Reasons and Excuses

“If God gives you something you can do, then why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

Stephen King
On Writing

This quote from Stephen King is one of my favorite lines from his wonderful book On Writing. I think it’s one of my favorites because I find it one of the most challenging things he has to say. It’s just so straightforward, isn’t it? If you have something you can do, then why don’t you do it?  No, really.  Why?

I often find myself thinking about this quote, and I have a variety of responses to it. Sometimes, if I’m feeling defensive, I say, “Oh, yeah. Easy for you to say Steve. You with your zillion dollars and your supportive wife who stood by you even when you were living in a double-wide and your life that’s set up so you can write whenever you damn well please. Easy for you.”

But that’s not fair, either to myself or Mr. King, because until he hit it big with Carrie, his life was much harder than mine has been. Despite everything, he kept writing with relentless determination. My resentment is just an excuse.

Sometimes when I think about this quote, I think, “Sure I should write more. But I’m single and I work. So everything that needs to be done around this place has to be done by me and because I work there are limited hours to do them in. Then there’s my elderly mother, who is demanding more and more of my time. And I haven’t been feeling especially well. Writing just gets shoved aside.”

Those things are all true, and they are all perhaps reasons why I am not as productive as I say I would like to be. But they are also excuses. There are plenty of people who have much more going on in their lives than I do. Many of them also manage to write. Just look at all of the working mother writers out there. They may not write fast, but they write.

Finally, as I think about this quote I come down to what is probably the true and honest answer. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of succeeding. I’m afraid I won’t be able to pull it off. I’m afraid that I don’t have anything interesting to say. I’m afraid because it’s a lot of hard work and it’s easier to say you are a writer than it is to actually write something.

But fear, as with all of the other reasons, is merely an excuse. And if you have something that you can do, then why in God’s name don’t you do it? And if you don’t do it, if you intentionally turn aside, especially for a stupid reason like fear, then you do not respect the gift you have been given.

And the gift you have been given, whatever it may be, is wonderful.

So if you have been given something you can do, then please go out and do it. And I think I’ll do the same. 😀



  1. EXCELLENT POST!!!!!!!!!!! I know just how you feel.

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