The last half of 2018 was one of the most difficult periods of time I’ve ever endured as a creator.
I woke up and went to sleep angry and frustrated almost every day. I knew I was not in a creator-friendly environment. I was still learning how to be a parent (to a puppy). I was mentally and emotionally drained almost constantly. Making room for writing became more of a chore than a pleasure.
And over and over — I have the journal entries to prove it — I blamed my failures and took my frustration out on everyone else. Everyone except myself.
For some reason we get into this habit of blaming our problems on other people. And many never learn to take responsibility for their failures, shortcomings, and struggles.
“I would have written a book by now if my wife were more supportive.”
“I want to start a blog, but I can’t make time because I’m not in control of my own schedule.”
“I want to take time off for a writing conference, but my boss won’t let me.”
These are just examples of course, and maybe you’ve already thought of some better ones that reflect your personal circumstances more accurately.
But still, let me ask you this: Why are you treating your excuses like reasons, and why are you personifying your excuses by pairing them with the faces and names of people you know?
It is not your wife’s fault, your family’s fault, your boss’s fault, your dog’s fault, your best friend’s cousin’s nephew’s aunt’s co-worker’s fault you haven’t touched your writing goals yet.
It is yours.
Now, I’m not saying you’re a terrible person or a bad writer for having a bad attitude. A lot of people grow up in environments where excuses are plentiful and blame is the norm. They don’t always know anything different, or that they have to learn to think differently before they can make progress on even their smallest ambitions.
Just because it’s your fault doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. But only you can do that. The people around you probably aren’t going to change — especially not if you don’t change first. You have to make writing happen in the circumstances you’re in right now. You can’t wait around for things to “get better.” They won’t. Only you can.
I know that not everyone has the luxury (I hesitate using that word, but I suppose it fits here) of doing what they want to do when they want to do it. I learned that lesson the hard way last year. But I’m slowly learning to overcome that obstacle anyway.
Sometimes that means there’s less time for fun after a long day. I don’t get to watch as much TV. I’m already behind on my reading schedule for the year. I haven’t sat down with a cup of coffee and a book and stayed there for hours in so long I can’t remember when it last happened.
But I’m pursuing my goals and I’m writing more every day than I ever have before, because I stopped blaming other people and decided to take responsibility for my own actions.
Why didn’t I write that article last night? Because I chose to read a book and snuggle with my puppy instead of sitting at my desk with her under my feet. It was not her fault, she did not “prevent” me from doing what I needed to do. I actively chose not to do it. My fault.
But there’s another step to this. I can’t just blame myself for not writing the article and then sulk and get angry because I didn’t do the work. I also need to decide when I’m going to do the work instead, make a plan, and actually follow through. I can make better choices today. And if I don’t, that’s still on me.
If you’re not quite where you want to be in your life as a writer, guess whose fault it is? Completely yours. But you also have the power to turn things around, even if it doesn’t always feel like you do. So much of writing, as a process, is about attitude. There might be things going on in your life that are making it harder to write. But you can still make it work if you strive to do it anyway — and follow through.
What are you going to do today to claim full responsibility over your writing goals, roadblocks, and shortcomings? How are you going to do a little bit better today than you did yesterday? How are you going to make writing happen, no matter what?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.