Thursday, September 24, 2009


by Dave White
Dear Every Relative, Colleague, Friend, or Random Person on the Street,

I'm going to lay a little truth on you. I'm going to tell you what motivates me to write each day.

I love to write, but it's very hard to find the time to write.

My fiancee and I are planning a wedding. I'm a public school teacher. For another month, I'm still under thirty and I like to hang out with my friends. Have a little free time.

Sometimes it feels like writing should get put by the wayside. It's tough to sit down every day and write.

But I do it.

What motivates me?

Sometimes it's an email from fellow Do Some Damage-er Steve Weddle dragging me into a contest as to who can finish the draft of our novel first. I love stuff like this. Writing is such a solitary job (and yes, it is a job) that a little competition can go a long way.

Winning or losing doesn't matter (at least that's what Steve'll say when I kick his butt). What matters is getting the book done. Sitting there every day and getting something down on the paper. Getting that much closer to the finish line. Finishing a novel is a goal. It's a marathon.

And if you do it every day it becomes a habit.

That's why it bugs me when people come up to me and say, "I used to write. I don't have time anymore." or "I have so many ideas, I should write a novel. But I just don't have time." And their tone is clear. It's I'm better than you at writing. If I were to sit down and write it, my novel would be the greatest thing ever and make yours look like dirt. And they sit there and wait for you to say something.

It's as if these people are coming to me for abosolution. As if I'm going to sit there and say, "You know what? You're right. You're better than me. You just don't have time. You shouldn't feel the least bit guilty that you want to write, but won't find the time."

Becuase that's just it. It's not a matter (for the most part) of not having the time. It's a matter of WANTING to have the time.

And guess what... until you find the time to write... you're not better than me.

If you really want to write, you'll find the time. You'll sit down every day. And if you are better than me, you'll be published. And you'll motivate me some more. Because I want to get better. I want to beat you.

And right now, you're making it easy to beat you. I just have to tell you how I wrote for another two hours after work last night and then watch in your eyes, how you get annoyed that you didn't have time.

There are a lot of writers out there that are better than me. That can write circles around me. And they also have the desire to keep writing every day. To find the time. I strive to be as good as these writers. I find the time every day to get better so I can come close to their talent.

But you have to do it. Discipline is as much a part of writing as having an idea. As putting the words on paper.

And that's what motivates me the rest of the time. The people that complain to me about not having the time. I don't want to become like them.

I want to finish my third, my fourth, my fifth, my sixth... and so on. And I'll make the time for it. I wrote my first novel between term papers in graduate school. I'm working on my third and fourth now, between calling churches, reception halls, and florists.

I know someone who has two really young kids (including a newborn--congrats!!) and is finding time to get his opus done.

We all have to work. We all have things to do. We all let real life get in the way sometimes.

But writers write.

I find the time.

That's how bad I want to write.


Gerard Brennan said...

Great post, Dave. My children are two and four. I have a wife and a full-time job. I got up at 5am this morning to 'find the time' to write. And I'll try and find an hour some time between dinner and bed too. A lot of the time I'd like to have a beer instead (and a few too many times I do), but... I'm a writer. I find time.



Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Dave, BRAVO! Great post. Many people use the "I don't have time" excuse to release them from doing all sorts of things they claim they want to in life. As cliche as the saying goes, "this ain't no dress rehearsal!" If you want it, you've got to make time for it. And if you don't, then you didn't want it bad enough.

I'm in awe of people like you who work full time and write. I did it for many years, and now have the luxury of spending all my time writing. It is a most extraordinary blessing. I get up in the morning, turn on my laptop, read a few amazing blog posts (*wink*) and get down to the business and art of writing. It's a dream come true.

And, congrats on the upcoming nuptials!

Scott D. Parker said...

Like you, finding the external motivation is often more rewarding than the internal one. The external one is often a contest or having to produce chapters each week for a fellow reader. That was the single biggest factor in me writing and completing my first book. The internal one is the nag. I have a mental war with The Nag just about everyday. One of the reasons I took to running again was to find other ways to deal with The Nag. He wants me to stop. I want to keep going. I war with him and I win. Same with writing. He wants me to read someone else's book. This summer, largely, he won. Now, I'm retaking the initiative.

Great post, Dave. You gave me additional motivation. BTW, what's the deadline for you and Steve's manuscript? I might like to throw my hat in the ring.

Unknown said...

God I thought this was just me that this happened to! I have a couple of people at my day job who do this to me on a daily basis. (I'm not kidding, daily.) They come up to me usually when I'm writing on my lunch hour and I'll be hunched over the machine typing and they peer over my shoulder and start telling me about the "foodie" mystery novel they outlined two months ago and the memoir they plan on writing as soon as they find "the time". (neither of these individuals read either, which drives me even further up the wall.) Like Gerard, I have a family, a full time job and I still "find" three hours a day to write and I actually feel guilty when I take a night off from it. BTW, Weedle's gonna take you down, Dave!

Michelle Monkou said...

I sent my critique group to read the words of wisdom and now they want to jump ship and join "this group with the hunky men." Not saying that you all aren't hunky, but you're distracting message LOL.

Loved this post. I've determined that people like to say they want to write. It's the fantasy life. When it comes to the real work, they are absent.

Like Debra, I just went to fulltime writing -- certainly a dream come true.

Unknown said...

Back when I was writing unpublished novels, I found that it wasn't the time I lacked, after working all day, but the energy.

John McFetridge said...

I like this story about Margaret Atwood. At a party a man asked her what she did and she said she was a writer. He said that was interesting and when he retired from being a surgeon and, "had the time," he was going to write a novel.

Margaret said, "That's funny, when I retire from writing books, I'm going to start doing a little surgery. When I have the time."

Dana King said...

This business of "not having time" comes up quite a bit in my critique group. I've come to realize there are a lot of people more enraptured with the IDEA of being a writer than they are with writing. They all love the idea of having written a book, but the writing of it keeps getting in the way.

Now I just stay quiet when those discussions break out.

Word verification = kflotem. An air mattress sold at IKEA.

Jay Stringer said...

Dana uses a key phrase there, about people liking the idea of having WRITTEN a novel. I think The McFet made a simmilar point recentley.

There's a big difference between liking the idea if having written a novel- which all of us would have had too at one point- and actually rolling up the sleeves, finding the time and getting dirty.

When people tell me they can't find the time, I show them the bags under my eyes and tell them that's how you find the time.

I agree 100% with Daves blog today, and with everyones comments. I would worry that we can start coming across as elitist, though, if there are people out there looking for tips. I think a good topic to follow up with will be some constructive tips on finding the time and balancing the myth with the reality.

mybillcrider said...

Amen, Dave. Preach it, brother! For a good many years, I was doing three and four books a year and teaching full time at a community college. I really got tired of people who told me they'd love to write but didn't have time.

John McFetridge said...

One of the things that has helped me "find the time," has been looking at my novel as 30 short fictions, 2500 words apiece.

That's also helped me cut down on those parts that are just advancing the plot and getting across the information, but aren't interesting stories on their own.

Of course, I should also say, my new novel has received some negative reviews complaining that it's too complicated and has too many characters, so this method isn't for everyone.

Dana King said...

Following up on John's comment, I used to struggle with finding the time or energy until my Beloved Spousal Equivalent taught me the concept of eating the elephant one bite at a time. Early in a project, it's too easy to gloss over the 10,000 words you've written and think about the 65,000 that still have to be done. Now I write 500-1,000 words a day. Not a lot, but I can fit it into my life and not feel guilty that I should have done more. Look back after a few months and a lot of writeng's been done.

Bryon Quertermous said...

As the guy with a new baby, working on revisions of my new book in the hospital while my wife and baby sleep, I agree with Dave. You don't need tips, you don't need suggestions, if you want to write a book you'll find the time.

You'll do more writing and less of something else. You're the only who can figure out for yourself if that means getting up earlier, going to bed later, missing TV, spending less time online, or giving up weed or whatever.

Russel said...

Right on, Mr White.

Not much else to add to everyone else's responses, but...

Writer's write. They make the time. They just roll up the sleeves and goddamn well do it. Anyone who doesn't get that, well, they don't get it and they probably never will.

The best "they don't get it" line I ever heard asked of a writer at a party by someone who just discovered what they did for a living was, "That's amazing... have you written anything good?"