Things that have stopped me writing

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?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. This is amusingly too accurate.
    So on one hand, it’s comforting to know that others go through very similar scenarios, but on the other hand, what the hell is wrong with us??
    We self-sabotage ourselves and make excuses for it. Because we do find time for ourselves at some point in the day – we just choose to make other use of it: like finish that Netflix show or start a new one, pick up a new short story collection in a different genre to the other 5 short story book collections you’re currently reading, etc.

    But strangely enough, I manage to work on my personal stuff whilst at work, of all places.

    1. It’s definitely self-sabotage – I think sometimes from a fear of rejection, or failure, or even success!

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