black notebook on red table metaphor for the real reason you're not writing
When Your Notebook Has An Accusing Stare

Writers often find me when they haven’t been writing for a while. Most times they feel guilt and embarrassment about this, and maybe even a little shame.

Sometimes my email inbox has the tenor of a confessional, with writers sheepishly admitting “it’s been a while.”

Usually it starts with just missing one writing session. Just one. No biggie.

But then one session becomes two, which becomes days/weeks/months of this activity known as Not Writing.

And writers have a plethora of reasons for why they’re Not Writing. Here’s a few I’ve heard most recently…

Reasons Writers Say They’re Not Writing

My life is so busy.

My children need me.

My spouse needs me.

My parents need me.

I have to work.

I have to take care of my health.

I just have to finish this other [non-writing] project first.

I’m tired. 

I can’t focus.

Something happened in my life that took all my energy for a while.

The pandemic.

Climate change.

Late-stage capitalism is grossly unfair.


Okay, those last two are mine. 😁 (But maybe they’re yours too sometimes?)

Here’s the thing: all of these reasons are valid and true. They are not mere excuses, they are the real experienced truths of people’s lives in the 21st Century.

And also… 

If you feel time pressure and don’t yet have a copy of my PDF resource: 30 Ways to Find More Time to Write, you can download your free copy here.

Why Are You Here?

That’s a bit existential, but that’s the point. As far as we know, we’re here for a short time and we have just one life to live.

Why are you here? Are you here to write? 

Do you love words and stories? Is writing important to you? 

Does writing and everything that comes with that life light you up and make you feel like you’re fulfilling a special purpose? 

If you reach the end of your life without writing the words you know you’re meant to write, will you regret it? 

Because if you answered YES (or even, YES?) to any of these questions, then I hate to break it to you but…you’re a writer.

You’re here to write. You’re a writer.

And since you’re a writer – which has less than ZERO to do with whether you’ve ever published anything, by the way – this means that you have to write.

Pretty simple, right?

Your reasons for not writing may be true, but in the end they also don’t matter – not at a grand scale, the scale of your life and your life’s purpose.

You may need a break from time to time: to recover from illness, to tend to your kitchen reno or your soul.

But here’s how you’ll know 100% for sure that you are one of these so-called Real Writers everyone talks about…

When you’re Not Writing consistently, you feel it. There’s a kind of existential whisper in the back of your head urging you to get back to the page or the computer and just get on with it already, that thing you’re here to do…writing.

Feel not-quite-right when you’re Not Writing? Yep, you’re a writer.

Writers gotta write.

True: Sometimes You Get a Break

It’s true that there are times in every writer’s life when writing takes a backseat, when other things press in more urgently.

I have a friend who is a profoundly talented poet. She’s been writing for years, producing great poems, and has even published some and been on award shortlists, but hasn’t yet finished a book. She has more than enough poems for a book, she just can’t bring herself to finish one.

She COULD finish – she has the talent and craft knowledge to finish. But she can’t finish. She commits to it, and re-commits to it, and then something else takes her off track…family, volunteer work, life. She’ll go to a dozen writing workshops but still won’t finish.

This week I was about to send my friend an email with another friendly nudge aimed at encouraging her to finish the book. And then I learned she has breast cancer and is starting chemotherapy.

For the record: you get a break on everything when you start chemotherapy. It’s a time to focus on healing your body, not on your table of contents.

But when the chemo is done and the body (and soul) are recovered, it’s time. Time to blow the dust off your manuscript and finish.

Prior to the cancer diagnosis though, my friend wasn’t setting her writing aside because she didn’t have time.

She had the same amount of time you and I have: not enough, ever.

My friend doesn’t get her writing project done for the same reason you stop writing from time to time. And it’s not cancer, either.

The Real Reason You’re Not Writing

For most of the writers I meet, including my friend, this activity of Not Writing is not really about time or focus.

You may say you don’t have time, or you can’t focus on your writing right now, but in your heart-of-hearts I believe you know this isn’t the real reason you’re not writing.

The real reason you’re not writing is because you are afraid.

You’re afraid the work isn’t any good.

You’re afraid you don’t have what it takes.

You’re afraid that if you finish the work it won’t be published.

You’re afraid that if you finish it and it gets published, people won’t like it.

You’re afraid that people will laugh at you, pity you, scorn you or (worse?) not even notice you.

You can gussy all of that up with other words…about the state of the publishing industry today and whether your kind of writing is in vogue, etc etc. But whenever I hear writers talking about these kinds of things, I think…yep, they’re afraid.

Or I should say: WE are afraid

Because I’m not completely immune to all of this, I just pay attention and use a set of tools I’ve developed over the years to feel the fear and write anyway.

And if you find yourself reading this and thinking: “Okay, but no really, I just don’t have time!” then be prepared to show me your phone’s record of your screen time this week and your Netflix list of shows watched. Mmmkay?

You have SOME time. You’re just not using it for writing because you are afraid. 

So borrow some bravery and face your fears head-on. Do the work to overcome your creative anxiety so that you can get on with what it is you’re here to do: writing.


If you feel time pressure and don’t yet have a copy of my PDF resource: 30 Ways to Find More Time to Write, you can download your free copy here.

The Real Reason You're Not Writing