The despicable little forces that convince us to put things off for another hour, day, week, month, year, then oh guess what? It’s too late. You’re old, decrepit, facing death, and those books you wanted to write, the ones that you knew were in you and that would come forth if you just let them, withered away like ash.
Excuses are what keep us from doing what’s uncomfortable. They keep us safe, in the comfort zone, whatever that might be. Mentally, figuratively, literally. Doesn’t matter. Their main role is to trick us into thinking we’re making the right choice, because they’re afraid of being ignored. Because when we don’t listen to the excuses? When we don’t agree with them and bring them to reality? Then they have no purpose. Then it’s they that fade and wither away like ash.
In certain situations where discomfort arises — like those that might call ethics or morals into question — it makes sense to turn around and walk the other way. This goes without saying.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about EXCUSES, the things that form themselves into invisible little ticks and burrow deep into the mind. They are seductive forms of fear that allow us to justify not doing what we know we want to do and what we know we can do and what we know we must do. And why listen? Why avoid doing all of those things that when acted upon make us feel full and whole and complete?
Because moving forward on that work is scary as hell.
It’s frightening. It’s uncomfortable. It’s having the sheets ripped off you at dawn and a bucket of ice water dumped on your face. It’s also the realization that we have the potential at all times to bring forth something different, something broader. Not bigger, but deeper, transcending.
When it comes to writing, The Excuse is the ultimate deterrent. It’s the seed of procrastination and it’s beyond easy to fertilize the thing with fleeting thoughts of agreement that allow it to grow and then overly convince the mind to move on to something else for now.
No no no, it says. Don’t write that. That’s too raw, too deep. You don’t need to go that far. People won’t know the difference anyway. That’s weird, they’ll think that’s weird. You might not want to write this book after all.
In the morning, my excuses come to me with this echo: It’s too early, sleep in for another five minutes. No, 10 minutes. Just make it a half hour. Tomorrow’s better suited for this anyway, just do it tomorrow. You didn’t sleep much last night anyway. And you’ve got a full day ahead, so you need your energy.
At night, it’s a different echo, but just as convincing: Whoa, dude. Long day, eh? Kids are in bed, you’ve got time to yourself, but why put your mind through more work? Your mind needs to rest. So let it. Kick back, have a drink, even a seltzer with ice, just something, and watch a movie, some TV. It’ll ease your mind a bit. Just let it go and relax. Deal with this tomorrow.
But tomorrow, there will be more excuses. There will be other reasons to avoid this stuff, the writing, the facing of myself. The conscious mind, the one that’s been filled for years with thoughts of how to avoid digging deep, and avoid that discomfort zone, it will find a way to persuade that tomorrow is indeed better. It will always say this.
Excuses will always arrive like a train, on schedule, every time. I’ve hopped on enough of these rides in my life that I’ve allowed ideas to brew in my head for years without acting on them and getting them onto the page. These are ideas I’m now revisiting and planting the seeds for. And the excuses still come. They still try to drive me away from it all. Because that’s what I’m used to. That’s what I’m comfortable with.
But the truth of it is, avoiding the words — avoiding the creation of light and darkness and channeling what’s inside into characters and stories — it’s not state of relaxation. It’s a breeding ground for guilt and anxiety and frustration later.
So, let the the excuses come, because they will. Let them whirl their way around the head, through the ears, across the eyes, let their patterns do their hypnotic thing. And then, when they’re done, ignore them completely, and get to work.
And when the work is done, when you’ve pushed through the pain of that first step, and you’ve completed the task — the planning, the designing, the story, the page, the chapter, whatever it is — once that is done, a settling begins to occur within. Like the sandy shore under calming tides, that lingering anxiety and frustration begins to settle down, and the water becomes clear. Tranquility begins to rise.
So, allow that train to pass. Don’t get on it. Move past the stop and go back to the page.
Write, and watch the shore within your tide begin to settle.