Diary of a Play #5: The Elegant Art of the Excuse


The Dove of Procrastination casts his beady lazy eye

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

It’s always nice to emulate your heroes, even if only their feats of blatant procrastination.

In this modern, fast-paced world, there are always deadlines, pressures, drains on your time, and competing commitments such as looking at absolutely every cute cat meme on the internet.

Hence, it is a vitally important skill for any writer to be able to deal out a wide variety of plausible excuses. Here are some I’ve been using lately …

1. Life got complicated

Variations of this one include:

  • “I lost my job”
  • “Work got busy”
  • “My goldfish escaped”
  • “I’m temporarily on the run from the police/tax office/bikie gangs/visiting in-laws”

Not pictured: Sphincteral Clenching

This type of excuse is great for garnering sympathetic extensions to a deadline, along with a comforting pat on the back and heartfelt commiseration.

The first couple of times anyway.

A few too many usages, and you risk the red flag of coming across as a drama queen, one of life’s lost souls, or a tad too cray-cray to work with.



2. It’s Almost There


Michelangelo’s “David and His Dermatitis”

This is one for the perfectionists, especially those who like to dramatically express the sheer hard graft and labour that writing entails.

  • “I just need to get the character motivations right”
  • “The themes/metaphors/symbolism aren’t quite there yet”
  • “I simply had to tear it up and start again”
  • “Next week/month/meeting, I promise”

Eventually, however, someone will point out that you’re only knocking up a passable early draft of a humble sex-comedy, not Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”.


3. Disaster

  • “I forgot to do my backups”
  • “I lost the USB drive with the latest edits”
  • “The dog ate the USB drive with the latest edits”
  • “The dog forgot to do my backups.”

Part of every healthy dog’s diet

Things happen.

Hard drives fail, USB drives escape from pockets, or discovering that third party tools only allow a useful Undo function if you purchase the Pro version (I’m looking at you, Evernote).

Again, not an excuse to be over-used, as you will eventually look like a technically incompetent old grandpa.

4. Communication Breakdown


Quality time

When the excuses are wearing thin, simply don’t return calls, emails, SMS, or just hide behind the curtains until all the visitors go away.

Yes, your social life will suffer. But sometimes it’s good to take a digital holiday and escape the communication age.

And frankly, spending too much time on social media is probably one of the main reasons you haven’t finished writing the bloody thing anyway.

5. Here, Have this Other Play Instead

Okay, this one is a risky ploy.

We’re all guilty of the displacement project – where you “take a break” from the main work to have a tiddle about on a side work instead. Just for a little while. Just to recharge the batteries.

Then suddenly it’s “Hey, this is coming along well”. Then “Hey, this one is really flowing”. Until inevitably, “Wow, this is going much better than the main project”.

And that’s when you offer the side project as an alternative to take the deadline heat off.

Fortunately, the relevant parties would never be silly enough to fall for that, surely.


They’ll never notice the difference

Or worse, imagine if they accepted BOTH projects, such that you’ve now promised TWO plays to the coming year’s play schedule.

Ha ha, as if that could happen!

I mean, really, that would be a completely ludicrous situation to place yourself in, simply because you hadn’t knuckled down and finished when you should have.


Ha ha, ludicrous.



… sob.

Next time: The Diary of Two Plays

This entry was posted in Community Theatre, First Draft, Independent Theatre, Perth Theatre, Plays, playwright, Theatre, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Diary of a Play #5: The Elegant Art of the Excuse

  1. Pingback: Diary of a Play #6: In the Name of the Palaver | Martin Lindsay

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