Saturday, September 20, 2008

Want To Be A Writer? What Are You Wating For?

A few weeks ago, I received the following joke from one of the subscribers:

Q. What do you call an aspiring writer?
A. A waiter.

As someone who loves words, and especially plays on words, I found the double-meaning in this little riddle particularly interesting-the answer could either be referring to "waiter" as a profession (i.e., someone who waits on tables in a restaurant while working on his Great Novel), or simply "waiter" as a noun (someone who waits).

Are you an aspiring freelance writer? If so, what are you waiting for?

"I want to write children's books someday," my co-worker Wendy admitted at a recent baby shower we both attended. "I'm just waiting until my kids are a little older." Will Wendy have more time "someday," once the kids are in school, and have joined extra-curricular activities that send her scurrying from soccer games to piano recitals? Or is the time right for her NOW, while
her little ones by her own admission provide her with almost daily inspiration for books and stories? I think you know the answer.

If you've been thinking about writing someday, what keeps you from writing now? Could it be, like Wendy, a perceived lack of time? Or perhaps you are waiting until you've studied enough books about writing, have enough money in the bank to support your freelance dream full-time, or you get that new computer you've been dreaming about. Maybe you've promised yourself that you'll start writing regularly after you've set up the perfect home office, or you'd feel less guilty about writing if you cleaned your house first.

Regardless of your reason, and regardless of how you justify it, the fact is that you are simply procrastinating. To realize your writing dream, you need to write. To have a book written, an article published, a steady stream of corporate clients or an ezine of your own, you need to write today. Not after the holidays, or after you've memorized all 1112 pages of the Writer's Market. Now.

According to Dr. Kent Yamauchi at Virginia Tech University, procrastination "is letting low-priority tasks get in the way of high-priority ones." Now, in Wendy's case, raising her toddlers certainly doesn't qualify as a "low-priority task," particularly since she also holds down a demanding full-time job. But I'm willing to bet that if she examined how she spent her days, she'd find that she spends enough time doing low-priority tasks
(watching television, for instance) that, if she put it to use writing instead, she'd be able to create her first children's book in less than six months.

So, how do you get started turning "someday" into "today?" This weekend, I challenge you to do the following:

1. First, write down your number one writing goal-writing your first novel, publishing articles, making the leap from part-time to full-time freelancing, or whatever it may be. This is your personal mission statement. This is what you want to achieve during the next six to 12 months.

2. Next, write down every reason and excuse you have used to postpone pursuing your writing goals, from the littlest ("I'll start writing as soon as I get over this head cold.") to the largest ("I don't have a clue how to write a book-I need to take a course or read about it first.")

3. After each reason or excuse, write the words "No, you don't. You can start right now."

4. Read both the reasons and the responses aloud. Maybe you'll find that even more reasons surface for putting off your writing career. Write those down, too, followed by the words "No, you don't. You can start right now." Keep this up until you've exhausted every reason and excuse you might possibly have.

5. Lastly, write the question: "Is there ANY reason why I can't write for at least 15 minutes a day?" Think about how you spend your time, from the moment you awake until you collapse into bed each night. Can you forgo reading the comics in the morning paper, or skip watching a television show, to get those 15 minutes? Can someone else do the supper dishes for a change, or start a load of laundry? Do you have to answer the telephone every time it rings, or play one more game of computer solitaire? I think that, for the
vast majority of us, we'll find that the answer to the above question is a resounding, "NO."

From this weekend forward, promise yourself that you will spend no fewer than 15 minutes a day on the writing goal you put in writing above. You can spend more, but no less, than 15 minutes every day. Can you honestly say you can't do that?

Then, what are you waiting for? Let's go.

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