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Kevin Larimer on excuses

Kevin Larimer is the editor of Poets & Writers, a magazine published here in the US.

In his “Editor’s Note” in the July/August 2012 issue, he offers a novel analysis of an argument against the oft-trotted out advice “No excuses” that I think is worth sharing and discussing. I’ve excerpted a large chunk of the Note here; I recommend picking up the issue and reading the whole thing:

“I’ve read a good deal of writing advice, and I’ve tried to share the best of it with readers…. But in my opinion, there’s one nugget of wisdom that gets dug up in far too many essays on the writing life: ‘No excuses.’ It’s typically used to remind us how, when all is said and done, the writer must write, period. It’s a battle cry against procrastination, and I appreciate its efficacy…. But this prohibition on excuses strikes me as a mere headline, appealing to those who think riches await if only they can commit to a rigorous writing schedule. It’s an example of the five-easy-steps approach to literature that I vehemently resist….

…To which I cry out, “No excuses!” The truth is, if we’re doing good work there is no need to justify it. No matter how long it takes, no matter how many revisions have been scrapped or how many agents and editors have rejected us, we shouldn’t have to offer excuses for how we got here. Living a life… and writing a great poem or story or essay or book are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. The writing life is messy, and there’s no secret to success. Instead, there are many paths leading to where you want to go….”

What are your thoughts about Larimer’s take on excuses?

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5 responses »

  1. Is that a spello in the last line: “Instead, there are many paths leading to wear you want to go….” And yes, no excuses! Imagine telling your bank manager boss that you’re not in the mood to do the cash flow for the day?

    Reply
    • It is, and I’m duly horrified by the Freudian slip that occurred as I posted while my 2.5 year old was pulling at my leg talking about changing into her bathing suit! It has now been corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Reply
      • I thought you may have lifted the text 😉 That would have been a fun catch! No excuses about spellos! Seriously though, I try to catch my own spellos (its and it’s) but seem to notice mistakes in work other than my own more. I need to work on that 😉

  2. Marina-

    I tend to notice others typos more than my own; I think that’s normal, as we tend to read what we’ve written as we know it’s supposed to read, not (sometimes) as we’ve actually written it! I don’t ever mind being called out on my typos.

    And hey, I DO find typos all the time in others’ writing (especially in the Wall Street Journal) and I post those on one of my tumblrs: uglyenglish.tumblr.com. 🙂

    Reply

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