Is your ‘but’ too big?

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JonGibbs
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Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 14th, 2010, 6:53 pm

Never shy about giving people the benefit of her opinion (whether it was asked for or not) my old gran was always telling someone their ‘but’ was too big.

On the face of it, that seems a little rude, even for my old gran, but she wasn’t talking about pants’ sizes. She was referring to those built-in excuses we like to keep handy, in case our sub-conscious starts prompting us to chase our dreams.

“But I’m too young/too old.”

“But he/she’s out of my league.”

“But people might laugh at me.” [Not a problem if your dream is to do standup comedy]

Writers’ buts.
Writers too, have built-in ‘buts’ as it were:

“I’d love to write, but I just don’t have the time.”

“I’d love to write, but I don’t know anything about grammar.”

“I’d love to write, but there’s no writing group where I live.”


If you ask me, none of those ‘buts’ matter. They’re all just a way of avoiding the real problem, the biggest ‘but’ of them all:

“But I might fail.”

The fear of failure can stop a person from even trying. Have you ever almost pitched a story to a high-paying magazine, almost sat down to write a novel, or almost entered a writing contest? If so, then join the club. I imagine just about every writer has had that experience at some point or other.

I’ll bet there are thousands of great (or potentially great) storytellers out there who’ll never get published. I suspect for most, it’s because they let their ‘but’ get between themselves and the chance of success. You’ve probably met some of them.

Be wary of such people. Many of them carry a virus, Excusitis, a mental affliction which can kill writing dreams by causing the person suffering from it to doubt themselves and their ability. Symptoms include excessive use of the phrases like ‘I wanted to be a writer, but…’, ‘I’ve always thought I had a book in me, but…’, ‘I love writing, but…’

While not always contagious, many sufferers become bitter, unable to wish other folks success in endeavors which they themselves once dreamed of pursuing. Instead of support they offer mockery, instead of encouragement they try to plant seeds of doubt in your head.

Avoid these people at all costs or risk becoming infected yourself.


So what’s the difference between writers who go on to achieve their writing dream and those who don’t?
I don’t believe it’s talent – though it would be naïve to think that talent isn’t a vital part of the equation.

It certainly isn’t luck – that’s just a silly excuse used by folks who think there’s an easy path to success.

I believe the difference is simple.

Successful writers refuse to allow their ‘buts’ to get in the way. They see a ‘but’ as an obstacle which must be overcome rather than an excuse to quit... at least that’s what I’m hoping.

Me, I’m nearer fifty than forty; between leaving school at sixteen (with a poor academic record) and my 42nd birthday, I’d never written a word of fiction. Believe me, I could come up with a dozen more great excuses. The point is who cares? I figure all those things will just make my 'How I done it' story a little more interesting if and when I become successful as a writer.

How about you?

What ‘buts’ have you put behind you as you chase your writing dream?
Last edited by JonGibbs on January 15th, 2010, 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
Born in England, writer, Jon Gibbs, now lives in the USA. He can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

An Englishman in New Jersey http://jongibbs.livejournal.com

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emilycross
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by emilycross » January 14th, 2010, 7:08 pm

Excellent post!

Aw i've a 'But' the size of a double decker bus (actually something my own gran says ;) )

Definitely i think 'failure' is a big But in writing or in my case;

"I'd love to write But it won't ever be good enough"

Ironic considering you can only get good by actually writing :)

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Ryan
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by Ryan » January 14th, 2010, 7:16 pm

Yet another very motivating piece telling me I'm doing the right thing with this writing thing. I don't have a lot of "buts" or "should haves" in my life right now. Being 37, I do find myself using the term, "I used to be able to__________" a lot more! But that's another story....

Cheers
Ryan
My love of fly fishing and surfing connects me to rivers and the ocean. Time with water reminds me to pursue those silly little streams of thought that run rampant in my head.
http://www.withoutrain.com/

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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by a_r_williams » January 14th, 2010, 9:54 pm

Glad to see you posted. Good Luck!

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Emma
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by Emma » January 14th, 2010, 10:04 pm

Great post! I have actually been having to deal with this lately and your post helped me feel reassure that I am making the right choice putting my work out there because even if I never get published at least I tried. Something I was recently taught to do is look in the mirror in the morning and honestly look myself straight in the eyes and say "I am not afraid of failure and I am not afraid to succeed." For some people the thought of succeeding can be hard to deal with. I think that while my saying it doesn't make my fears go away, it is starting to help me believe that either way it is worth the effort and I will accept anything that comes of it. Again great post!

Sincerely,
Emma

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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by Thena Smith » January 14th, 2010, 10:53 pm

Very good post. I really enjoyed it.

I remember someone being told "But you will be 50 before you finish med school" and
her response was "I will still be 50 even if I don't go to med school."

Their but didn't hinder them in their chosen career.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 15th, 2010, 7:02 am

emilycross wrote:Excellent post!

Aw i've a 'But' the size of a double decker bus (actually something my own gran says ;) )

Definitely i think 'failure' is a big But in writing or in my case;

"I'd love to write But it won't ever be good enough"

Ironic considering you can only get good by actually writing :)
Re: "I'd love to write But it won't ever be good enough"

I know that feeling. Still, the way I see it, the only way to find out is to try, right?

Thanks for sharing, Emily :)
Last edited by JonGibbs on January 15th, 2010, 7:43 am, edited 3 times in total.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 15th, 2010, 7:32 am

Ryan wrote:Yet another very motivating piece telling me I'm doing the right thing with this writing thing. I don't have a lot of "buts" or "should haves" in my life right now. Being 37, I do find myself using the term, "I used to be able to__________" a lot more! But that's another story....

Cheers
Ryan
Lol, trust me, Ryan, that "Used to be able to" list gets longer every year.
Last edited by JonGibbs on January 15th, 2010, 7:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 15th, 2010, 7:32 am

a_r_williams wrote:Glad to see you posted. Good Luck!
Thanks, Aaron. You too :)
Last edited by JonGibbs on January 15th, 2010, 7:43 am, edited 2 times in total.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 15th, 2010, 7:37 am

Emma wrote:Great post! I have actually been having to deal with this lately and your post helped me feel reassure that I am making the right choice putting my work out there because even if I never get published at least I tried. Something I was recently taught to do is look in the mirror in the morning and honestly look myself straight in the eyes and say "I am not afraid of failure and I am not afraid to succeed." For some people the thought of succeeding can be hard to deal with. I think that while my saying it doesn't make my fears go away, it is starting to help me believe that either way it is worth the effort and I will accept anything that comes of it. Again great post!

Sincerely,
Emma
"...because even if I never get published at least I tried."

Good for you Emma! I totally agree. If we don't put our work out there, we'll never know what we might have accomplished.

Thanks for sharing, and for the kind words :)
Last edited by JonGibbs on January 15th, 2010, 7:43 am, edited 2 times in total.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 15th, 2010, 7:39 am

Thena Smith wrote:Very good post. I really enjoyed it.

I remember someone being told "But you will be 50 before you finish med school" and
her response was "I will still be 50 even if I don't go to med school."

Their but didn't hinder them in their chosen career.
Thanks for the kind words, Thena. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Born in England, writer, Jon Gibbs, now lives in the USA. He can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

An Englishman in New Jersey http://jongibbs.livejournal.com

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MoiraYoung
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by MoiraYoung » January 15th, 2010, 3:16 pm

Thank you for bringing this up. I've been reducing my 'but'-size lately and boy, I've noticed the difference. Ever since I tried the 'but'-reduction program, I've gained a whopping 100,000 words!

Sophie Minter
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by Sophie Minter » January 15th, 2010, 3:32 pm

I've used all of those "buts" and so many more in the past. This is a great post. My New Year's Resolution is to not let anything get in the way of my writing and to fall in love with it again. For me, that's the only cure for the "but" syndrome. Love. Love what you do and do it. No if, and, or buts about it. Your gran was smart as a whip.

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 16th, 2010, 5:54 am

MoiraYoung wrote:Thank you for bringing this up. I've been reducing my 'but'-size lately and boy, I've noticed the difference. Ever since I tried the 'but'-reduction program, I've gained a whopping 100,000 words!
Isn't it funny how a teeny tiny word like 'but' can have such an impact on our lives?

Congrats on that novel, Moira :)
Born in England, writer, Jon Gibbs, now lives in the USA. He can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

An Englishman in New Jersey http://jongibbs.livejournal.com

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JonGibbs
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Re: Is your ‘but’ too big?

Post by JonGibbs » January 16th, 2010, 5:58 am

Sophie Minter wrote:I've used all of those "buts" and so many more in the past. This is a great post. My New Year's Resolution is to not let anything get in the way of my writing and to fall in love with it again. For me, that's the only cure for the "but" syndrome. Love. Love what you do and do it. No if, and, or buts about it. Your gran was smart as a whip.
Re: "Your gran was smart as a whip"
She sure was.

Good luck with that resolution, Sophie :)
Born in England, writer, Jon Gibbs, now lives in the USA. He can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

An Englishman in New Jersey http://jongibbs.livejournal.com

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