Monday, September 21, 2009

Excuses, Excuses. Or, Just Shut Up and Write.

Writers are great at excuses – for missing deadlines, not having enough time to write, missing their muse, why they'd be more productive with a different computer, software, chair, day job, office, life. Yeah, I'm guilty too.

So, sometimes it's instructive (and humbling) to consider those writers who really do have excuses – and don't use them, but instead accomplish something significant.

Like Laura Hillenbrand, who, because of chronic fatigue syndrome and severe vertigo, could only research and write Seabiscuit a few sentences at a time, sometimes in a reclining position with her eyes closed.* Or, Jean-Dominique Bauby, a victim of locked-in syndrome, who wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly one letter at a time, by blinking one eye in response to an alphabet chart held up by a therapist.

I was reminded about this today when I read the following in a brief interview:

"LO: Is there anything you’d like to accomplish that you haven’t gotten the chance to do yet?
PS: I’m working on a long poem. … I’d like to write a book on my teaching method, and I’m going to be writing a book about the fact that I’m dyslexic."

Dyslexic? Who is PS? Oh, that's just the Founder of the Writers Studio and 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz.

* Hillenbrand's New Yorker essay about how she was first stricken and coped with her disease for 10+ years, can be found here.


Susan Cross said...

All good stuff. My chapter of the National League of American Pen Women has a member in her 90s that never goes to bed without writing and drawing (pen & ink). Her shaking hands are no excuse. I have no right to complain of self-pity although I've got the writer's blues today.

Anonymous said...

I'd love some advice for "writer's excuse," I think I have a duezy, (sp)? But I'm also sure it's very common. I know I have great stories to tell, because when I open up to friends or family, even my teenagers, they all say the same thing; "wow,you really need to write this down." Well, I do in spurts, when the creative bubble within becomes too great to ignore. But I generally write longhand, ramble, and can't decide where to start or stop. I have had college courses on writing, but it's been awhile. The real problem that I'm dancing around is that what I have to say, stories from my past, some deep dark secrets and feelings, may hurt those I love. Do I write fiction and pretend it happend to someone else? Pretty unrealistic, considering those closest to me, like my husband of 19 years, knows me pretty well and could guess that it was myself I was talking about. We met when I was just 18 and a freshman in college, but I had a pretty, well, for lack of a better word, dramatic life before him, and it continued for a time when we were first together. I know I've heard that songwriters who write about past loves explain to their signigicant others that they are tapping into old feelings and that it doesn't mean they feel that way now. My husband is pretty understanding, but there are things that I'm not sure he wants to know, or I want him to know about my past, and past and even present feelings about that past (not to mention my feelings about how that may implicate his own feelings about his past relationships) Confusing, I know, but what do most writers do? I think I need to take a creative writing class to sort this out, but any advice in the meantime? Stick to lighter topics maybe? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me... J.