4 Roadblocks to your Writing – And 4 ways to Steamroll them!

Image of steamroller

For every writing problem you have, there is an answer.

Not necessarily an easy answer that involves lamps and Genies but an answer nevertheless.

Here are four common roadblocks that stop you from writing – and four ways to steamroll them flat.

1) I don’t have time to write

When I was younger, there was a TV show about a boy with a watch who could stop time. I think everyone would kill for one of those, writer or not.

You’re allowed to have a busy life, a job, a family, kids, pets and all sorts of other commitments. You’re allowed to have days when you don’t write. Don’t feel bad about them.

But –

the fact remains that your book/short story/poem/screenplay isn’t going to write itself. So you’re going to have to make time. That might mean making a few little sacrifices; you wake up a bit earlier, you write in your lunch break or skip an evening TV show for a couple of hours of writing instead. If you don’t drive on your commute, you could fit in a few words then. Or even keep a notepad in the toilet – multi-tasking to the extreme!

2) I’m just not inspired

You can’t write without inspiration right? Well…actually, you can. People who write for a living don’t have a choice. It may sound mercenary but if you have to, you’ll find something to write about.

If you’re stuck on a scene, skip it and move on. Try editing something you’ve already written. Or go and write something completely different to keep your mind active until you’re ready to go back to your WiP. Blog posts are good!

Physical activity can also get the creative juices flowing. A simple walk can work wonders for the old noggin. A trip to the Library is even better. Grab a book to find your inspiration.

3) I’m not sure my writing is any good

Join the club, we’ve got jackets.

Every writer ever, in the history of writing, has doubted their work or their writing abilities. And not just once either. It’s completely natural. And it may be that what you’re writing on isn’t going to work out.

Step back. Let your work breathe. When you return to it, give it a the once over and, if you decide to scrap it, don’t chuck it entirely. Keep a copy so that if nothing else you can cannibalise it for ‘parts’.

You also need to remind yourself why you writeWhy do these characters dance through your through your head and onto paper? Because they need to. Because you need to. You may not be the next Charles Dickens (I know I’m not), but you will always have to write. 

4) I keep getting distrac-oh a butterfly!

The internet is a wonderful and terrible place. So are Netflix and Instagram  and all the other distractions of the digital age. When you turn on your computer to write, you open up world of procrastination right at your fingertips. I know this. I’ve already been distracted six times in the last paragraph.

Hmm…what was I saying?

You can try swapping your laptop for a pen and paper. But if you’re anything like me, you type faster than you can write anyway. Then you’ll need to get serious and unplug the internet. You can do this literally or by using handy apps from Chrome or Microsoft. Use them to block the Internet on your computer for as long as you need to get things done.
Or try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, with or without music, to help you focus.

And hide the TV.

What are your top tips to get past major writing difficulties?


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How Long should it take to Write a Book?

Woman writing in notepad

I worked on my first book for three years.

Three years.

And at roughly 45,000 odd words it’s not exactly War and Peace.

Of course, my little old book had to be put into stasis more than once. I’ve been working and there have been house moves and life changes a-plenty in this time. Still, it seems a long time for one book. And it made me think (or rather worry) – how long should it take to write a book?

How long is a piece of string? Double the length from the end to middle obviously – does anyone else hate that smart-arse answer?

The time authors take to write is an evergreen subject. Some well-known writers bash out piles of books a year, but how much someone like James Patterson actually writes of his books is up for debate. On the other side, some authors have paused for considerable lengths of time between books; 10 years for Donna Tartt and over 40 for Harper Lee. That builds interest but can also mean you’re forgotten about or even resented. A friend got rather wound up about how long George R.R. Martin is taking with the next “A Song of Fire and Ice” book!

Ultimately, it’s about the quality of the book. Do books that have taken longer have more depth?  Do books written quickly have more passion? We’re back to the string argument again.

I don’t think there is a set length of time it “should” take (and that’s not a disillusion to comfort myself). Non-writers often seem to think there should be. If you’re an amateur and people know your working on something, they’ll be quick to ask you how it’s going and make comments if you say you’re “still working on it”.

But it’s your work and you shouldn’t punish yourself over how long you may take. The old statement “you can’t rush art” applies no matter what you’re writing. It’s normal for it to feel hard sometimes. It’s normal to think about giving up and to question your work. You have to be critical to get the best from your writing, but not so much that it hurts your creativity. Take a break, but if the story pulls you back in, I’d say you’re meant to finish it. At the very least, you get to rid yourself of all those plot bunnies and troublesome characters by sticking them on paper where they’re slightly easier to deal with.

Who cares if it takes you three years, or five years, or ten? There are no rules and great books are always re-written. It’s the quality of your finished product that matters.

 So fellow scribblers, what’s the longest you’ve taken to write a book?  Or the shortest?  Do you have an average? Are you endlessly tinkering with a WiP or do you write everything like someone possessed?

Related reads

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What to do when you hit a Black Hole in your Writing
Measuring Progress
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Why Exercise is good for a Writer

Man on laptop with squash racket

Exercise. Some people love it, some people would rather sit on broken glass than do all that jumping about. It would be stereotypical to suggest that all writers are in the latter camp, but there’s no getting away from the fact that writing involves a lot of staying still to get the words on paper.

But there are advantages to exercising, or any kind of movement, from a writing point of view. When you’re concentrating on your body, your mind can work undisturbed, tapping into those hidden pockets of creativity to provide ideas and solutions. A common bit of advice for writer’s block is “go for a walk”.

How famous writers do it

Haruki Murakami runs ten kilometres or swims fifteen hundred meters every day. Kurt Vonnegut does push-ups and sit-ups when he takes breaks. These may not appeal to you but there are plenty of ways to get the blood pumping from climbing to netball to tennis to dance! If you go to the gym, take a tip from Neil Gaiman and try listening to an audio book whilst on the treadmill!

If time is not on your side, you could even try exercising while writing. You could pace around to think about scenes and edits like Philip Roth does. For a more advanced take on that, you can buy (or fashion if you’re a DIY enthusiast) a desk treadmill. Or cut out the hassle and simply try writing while standing up. Many famous writers have tried this including Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Lewis Carroll.

What type of exercise do you like? Do you write standing up or even on a treadmill? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Finding Time to Write
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New Year, New Writing Resolutions – How to Avoid Failure

I’m a little late here, but I want to just talk about New Year’s Resolutions. We make ‘em, we break ’em – that’s true for me and I expect it’s true for a lot of other people as well. Every year we make ourselves all sorts of promises – to loose weight, get fitter, get a better job, spend more time with our families – but they rarely work out.

The same can be said with resolutions about writing – write that book, start that blog, enter that competition, get published (as if we could wave a wand for that!) – and so on.
In the past, I’ve done the same. Finishing my book has been my resolution for the past couple of years and I’ve still not done it. I did manage to start this blog which was a resolution last year, but even that took me a while. It was more a mid year resolution in the end!

So this year I have decided to try a new approach. Rather than saying I’m going to finish this book, I’m just promising to finish this edit. And if I get onto edit round three before the end of the year, that’s a bonus. If I get to final edit, that’s a bonus. If I finish it, I’ll wack on nipple tassles and do the hula! Maybe.

Basically, I’m keeping it simple. I’ve made one promise, about one thing and that’s it. I’ve got pressure on me, but not unrealistic pressure and I’m hoping that will help keep me going as I try to whip this damned manuscript into shape.

What are your writing resolutions? Or do you think any resolutions are a waste of time?