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?