me from managing Cody’s baseball team.

Master Jeong listened to all that. Then, without a nod, a grimace or a word, he turned and walked off. I supposed he was preoccupied.

A week or so later, I found him in a congenial mood. We chatted about some mutual concerns before, once again, I explained my failure to attend more often.

Without expression or comment, he walked away.

After three or four such responses (I’m not always quick-witted), I recognized that people making excuses, reasonable or not, might as well be invisible, and inaudible.

Why we fail to perform doesn’t matter. Our reasons are of no consequence. Missing classes (or writing sessions) because of working the three jobs I need to send my daughter to college will affect my performance in the same way as if I missed them because of an addiction to Survivor.

To earn a black belt, I needed to change my habits. Simple.

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