Friday, April 23, 2010

Excuses, excuses

"I can't come to class today because I'm auditioning for American Idol."

"I can't come to class today because my friends are in town for only one day and I promised I'd take them to a Cubs game."

"I can't come to class today because I am participating in a medical research study. They're going to inject some kind of new medicine in me and pay me $50. "

"I can't come to class on time because my roommate refuses to wake me up for it."

These are just a few of the excuses that students give me for not showing up to class. The most common excuses are the "family emergency" and "I am sick" ones, because they think that I won't question them since then it gets into the gray area of being too "personal." But after about eight students in the past two weeks told me they were sick and couldn't come to class, I got irritated and suspicious. I would never accuse them of lying, of course. And more often than not, students really are too sick to come to class, because I've had more than one student show me a doctor's note or even a note from the emergency room. But on the other hand, people started missing class, coming in late, or leaving early a lot more often at around the same time the baseball season started and the weather started warming up.

What bothers me most is when students don't show up to class on multiple occasions (some will disappear for weeks or months) and still expect to get full credit for the class; i.e., they still expect to earn B's or even A's. After having spent the past several years teaching, I can honestly say that if I had a dollar for every excuse I've heard from a student, I'd be able to pay for at least two months' worth of junk food - er, I mean, groceries.

But today I started thinking about all the excuses I make for not writing.

"I can't write tonight because I'm too tired from working and studying all day."

"I can't write because I have a stack of papers to grade."

"I can't write because the weather outside is perfect, which only happens about five times a year in Chicago."

"I can't write until after I watch Frasier." (I love Frasier Crane. Yes, the show ended years ago. But I love watching reruns. Frasier is my television alter ego - at least, he would be if I were a middle-aged white guy - because he is so wonderfully neurotic and obsessive.)

I've wanted to be a writer for years, yet I always make excuses for not finishing stories or not working on the manuscript I started more than a year ago. Thinking about all the excuses from students who don't show up but still expect full credit made me realize that I can't keep making excuses. If I don't show up to write more often, I can't expect to finish my manuscript, let alone get published someday.

Starting this blog has been a great way for me to start writing more regularly, but I think it's only the first step. I have to discipline myself to work on my manuscript for more than just a few hours a week, even though I currently work two jobs and am in graduate school, which is a full-time job in itself. I'm not even sure if my first novel is publishable, but I think that just to have completed one would be awesome. And then I could finally start working on the new stories I've been thinking about. (I've tried writing more than one story at a time, but I get too confused and start putting characters for one story into the other one. It's like a literary parallel universe.)

What kind of excuses do you make for not writing, and how do you get past them? I'm always interested in learning.


  1. Oh, I have sooooo many excuses. My main one used to 'I'm tired'. I've actually found that it makes no difference, though, since once I get my butt on the chair the words come out, tired or not. I just need to sit!

  2. Hi, Talli,
    When I just sit at my desk I also happen to automatically turn on the Internet, and then, one hour of watching Youtube videos later...:) But I did try just sitting without turning on the Internet today, and I got an hour's worth of writing done! Woohoo!

  3. Great excuses from the students. When I was a teaching assistant for a college class, one of my student's grandmothers died twice during the semester. He either lost both or one grandma was very unlucky. Since he'd missed other classes previously, I had a difficult time believing it.

    You're right about using the same excuses like our students. Some are valid, but others are just putting it off. Recognizing it is the first step.

  4. Hi, Theresa,
    I sometimes have a difficult time believing students' stories about the dead relatives too, because it seems like people's relatives always seem to die whenever there's a paper due.
    You're right about how recognizing excuses is important. This weekend I avoided my usual excuses and got a lot more writing done than I expected. And rereading my blog entry made me realize that I was making excuses again about not starting new stories, so I'm going to try writing short stories too in addition to the novel I'm working on.

  5. Very entertaining post! I love your writing style. Looking foreward to more posts by you

    Kind regards

  6. Thanks Val! I love reading nice comments from people; it always makes my day. :)