Fran Smith’s Seven Steps to Writing (or not writing)

A handy excuse ready-reckoner. Delete as appropriate.

Writing this blog is, of course, a really good example of step 3.

1          Denial

Who needs more books/blogs/theses/essays/articles/reports anyway? There are way too many bits of writing out there in the world. Why add to them? Save trees; save time; save everyone the trouble of reading it – don’t bother to write it at all! Writing is a horrible slog and my ideas would be better expressed through another medium; opera, perhaps, or fireating.

2          Blame

I could have finished this ten times over if only I hadn’t had children/a partner/a house/a job/a bank account that empties faster than my sink/ difficult parents/ demanding friends/ a drink/ fashion/ interior design/ stationery/ hair-colouring habit to support/ the wrong role models/ my confidence drained away by work/ school/ college/ siblings’/ colleagues’/ success/ failure/ an extended family that loves/ hates/ is indifferent to me/ an unprecedented level of sensitivity making me uniquely vulnerable.

3          Evasion

The fridge needs defrosting. There is marking/ cooking/ proper, serious reading to be done. Friends need to be met. My hair needs cutting. There is a spider in the bath. I have to do some exercise before I turn into a human waterbomb. There is an update thingy on my computer that says it is urgent. The dog looks hungry. That really interesting video on YouTube might give me a writing idea. Children/ grandchildren/ partner need my special attention; they will evaporate immediately if they don’t get it right now. Psychologists agree that it’s more or less a straight progression from parental/ grandparental/ spousal neglect-through-writing to children/ grandchildren/ spouse taking heroin in the gutter. I’ll just do those few things first.


4          Despair

This is a completely hopeless enterprise. Nobody cares. It will be rubbish when it’s finished anyway. Rubbish I have burst blood vessels to perfect, but rubbish all the same. Nobody will read/ publish/ enjoy/ appreciate/ understand it. Many, many writers (proper writers) have said it all before, and infinitely better. We’re all doomed. Why waste your life piling up words? It all comes to nothing in the end.

5          Bogus planning and unnecessary research

What this piece of writing needs is a really thorough plan. It should be a spreadsheet in different colours with hyperlink cross-referencing/ a bullet point list/ a mindmap with symbols/ post-it notes/ a wallchart/ those worksheets they had in that newspaper supplement/ book I lent someone/ a wonderful, innovative combination of all the above. It should be made in one particular kind of beautiful notebook/ software – only that one particular kind is any good, the rest are absolute rubbish. Once the plan is made, it is essential to google/ go to the library and look up/ ask that person I met at that party/ every single detail I may need to mention. This may take me the rest of my life, but at least I will have the best-researched unwritten piece of writing in the history of the universe.

6          Gritty (and aggressively overstated) determination

I am going to finish this if it takes me the rest of my life. I am going to finish it, if nobody ever reads/ publishes/ buys it and instead the entire population despises/ ignores/ vilifies it. I don’t care. If my family/ friends are taken ill, I will write it by their bedside. If I am taken ill, I will write it until my hands become useless and then I will dictate it until my last breath. It just has to be finished. I will get up at 5.30am/ give up chocolate/ exercise/ TV/ reading/ Sunday breakfast/ earning a reasonable living – whatever it takes, but I will, will, will get it finished. OK?

7          Submission

Right. Better get on with it, then.

One thought on “Fran Smith’s Seven Steps to Writing (or not writing)

  1. I laughed out loud at a few of these, and I have been guilty of all of them (well, 1-6 anyway). Self-doubt is my personal antagonist, but that tends to be the basis for almost all of these, doesn’t it?

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