Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are You Suffering From A Dose Of The "If Onlies"?

Well I’m back after my brief blogging hiatus, which some of you might recall was caused by the fact I was racing to get the revisions/rewrites of my WIP done before my kids started school holidays. 

Sadly, I have to report a fail on that front. :-(  Kids were sick, kids had a bazillion school plays and exhibitions and parades and so forth, family located overseas came home for a visit ... you know the drill. And although I've had a very enjoyable few weeks, my keyboard time got zapped and I didn’t make my deadline.

This has resulted in a certain amount of frustration on my part, and very nearly sent me into a downward spiral of the “if onlies” … you know, those times when you sit and moan into your glass of shiraz about how you would certainly, definitely, get your novel written  - “if only.” 

If only I had a better computer. If only I had a little cottage by a lake in which to write. If only I could quit my day job.

My personal “if onlies” range from “if only I had a clone,” to “if only people would quit interrupting me!” and “if only I could writer faster”…. and sometimes, on those dark days, “if only I had a damn clue about writing.”

But the “if only” I seem to repeat the most is, “if only I had more time.”

Now, perhaps there is a grain of truth in that one. Maybe I would get more done with more time. But after recently watching a repeat episode of one of my favourite TV shows, Grand Designs, I think that leaning on the “if onlies” as an excuse for not achieving what we want is a dicey matter.

For those of you not in the know, Grand Designs is a British production in which the host, Kevin McCloud, follows families and couples as they try to renovate or build the homes of their dreams. I ADORE this show – I think I was an architect or interior designer in a past life – and love the high drama involved in each episode: will they/won’t they come in on budget? Will the house constructed of used tyres in the French countryside end up looking rubbish? Will the husband and wife who can't agree on a single thing be divorced by the end of it all?

Anyway … the episode in question revisited an English couple who, in an earlier episode, had built their dream home for themselves and their daughter in Creuse, France. The wife was an aromatherapist, and the husband was a writer who made a crust writing technical manuals. He was convinced – absolutely convinced – that “if only” he had the perfect creative environment in this new house, he’d be able to churn out the novel he’d always wanted to write.

His writing zone turned out beautifully, a quite study set on a mezzanine level with gorgeous, uninterrupted views of the French countryside. To die for, really.

Well, seven years later, the Grand Designs team returned to see how the house, and life in it, had turned out for the family. They were still there; the wife’s aromatherapy business was thriving; but the husband? Well, yes, he’d written a book in that time, and it had been published. But it was a non-fiction book … on how to build a house in rural France.

The novel? Not a whiff of it.

Now, kudos to him for writing and publishing any book at all. But it seems to me that having his “if only” wish granted hadn’t turned out to be the magic fix he thought it would be.  That perhaps there were other reasons why he just couldn’t get that novel written.

Hence, my wariness of attributing my failure to get my draft revised – in fact, to get my novel written, period - to my “if onlies”. And I think it would behoove me to think long and hard about it all …

So, for those of you struggling to complete your book, or to find an agent, or to sell your work, what are your “if onlies”? And if your “if only” wish was granted, do you think it would make a difference?


  1. I love coming here - all of your posts are always relevant to my inner writing turmoils.

    I have a terrible case of the if-onlies. The worst part: deep down I don't buy my if-onlies, and I really do believe that if I had not let excuses get in the way, I would be done with my own novel.

    My if-onlies used to be my long-hours at my corporate job and money. I thought I would/could write if only I didn't work such long hours or had enough money to quit my job and work full time. Then, I got married and I had to quit working when my spouse took an overseas job. I decided to finally write full time. Now I have all the time in the world to write and my spouse pays the bills. I've written more - but I've not fully taken advantage of my situation. So, no, I don't think it makes a difference.

    My if-onlies were an excuse. Now, I have new excuses. Sad, but true. I guess admitting I have a problem is the first step?

  2. So true. It's so easy to think I could do this if only... then not even try because the situation is ideal. Basically it comes down to the fact that if we really want it we will do it regardless of the circumstances. Not always on the first try though. And in 30 years with a dozen publications under your belt you'll be glad you went to those grade school plays.

  3. If only I had the energy to think! Yep, I know the if onlies all too well. I have the time, but not the ability to use it most days. Talk about frustrating!

    But I resolve to accept the little bits I do write and vow to knit them together someday...oh, in something like 100 years or so. ; )

    You've made me rethink my usual excuse, Rachel. Good job! I'm off to do a bit of word wrangling.

  4. I'm drowning in if onlies, Rachel! If only there were more hours in a day, if only I'd not procrastinated yesterday and the day before and the day before... If only I didn't say 'yes' to so many things that take time away from writing...
    We've got to stop [g]

  5. @ Jennifer - oh, I hear you. When my youngest child was still at home with me I used to dream about home much writing I'd get done once she started school ... well, she's there now, and while I do produce more words than I used to, it's not anywhere near the amount I'd hoped for.

    Yep, seeing the problem is the first step to fixing it, and I'll be joining you in a little introspection and self-examination. Ack! :-)

  6. @ Zan Marie - oh yes, I have that "if only" too. And you know, it can be an absolutely valid one, especially when health issues are in play (my system has been playing up the last few weeks and boy, talk about feeling flattened by a truck!) But the trick is to separate that valid brain exhaustion from the "OMG I just can't face my WIP" hurdle I seem to need to get over on a fairly regular basis - which is, of course, just an excuse. :-)

  7. @ S.P. - "Basically it comes down to the fact that if we really want it we will do it regardless of the circumstances."

    Absolutely. But I think the "if onlies" have their root in really wanting something, and being afraid of failing at it. If we have valid excuses for not (yet) succeeding at our dream, then we don't have to risk failure, do we? We don't have to deal with the pain of trying our hardest, only to fail. But in the end we'll never get there unless and until we let go of our fears. Easier said than done. Ah, the mind games we must play!

    And yeah, those times with the kids are priceless and irreplaceable. I wouldn't miss them for the world. :-)

  8. @ Deniz - LOL! But at least you're aware of them. That's the first step to recovery, absolutely. ;-)