We’re all guilty of it. We sit down with the best of intentions, determined to write something, but find ourselves all too easily distracted. The time flies by and before we know it we’re staring at a blank page, or a computer screen with the cursor blinking at us accusingly.
But just what are the things that get in the way of that sacred writing time?
Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, and chances are if you love to write, you’re also passionate about reading. Any writer or writing tutor will tell you that reading is a fantastic way of improving your writing skills. Reading a book can give you ideas on how to structure a story, how to write engaging prose and beautiful descriptions. Read the bestsellers and learn what books people want to buy and what works in your favourite genre. But spend too much time with your nose in a book and you’ll never have the time to create your own.
2. Social media
Increasingly a writer’s friend, social media is a fantastic way of connecting with other writers and discovering interesting and inspiring articles and opportunities. But social media can also be a black hole of time suckage. Whether you’re tweeting about how many words you’ve managed to construct for your latest opus because you need confirmation that #amwriting, or posting pictures on Instagram of what you had for lunch, checking your Facebook likes or stumbling for cute animal photos on Stumbleupon, you’re not actually writing. Social media is a fantastic way of building a support network or a potential audience, but your friends/fans/followers are not the ones who are going to write that book that’s been fermenting in your subconscious.
3. Sky+ and DVD marathons
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a whole list of favourite TV shows that you enjoy. Maybe they even count as writing inspiration. But sitting on the sofa for eight hours watching back-to-back episodes of The Sopranos or Buffy the Vampire Slayer don’t really count as research. So better put down the remote…
4. Surfing the web
Whether you’re internet shopping, catching up on your favourite blogs or checking your social profiles, it’s easy to get caught up in the internet. It’s amazing the sheer number of hours I can waste scrolling through the same half dozen websites, without much constructive outcome if I’m honest. Yes, I may have managed to discover what Kim Kardashian wore when she went out for dinner last night, but it’s hardly going to get me a book deal.
This is a funny one. I spend a large portion of my life procrastinating specifically to avoid doing the housework (especially dusting and the washing up), yet even though I hate it, I’ll often find myself prioritising the cleaning over writing out of some sense of duty. A dirty house frustrates me; that sense of guilt over my slobbish habits eats away at me until I can’t think of anything except the heap of unopened mail on the kitchen table or the pile of ironing cluttering the spare bedroom. But once I’ve finished, I tend to reward myself with that Sky+ marathon, plus a little bit of…
We need to eat to live, sure. But do we really need to scoff that cupcake just because there’s an episode of True Blood on the Sky planner that we’ve been saving? When you’re up and in the fridge for the fourth time in under an hour, you know you’re avoiding something or just plain bored!
7. Writing a blog
Hands up for this one. The whole point of me starting this blog was to support and encourage my efforts in self-publishing. But actually it’s been a lot easier to come up with ideas for new posts than it has been to work on the novel – which is the whole point.
8. Day dreaming
By nature, writers tend to be dreamers. How else would we come up with those fabulous plots and characters and gorgeous descriptions? But when you find yourself staring at the wall for half an hour while wondering what to have for dinner or when you should wash your hair, then you know you’re really in avoidance mode.
9. Taking a break
This one can probably encompass most, if not all, of the above. Having a break is a valid thing; it can help refresh your mind when your thoughts are confused and tired. But if you let that cup of tea and episode of Friends turn into an afternoon on the sofa or a four hour nap, it’s not so much a break but a total skive.
10. Walking the dog, or exercise of any kind
Healthy body, healthy mind. We all need to get out and get some fresh air, especially if we have a canine friend begging us for attention while we’re pounding away on the keyboard. Sometimes it’s a great way of curing the dreaded writer’s block; stop thinking about a problem and the solution will often pop into your mind. But if you let exercise take over from writing, sure you’ll start feeling healthy and virtuous, for a little while, until you start regretting not making more time to write.
And yes, I’m guilty of all the above things. But I bet I’m not the only one…