Exhaustion (such as now, post-Harrogate)
Norovirus (that was a fun week)
Laptop dying (stay away from the light!)
USB dying (remember the days before Dropbox? The middle-of-the-night panic about whether you’d saved your novel?)
Laptop theft * this has never happened to me, touch wood, but has to friends so BACK IT UP PEOPLE
Not feeling confident I could pull off the idea – I’ve shelved books before because I didn’t yet feel up to the challenge or I couldn’t figure out the structural puzzles
Worry that the idea might be offensive/too mad/too boring/too derivative
Spending four hours researching parole procedures instead (or mass poisonings or eating disorders or the layout of the Shard or…)
Spending entire days on Twitter, frittering words away like confetti
Reading an amazing book and wondering why I bother
Reading a terrible book that did really well and wondering why I bother
Having a day job where being a writer cut zero ice and I lost all confidence and stopped even calling myself that
Having a day job that took all my energy-though commuting can be useful writing time
Personal life crashing down like a giant stack of Jenga (This is a poem that always makes me think of that)
Burnout – working on too many ideas at once. How many is too many? Sometimes I can do two if one is just being written and I can dash off some words, and the other’s at edit stage, but other times I do need to stop and give things my full attention. I’m not sure what works best. One day on, one day off?
Lack of success (I’ve heard people say lots of success can also be quite paralysing)
Jealousy –the nasty little secret no one likes to admit to, but nearly impossible to avoid when you spend your days looking a constant feed of other people’s curated successes.
Admin snafus –having to ring the bank or the tax people or the landlord to fix the leaking pipe
Technology fails – turning on your laptop to find a blank screen of doom and spending the morning sorting it out, malware, new operating system that failed to load, internet blackouts
Having lunch with writing friends – lunch is the enemy of book progress as it really breaks the day up, so I don’t open do it now.
Thinking I was too young and had nothing to say (obviously this one is old….)
A busy life – I wrote almost nothing at university, too busy angsting and drinking gin and reading about French poetry (useful)
Writing about something, or someone, I knew too well – I actually think writing fiction drawn closely from life is almost impossible
Writing something I didn’t know enough about –it’s about insecurity but also not knowing the details, like what colour is the carpet in the police station and so on
Paranoia that someone else might have already had the same idea
Disturbances – phone calls, deliveries, someone coming to fix the boiler, partner clomping around in the background looking for a pair of socks, etc etc
This is only a short list, and I can think of many, many more! There will always be reasons not to write, and the more we’re all online, it’s going to get harder and harder to find uninterrupted time to work in. I think the only solution is to give yourself ruthless weekly and monthly targets, like a mean boss, and meet them. But also the complete opposite – recognise when you’re tired or ill or burnt-out and give yourself the day off. In other words, know when to crack the whip and when to back off, when you need to lie down and when you just need to get on with things.
What sort of things stop you from working, or help you get on with things?
Picture by invisiblebread.com