Sunday, April 25, 2010

Warning: Rant

As I was chatting with a woman at a writers’ workshop this spring, I asked about her writing.

“Oh, I don’t write,” she said. “I used to, but I have a full life now.”

People say this kind of thing a lot at writing-related events and usually I just smile and nod because I can see it’s an excuse, even if they won’t. That day, though, I took offense at the implication that I write because I have nothing better to do.

We all make choices about how we spend our time and I admire my friends who tutor high-school students or know all the words to the songs on Glee or run marathons. I would not admire them if they paid to attend a marathon clinic and told the runners that no, they don’t train; they have full lives.

In a recent lecture at the University of Victoria, emeritus professor Bruce Howe said that it’s crucial for elite athletes to take responsibility for their own performance. They must understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Howe figures that 85% of the responsibility for his or her performance rests with the athlete and 15% with the coach, and as far as I can see, it should work the same for other activities: painting, playing music, heavy-duty mechanics. In the same vein, I think people should take responsibility for their choices, not make excuses and pretend that those of us who choose different activities have big Ls tattooed on our foreheads.

I don’t care what you do in your spare time (unless you’re Sharon Ashwood or Jennifer Crusie or Don Winslow, in which case I’d prefer you were working on the next book, thank you). I don’t care whether that woman at the workshop writes or knits or is raising grandchildren. However, it bugs me that she implied I write because I have nothing better to do. Frankly, the opposite is true.

I write because I have nothing better to do.


  1. Right up there with, "I could write a book, someday." I must confess though, that I write better when I've lots of other stuff happening in my life. Must be that "work expands to fill the available time" maxim.

  2. Darn...there goes my 'excuse', though I knew it wasn't really a legitimate one because, as Alice V. (above) pointed out, one does accomplish more when one's plate is full and I wrote far more when I had a job and three kids in the house!
    I also find I need a deadline in order to finish something. Not sure why that is? So without an active Writers Group (what happened to us??), I have another lame reason NOT to finish the Great Canadian Novel. But I am proud of you, Rachel.

  3. Ah yes, the Deadline Phenomenon.

    I would love to know how or why that works – and why I get more done when I'm already busy.

    I sense some research brewing; I'll get to it as soon as I'm busier.