The Biggest Lie Aspiring Writers Believe

There’s definitely a line that separates aspiring writers from their writing-and-publishing compatriots. It’s not money. It’s not a book deal or an MFA degree. It’s not dedication, or even talent.

Well, what is it?



I’m a writer, but I’m what you could call an “aspiring exerciser.” My morning routine consists, as I’ve written before, of a cup of coffee first, then writing, then an allotted time spent exercising. Guess which one falls off the list the most often?

Exercise. Whoopsie.

Two mornings ago, I finally figured out why, despite over a year of this morning routine, and despite having the same goal (“run every day”) for nearly five years, I was still aspiring to exercise. Ready? Here it is.

I kept waiting to want to.

I know. I know. I’ve already done a post about why your feelings are stupid. (Had I even read it?) “I don’t feel like it” is simply the Siamese twin of “I’ll just sit here and watch the sunrise for five more minutes. I’ll want to exercise if I just wait five more minutes.”

Switch “exercise” with “write,” and you’ve got the biggest lie aspiring writers tell themselves.

Do you do this when you write, or aspire to write?

Let’s say your life is complicated right now. You have young children that zap your energy until about 8pm, when the oldest one has (usually) hit the sack. By then, you’re ready to sit on the couch with a glass of wine or zone out in front of the TV. So you wait. You prop your laptop up on the table beside you, and say, “After this commercial, I’ll start.” Or, “Once I finish this glass of wine, I’ll jump into writing.”

Or maybe you take the train into the city for work, and you keep meaning to write while you’re en route, but you keep nodding off, or putting it off, until you hear your stop being announced over the PA system. Every morning, the same thought hits you: Now, it’s too late. Better luck next time. 

What you’re really waiting on is for that first step to not feel so difficult. Here’s a secret: First steps are always difficult, whether you wait one commercial break or for five years (like I did, which I talk about here).

It’s time to stop waiting and start writing.

Just like in “Your Feelings Are Stupid,” I have no real, concrete answers for why you might have succumbed to this “wait to want to” disease. All I know is that if you plug in a different response to that urge, you’ll get a different result. So instead of waiting five more minutes when that lazy little voice says “Just five more minutes,” take action. Stand up. Open a Word document. Mute the TV. No, self, you’re not getting five minutes. The time to write is now. 

Procrastination can come in many forms. What’s your worst form of procrastination? (Mine’s the Snooze button.) Share it in the comments.

  • Jim Brewster

    Mine is endless preparation. I prefer doing something which will, presumably, lead me to the glory of writing. Tweaking the website, reading, listening to or searching for the perfect information to further my ambition is exactly what keeps me from achievement.

    • Shan

      Jim, I’m right there with you. I have a chapter of a WIP that starts by talking about the habits of migratory seabirds. Know what keeps me from moving forward on that chapter? …Researching migratory seabirds. D’oh!

  • Lisa Reiter

    Oh dear ! Both the writing and the exercise are issues at the moment as having a week off with school half-term has me all over the place and struggling (resisting) routine again – but been for a walk in the rain this morning so starting well… Now where’s that pen..?

    • Shan

      It’s tough when the routine scaffolding (upon which you hang all your good habits) gets tampered with or taken away altogether.

      I recently switched day jobs, and had a 4-day period where I didn’t have my normal 9-5 workday. I thought I’d get a huge amount of writing done. I’ll write the blog months out, I thought.

      But because I didn’t have that time commitment undergirding my routine, by 4 days totally fell apart and I got NOTHING done. Nada. Zip.

      If you discover a way to keep going when your normal routine gets upended, let me know 🙂

  • Chene Sterckx

    It feels like this post was written just for me 🙂 I love your posts and insights that you write about! I used to feel like that about exercise but changed my mindset that I need to treat running like I do brushing my teeth. You do it everyday anyway… and it worked! I think I need to apply this mentality to writing as well, even if it is for 30 minutes that I write 🙂

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

    • Shan

      Let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading.

  • golffuul

    Awesome post, Shanan!!! Just what the doctor ordered 🙂

    • Shan

      Glad to hear it! 🙂

  • Jason McColly

    Thanks Shanan for this post. My worst form of procrastination is reading books about writing instead of just writing. I love learning about the craft of writing but sometimes it goes too far and it robs me of my valuable time of actually getting words on paper — or in my case, words on screen.

    I switched up my routine recently and I have been able to get in on average, a solid 1,000 to 1,200 words every morning before my family wakes up.

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  • Robyn LaRue

    It never really goes away, that initial resistance to start (well, it does, about 5 minutes AFTER you start.). Not for newbies or seasoned old pros. I swear it’s our soul resisting exposure or something. 😉

  • A.K.Andrew

    OMG I can totally relate to this post. Why are always our own worst enemy? Great post and very happy I’ve found your site.

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  • Lynda Panther

    Procrastination is the thief of time, and he’s got me on his hit-list. When I was the only one in the house (being a kept woman) I found time for writing easy to organize because I was the sole arbiter of my schedule. Now Hubby’s retired as well, he procrastinates me right off the computer. It seems like, every time I sit down, settle and compose myself to write, he appears at my elbow wanting to use the Babbage Cabbage to play FreeCell. So I organized a laptop, sacrificing Christmas and birthday gifts from my entire family in order to achieve that. Did it work? Not hardly. I sit down to write and there he is again: this needs doing, that needs doing, weren’t we going to do this, do that …….. Let’s have a barbecue, so instead of dinner taking half an hour to eat it takes three. I can’t complain, it’s the way he cooks. I am interrupted constantly despite the fact I’ve got my head well and truly down and am writing so fast the spellchecker is having kittens.
    I persist maybe because it’s so bloody hard and I am so bloody-minded. Three books down, two published and one under consideration, the forth under production, five & six sketched out and seven hovering in the wings ….. Am I a writer yet?
    Oh, and about the exercise ….. that’s in the black hole too, which is megabad because I’m diabetic. What a faff.
    If you are truly determined to write, so determined it is considered an obsession, then you will write. If not, you are a dilettante until you cultivate your own obsession. It helps being marginally OCD, by the way. And maybe psycshotric as well, but there you go.

  • Michele Carla

    There can never be enough reminders to stop waiting and start writing (or whatever you’re procrastinating)! You got me on both – writing and exercise! THANK YOU!

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