by Elizabeth McCallister
I guess you can tell from the title that this isn’t going to be one of my more positive (if I ever write such things) blogs. Normally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions – they’re so easy to make and even easier to break. However, I had hoped that maybe, just maybe if I cleared enough off my personal to-do list, that I could get back into my regular writing routine. You know all those things that you simply must get done first in order to write. The list for every person might be different but most of us have them.
In fact, you might call them our excuses. The lies that we tell ourselves because we’re not being as productive as a writer as we know that we need to be. I’ve called them excuses or lies because professional writers don’t hide behind them. My excuses are as follows: I was working overtime before Christmas, I work with numbers mainly, Christmas got in the way, housework piled up, and family members were seriously ill in hospitals. Now, I can make a fairly convincing argument that all of the above are good reasons for slipping away from the empty page. Generously, you might agree with me.
Yet, this is a blog about being a writer not about excuses for not being one. If I can deconstruct some of my excuses, perhaps you can deconstruct some of yours. My favourite reason is that working with numbers might shut down the language part of my brain, but I know of poets who are accountants and engineers in their day jobs. I even find that working with lists (and what else are spreadsheets but lists of a sort) clears my mind for writing. Next “reason” is all that working overtime makes me tired and want to veg in front of the T.V. So now, I’m getting cranky because I’m behind in my reading and turning into a couch potato instead. I can’t even figure out my logic in that one except my eyes are tired from too much 8 point type.
The traditional excuses are work and family pressures. Yet, there are writers who have made the time round those things. One Canadian novelist and poet whose day job was a teacher used to wake up at five in the morning so that he could write. There’s the possibly apocryphal story of a Canadian woman writer who used her arts grant to hire a babysitter to watch her children so she could write. Modern technology has given us even more reasons to fritter our hours away – Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Spider Solitaire – take your favourite.
In the end, all that makes us writers is writing for the reader. That means taking the time every day to face the empty page or empty computer screen and do it.
Elizabeth McCallister grew up in Scarborough now resides in Brantford. She is currently a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective, enjoys poetry readings and has been a winner in Cambridge Libraries’ Poem A Day contest.