Posted by: jeannineatkins | September 10, 2014

Why We Don’t Write

All kinds of things can keep us from writing. Our busy minds remind us that we have to do this or that. We’re too busy, too stressed, too rattled, too hungry, and never mind that our room is too chilly, messy, or noisy. We can blame any old thing, some with good reason, others with less justice.

The problem is that we can get into the habit of blame. So that when we sit down and words stick instead of flowing, we blame ourselves. Oh, those words come easy. We’re deluded, not smart enough, lazy, blocked, unimaginative. This list could compete in length with the list about reasons for not writing. But you get the point. Nonsense comes up.

I’m returning to a novel I began then put down to tend to some shorter works, and it wasn’t with eagerness that I reopened the file, but fear in all its disguises. I waded in, got used to the water. I fretted and frittered time along the way. But with the messy file opened, I stopped having much time for my mind, which can churn up excuses and blame with abandon. The story slowly started to make its little calls for attention. I wrote a sentence I liked and cheered up.


That’s what we have to do. Itch and sigh and maybe find a view of flowers, as a reminder of the need to be kind to ourselves. At some point we’ll get to one sentence that looks like it belongs in a book. Then, hour by hour, day by day, write a chapter around that.





  1. Thank you for this reminder, Jeannine. I’ll smack right into self-erected road blocks, then wonder why I feel discouraged. I don’t know about you, but my inner critic needs a muzzle. I’m never, ever as nice to myself as I am to everyone else. It is of vital importance that we treat ourselves, and our creative efforts, with kindness. And “finding a view of flowers” ALWAYS helps! xo

    • Yes, handing muzzles to all writers, though my inner critic seems to respond best when I let her chatter on a bit, then just turn my head.

      Your statement about never being as nice to yourself as everyone else — yikes, women should be cross-stitching that on pillows. I wrote this after hearing some ugly things one of the most generous persons alive was saying about herself. Thanks for writing, and I’m glad you are finding flowers!

  2. Lovely, Jeannine. Good advice, as always!

  3. Comes a time when something bigger–a deeper and more persistent yearning, perhaps–draws your attention away from your inner critic, and back to your manuscript where it belongs. That’s my experience, anyway. So I’ve set a vase of flowers beside me, and am situated where I can see hummingbirds at the feeder while I’m writing.

    • Lovely way to put it. Let the better voice just drown out the critic. I love to imagine you writing near your flowers and hummingbirds — I believe they’ve left here for warmer climes. But we’ve got asters, apples, and Maple leaves starting to turn.

  4. Perfect for me right now, though I’m giving myself until next week to start working again– I’m depleted after my vacation (funny, right?).

    • Just reading all the places you went to on vacation left me exhausted, so yes, I can imagine you need to rest. I will be cheering you on next week!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A this time of year, I have so many excuses not to write, and it’s always disheartening that I seem eager to avail myself of all of them. I’m going to look for some flowers…

    • I’m not sure that all that must go into organizing a group of sixth graders into a healthy, happy, eager to learn unit can be classified as an “excuse,” but I’m glad you feel inspired!

  6. Opening the file is one of my self-inflicted road blocks. I always find other things more pressing to do. But when I do open it, I struggle to get back into that world. And the only person to blame is me. Thanks for this encouraging post.

    • It breaks my heart a little to hear wonderful teachers like you and Tara blame yourselves in tones I know you’d never use with students. You do so much, so well. Yes, getting to writing is hard, but I think it’s best if we don’t make it harder by berating ourselves. Can you just greet yourself with flowers, say thank you for coming this morning? xo

      • Thank you for the flowers!

  7. Ahhhhh, thanks for writing this!

    • Thanks, Amy. We need to get together this fall!

  8. Terrific wisdom-packed post, Jeannine.

    You know, one sure-fire way to want to write is to be told you can’t for a while; I’m recovering from entrapped nerves in my neck which have made life for my right shoulder/arm/hand more than challenging in recent weeks! But I would not recommend this approach. Your post is much kinder for inspiration than injury is. ;0)

    • Ouch. Robyn, I’m so sorry you’ve been through this. Hope recovery is smooth and speedier from this point in, and you find good words moving from neck, down your arm, to your hands. xo

  9. Thanks for this post, Jeannine. Nonsense does come up… in so many forms.
    Mostly in my case… No one is going to want to read this. Ever. Why are you deluding yourself…! And then, as you say, if you keep at it, that sentence that belongs in a book shows up.

    • Burleigh, I am so glad you keep going. And happy to see you today!!

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