No excuses

by Pari

This is being written in real time. Two, maybe three, minutes without editing. At least as much as I can do without editing. You see, people always talk about how they can’t find the time to write. Hell, I complain about it all the time, especially since I started working full time and am so tired when I come home from work. Mornings are out because I have to get up earlier than I’d like in the first place so that I can exercise. But writing, ah, writing, it’s exercise for the creative body and it needs its expression too. So, how long does it take to write, say, 100-500 words. I don’t know. I’m writing this as one of my kids goes to the bathroom ( I know, it’s not very glamorous that, but that’s the test I set up for myself), just typing as quickly as I could without editing until my kid gets out of the bathroom and we head to the store. It’d been two minutes now . . .and the door is opening. 178.

Day two: I wanted to make a point with this speed written blog. Namely, that it’s important to power through excuses because, most of the time, excuses are the stuff of fear. Of what? Of not being good enough, of not being profound enough, of not being able to hide from the fact that we’re never satisfied as creative with what we’ve created. The truth is, that’s a good thing. To be self-satisfied is to kill creativity. At least, that’s what I think. So here’s the blog. I’m going to type until I reach two minutes and then I’ll spend three or four to edit and then that’ll be it. I’ve already completed the equivalent of one double-spaced page and that was in  123: 2 minutes exactly

I wrote the first two paragraphs of this blog in a very short time . . . and decided not to edit. They’re not brilliant, I’ll grant you that. But they’re evidence of something that I have to face myself. There is always time to write! I noticed two things while trying to go as fast as I could:

  1. I couldn’t stand to make typos. I had to correct them and that took time I could’ve been creating.
  2. I wanted my writing to make sense and it was such a struggle not to go back and edit small phrases and punctuation while in the writing process. However, I only paused a few times, only corrected a few errors, too.

There’s no real profundity here, just a test that I’m sharing with you this week. I had originally thought about writing a blog about prejudice or something commemorating Dr. King, but this topic intrigued me.

After all, Dr. King didn’t let excuses or fear stop his mission, did he?

So today, why don’t you try this experiment too? Set a timer and go for 1-2 minutes in the comments and see what you come up with. It might be fun. It might reveal something interesting to you. Or don’t share the test with us . . . but do leave a comment. I’m actually home today and can answer.

By the way, this last segment — with its self-consciousness and spell checking in real time — took me 4:29 to write.  249 words.


23 thoughts on “No excuses

  1. Richard Maguire

    My problem, Pari, lies not with editing, as I take it as a given that I can't write interesting, or even good, prose. No, that's ancient history. So whenever I feel the urge to comment on Murderati it's accompanied by intimidation, that I've absolutely nothing worthwhile, not to mention original, to contribute, so I don't. But on the occasions when I give in to the urge, because the post has been a really good read, I write quickly, try to keep it short, and don't edit in case I screw the whole thing up. You know? – afraid to start second-guessing myself on what I want to say. So I leave it. And now that's just what I'm going to do.

  2. Alaina

    My daily goal is 100 words. If I'm healthy enough to sit at a keyboard, I get my 100 words, because I know I can do that in just a couple minutes. I usually get more, but the no-pressure goal makes it easier for me to get something done, rather than just do nothing because I won't reach my goal.

  3. Pari Noskin

    Really? Wow. You're channeling Stephen King? Wow x 5!

    You know, I just can't believe that all the prose you write is boring/bad. I don't buy it. And yet, for some reason, most of us writers sit with that mental tape in our heads playing loudly — and endless loop of barriers — rather than finding a way to turn it off.

    Your comment today is valuable on so many levels. Do me a favor: Stop selling yourself short.
    Do me another favor: When you read me doing it, call me on it. Okay?

  4. Pari Noskin

    Great goal! That 100 words is doable for just about anyone with a will to commit to getting them down some way somehow.

    I bet you find gems in that daily practice too, within the words and within the discipline of doing it. And you can't ever play the negative mental tape that begins with: "What right do I have to call myself a 'writer?'"

  5. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Great blog, Pari, and an example of what I'm fighting these days myself. Recently I met with a friend who managed to get through his writer's block by turning off his computer monitor (screen) while writing. He doesn't allow himself to see what he's written until after his writing period, which could be an hour or so. I think it's a great exercise. Maybe someday I'll rack up the courage to test it.

  6. Fran

    Does the writing have to be related to anything? Let's see, I'll have Lillian time me at two minutes and we'll see where it goes, 'kay? Ready, set…go.

    He stared around himself, uneasy, wondering what was wrong. The shape of the shadows? Maybe. The smell on the breeze? Perhaps. He leaned against a wall thinking furiously. Where did this feeling of being watched, of maybe being hunted come from? He shrugged. It was probably all in his head. After all, there wasn't much to be worried about, right? It was no big deal, just a job. Not his usual thing, but hey, it was work, and…wait, what was that noise? He turned around and

    Time's up. Whew! Eighty-six words, if I counted right. But I have to admit, I couldn't let an obvious typo stand. There may be some in there, but when my fingers fumbled, I had to correct.

    Interesting, Pari! Thanks!

  7. Zoë Sharp

    I'd second Pari and Alex – Richard, your comments are always worth reading. If it makes you feel any better, we're just as intimidated 🙂

    Nice post, Pari. I sometimes set myself word targets on a monthly rather than a daily basis, which allows for a bit of fluctuation in output without losing sight of the overall goal.

    But the majority of my work has always been done in the cracks of Other Things and I confess I quite like that – it does tend to concentrate the mind rather.

  8. Pari Noskin

    You've almost got a complete flash fiction story there! Wow.

    Thanks for piping up.

    I like the idea of writing between the cracks of Other Things. That appeals. I've also moved away from word count, though that sounds rather silly since I haven't been writing, but I think I'm going to see if I can play with the idea of time writing during the next few months and see where it might take me. I'm not talking about having large goals, just short achievable ones. I'll let you know what I think once I've tried the technique on for awhile.

  9. Robin McCormack

    Okay, will accept the challenge and typing on the fly. My problem is that I don't use my time wisely. I've been getting used to a new dynamic with homeschooling my son and that is he wants to do everything independently. Which you would think would leave me plenty of time to sit there and write. However you know the drill when suddenly finding yourself with more time. Household projects start popping up here and there when butt should be in the chair. I don't even have the excuse of the internet since I hand write everything and type it up later. So when I do type straight on the screen I'm going back and correcting every little thing. Yes, I can think and type on the fly, but sometimes my fingers are trying to go faster than my brain and get all fumbly. Nope, that's not a word, but we'll let it stand for now. Oh and the other excuse – all those good books you folks keep writing which I really should not start reading at breakfast because…. Yep, unputdownable and I'll just read for a few more minutes, then hubby gets up and there goes the hope of getting anything done until he leaves for work. Attention grabbing, my guys are. Although I'm happy to report my son takes advantage of every single second he can to write and gets so involved sometimes with his stories that he is willing to forgo his wii time to continue writing just a bit longer. Must be doing something right. Okay that's it. That's my confession and experiment for you. I think it was more than 2 minutes because I got interrupted by a customer and lost track of the time. 🙂

  10. KDJames

    Holy crap. People edit their comments? *looks around nervously* Maybe that's why everyone else's comments go through and I always end up in the dungeon… I'm starting to like the dungeon. We have alcohol and snacks down there.

    Richard, I look forward to your comments and always enjoy what you have to say. And I love your voice. Stop beating yourself up for no reason. Or at least let us help you find a more… interesting reason for self-flagellation.

    Pari, I'm really good at writing when I have limited time to do so. It's when I have "all the time in the world" that I tend to slack off and procrastinate. And take all the time in the world. Trying very hard to break that bad habit and schedule writing times during the day. Not easy, when you have no real deadlines to meet. Identifying the problem helps.

    Geez. Now I have to go back and edit this? Nope. Not gonna happen.

  11. Sarah W

    I have my Alton Brown approved kitchen timer ready, so:

    The problem with being wheeled out of the front door of the library in front of one's co-workers and patrons and God and everyone in an ambulance stretcher is that the grapevine goes insane. The reference staff called my department, but all they could say was that I felt dizzy, which is on the list of twelve known diseases (trust librarians), all of which I was diagnosed with long distance by the time the ambulance pulled into the hospital and most of which worried me about all these corroborating symptoms everything seemed to think I

    There. I'll confess that I corrected the misspellings afterward–I can't spell corroborating even when I'm taking my time–but left the grammar. And that this was on my mind because the ambulance bill just arrived. Hooray.

    Right now, I'm spending most of my "solid" me time editing things, but I can fit fifteen minutes her on new stuff several times a day. Thanks, Pari!

  12. Reine

    Hi Pari- I had trouble posting my exercise. Then it disappeared. The dog ate it? No really. It went poof. It was fun doing. I actually gave myself a question to inspire the brilliant writing that would inevitably follow. The body is stuck way out there in the crevice. Who is going to find it way out there? I actually had a lot of fun with it and solved a sticky plot issue. Ah well… brilliant writing another time. 😐


    Same here Reine. Twice. Brilliance eaten by the blog smog monster. It
    was fun.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Pari.

  14. Reine

    I found it! I found it! It went into a folder marked Pile of Crap! Here you go:

    I write. I just write. I sit down with my sticky plot issue. I pick a character related to the issue in some way. I don't worry about it. I start writing.

    My thinking usually goes something like this: What am I going to do about finding the body? [Start Apple Dictation. Start timer.] It's stuck in that rocky outcropping about 20 feet back in the water. Who is going to find it back there. How? How will they see it? Oh wait. Low tide. Yes, of course. Low tide.

    Then I start writing about the beach. It's a rocky New England beach. Marblehead, Massachusetts. Large edgy rocks by the road. Looks like the retaining wall was built from them. Smoother rocks are below that are covered with water at high tide and moved around, splashed on in between low and high tide.

    I ask myself who's on the beach. I see two children playing on the wet sand. Their mother is sitting on one of the large flat topped rocks looking at pieces of smooth sea glass, sorting through them and spreading them out. She holds one up to the light and smiles.

    Sandy and Woody are standing on the little beach below Fort Sewall. Sandy picks up a rock and throws it down on the wet sand. Nothing. Woody hands her a larger one. She smiles. Throws it. Gets a hit. Water squirts up from the wet sand. Sandy digs up the clam with their mother's garden tool. Woody holds out the bucket. Sandy plops the clam into the seaweed lined bottom. They take turns throwing rocks and digging clams. They giggle.

    "Down bucket," Woody Laughs.

    "Up for air," Sandy giggles.

    They love to talk Marblehead.

    Woody runs over to where their mother is sitting and gives her the bucket of clams while Sandy gathers strands of seaweed, the kind with little bladders. They love to pop them. Pop. Pop. Pop pop. They look around for more and see a large clump in the crevice of the big rock.

    [2 min.]

  15. Pari Noskin

    You're welcome. (However, that's lousy news about the ambulance!) I'm glad you gave it a shot. Pretty interesting how much we can achieve if we just unchain ourselves for a couple of minutes.

    Reine and RL,
    How aggravating! Reine's finally popped up, but we'll have to look for the other. Grr!

    Holy cow, that's a lot of text for such a short time. And, I'm intrigued. Good description and I'm curious to know what the story is about. Thank you for sharing with us.

  16. Pari Noskin

    Oh! I just checked back here and saw that a bunch of comments were released.

    Really? I LOVE that idea and am going to try it. What' s the worst that can happen? It's all crap? It's totally incomprehensible b/c your fingers are on the wrong keys? Even with those two worsts, you'd still exercise the creativity and can recoup the gist/the heart of what was written.

    I loved the personality that came through your quick-type post. I think that lack of censoring is very powerful.

    You don't edit? How wonderful. Really. That's a major trick to producing authentic text, I think. However, most of us don't share the confidence of that original minute. And . . . may you always have the time you need to write!

    I don't know what's going on with the comments not being released and getting lost. I think it's this darn captcha, but if we don't use it the spam is intolerable. It's a conundrum. We'll get it resolved.

  17. Allison Davis

    Sorry a day behind because of work. I frequently will shut my eyes and write and not allow myself to even look. I do a rough draft on paper and then type it in, but sometimes I just make myself sit there and type and type. There is usually something worth saving. And not to pick on Richard, we all feel the same way, so just dive in. The worst that can happen is you look foolish for a nanosecond. Shrug. Happens to me all the time. I'm still here and ok.

    Good reminder of a great exercise. The only way to break writer's block is to write.

  18. Ev

    Incredibly timely post (a.k.a. just the kick in the butt and reminder I needed). I've been sitting here stalling when I should be writing. 249 words in 4 minutes, 28 seconds. I really can fit in 1000 words per day if I want to. 😉

    p.s. I'm posting this bit of yours, "Namely, that it’s important to power through excuses because, most of the time, excuses are the stuff of fear. Of what? Of not being good enough, of not being profound enough, of not being able to hide from the fact that we’re never satisfied as creative with what we’ve created. The truth is, that’s a good thing. To be self-satisfied is to kill creativity," on my wall right by my monitor. So true. Thank you for the encouragement.

  19. Reine

    Hi Pari,

    I use the iMac dictation that is an accessible feature that comes built in to every new Mac. It's almost intuitive. I tried Dragon dictation and could not use it… much too difficult for me. I just talk, and it comes up on my screen. Simple as that! You can say a lot in two minutes.

  20. Reine

    PS: Pari, thank you for your comment on my little scene. I'm not sure where I'm going with it. Well, I know where the story goes, but I'm not sure how far I will take it. I'm thinking it's almost backstory for the book I'm really working on. We shall see. Maybe it will be a short story. I'll have to work on it a lot for that, however. Oh… that's pretty funny… as if writing isn't always work!

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