Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

7 Distractions Stopping You From Writing (and How to Beat Them!)

Whether you are a professional, doing it alongside a day job, or it’s simply a hobby, you write because you feel a compulsion. It’s a passion, a calling, a process that brings you to life and helps you make sense of the world.

But simply loving something doesn’t make it easy to do…

How to overcome your writing distractions...

I think Dorothy Parker connected with a deep and collective truth when she said:

I hate writing, I love having written. (Click to Tweet)

It feels good to step back and observe something I have spent my time creating and crafting.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have written in large part because writing is not easy. The doubts, confusion, and endless potential can make for an overwhelming foundation from which to start each time.

We bring a lot of baggage to the table, which can make us forget that although it’s not easy, writing IS quite simple…You just have to start.

Only, it’s the starting that hurts isn’t it?

We get distracted and convince ourselves of reasons why we are not quite ready to do the work.

But if we are going to get to that beautiful place at the end of the day; the happy land of ‘Having Written’, we must recognise the road blocks we put in our own way.

There are many things that stop me from starting. Here are just seven of them:

1) Reading ABOUT Writing

I spend a lot of time reading motivational blog posts and books about creativity and ‘doing the work’. So much time in fact that it became an evident irony when every time I sat down to write I picked up The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, You are a Writer by Jeff Goins, or Writer’s Doubt by Bryan Hutchinson.

I was inspired, but remained completely passive and creatively paralysed. So I had to ration my consumption of these materials. I don’t look at my RSS feed, social networks, or email updates until I’ve written for at least an hour (usually two) each morning.

2) Obsessing Over Routine

I also fall prey to Routine Envy. I love to read about the daily routines of my heroes, and spend a lot of time pondering ways to imitate them. Or at least I did, until I had a conversation with someone who was thinking of emulating MINE. It seemed ridiculous and at that point I realised that no one has the perfect routine; we all just experiment with how we mix what we want to do with the time we have available to do it.

Find your rhythm and patterns that work for you, but don’t stress about it and don’t obsess over getting it perfect. You never will. Just decide what you want to do (write) and unearth time every day to do it.

3) Comparing Yourself to Others

Do you ever look with envy through the lens of social media at the lives of others who appear to be doing what you want to be doing?

Again, you learn an important lesson when you realise there are people looking at you in exactly the same way. We are all muddling along, learning, and making things up as we go along.

We all have messy and confusing insides that we compare with the outward projections of others.

4) Developing Strategic Quick Fixes

Another thing I tend to do when I sit down to write is to search for quicker ways to acheive results. Formulas, outlines, and paint by numbers solutions to writing. And judging by Google’s most searched for terms many people are on the look out for similar things.

Structure is obviously extremely useful when it comes to writing but again I find my search for quicker ways to work can distract me from actually doing the writing. If you want to work with an outline then develop a very simple one and commit to sticking with it for a while.

5) Feeling Sorry for Yourself

There are times when I don’t start writing because I’m doing nothing other than feeling sorry for myself, doubting every choice I’ve ever made and wondering what the hell I’m thinking trying to write words for people to read. These are the moments I allow every critical thing anyone has ever said to enter my mind and the doubts to niggle me to a place of inaction.

I have a specific mailbox where I put encouraging emails from people who have experienced transformation because of a message I happened to pen. When I feel tempted to stop writing because I want to wallow in my own self-doubt I remind myself of the bigger picture. My work is not about me and my self-pity or self-indulgence.

Staring at an Empty Screen with an Empty Head (go do something that will fill you back up)

Some days we are just empty. I find there are times when I need to step away from the screen and do something that nourishes my soul and fills you back up. Otherwise I resent my creative process and have nothing left to give.

Identify the difference between your emptiness and your fear-fuelled block.

6) Researching Yourself into Oblivion

Do you ever think to yourself, ‘I’ll be ready to write once I know what I’m talking about’, and then proceed to lose yourself in articles, videos, and books about the subject you want to write on? I often find myself so overwhelmed that I completely lose perspective of what I set out to create initially.

Focus Focus Focus.

7) Waiting for Inspiration to Strike

This is an obvious one and to some extent it encapsulates procrastination in a nutshell. As a writer who takes the craft seriously you must turn pro in your mind before you turn pro in your ‘reality’.

For me the biggest difference between the pro mindset and the mind of an amateur is in our relationship with inspiration. The amateur creates when they’re inspired, the pro goes to work in order to get inspired.

In other words…they start.

‘Having Written’ is a great feeling. It’s a beautiful destination. But if you don’t actually step off the platform you will never get there, however much it looks to others and yourself like your intention is to catch the train. No writer feels adequate, ready, or distraction-free enough to start. Yet we must.

After all, we’re writers because we write…right?

Over to You

Do you recognise any of these habits from your own life? How do you make the shift from procrastination to the point at which you say yes and make the simple decision to write?

Share in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

This post is by Positive Writer contributor Andy Mort.

About Andy Mort

Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, which is a Blog and Podcast aimed at encouraging HSPs and introverts to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. Twitter: @atlumschema

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  • http://www.jrdchalktalk.com Jacquelyn Delcamp

    I have gotten better about this. I have found the best thing to do is allow for a brief distraction so that I gradually ween myself off. Sometimes I write about why I feel distracted and that typically brings me back, allows my mind to flow wherever it’s at or develop an unexpected piece! So much relevance, it’s fun to learn and grow as a writer.

    • Kathleen Guire

      I get stuck in researching. I love it, but I fimd myself using one sentence after four hours of research. Glad I’m not alone! 🙂

      • http://www.jrdchalktalk.com Jacquelyn Delcamp

        That’s true for me too ha! Make your own research 🙂 That’s my motto now.

        • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

          Love that Jacquelyn. I do find just writing and giving time for research later on works quite nicely. I can go off on massive tangents otherwise and completely miss the original point that I was planning to make!

          • http://www.jrdchalktalk.com Jacquelyn Delcamp

            Oh that happens to me too! Sometimes it works to my advantage because of the different pieces I end up with but for the most I end up having this weird loop when I look back at it, even if I go fishing for different synonyms, it’s crazy. Love your wok Andy!

          • wolfman

            Hi Andy, Robert here. Love your blogs and Sheep Dressed Like Wolves. See you there. Having a great weekend!! Thanks for your encouragement..

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    “Do any of these resonate with you?” How about – ALL OF THEM! 🙁

    Thank you for elucidating all my fears and distractions so beautifully, Andy! #HUGSSS

    I too read a lot, but since I never apply this knowledge, I don’t retain it either! 🙁 I am a people-pleaser, meaning I want others to love my work – unapologetically, unconditionally and unequivocally! ANy less-than-perfect feedback (got one just yesterday) throws me into an unending loop of self-pity and procrastination (two traits that I have acquired a Ph.D in 🙁 )

    Isn’t it funny how one not-so-perfect message is more powerful than 10 positive messages?

    Thank you so much for being this transparent and tender with your words (already subscribed to your blog)

    This is EVERGREEN content – thanks again! #HUGS

    Kitto

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      Oh yes Krithika, the impact of a negative comment can throw you so far off course it’s unbelievable! Really appreciate this comment and I hope that you manage to find ways to keep doing your great work even when the feedback is less than perfect. I’m so with you there though. It’s tough!

  • William Ballard

    Hi Andy,

    Great post!

    I love the point about reading books about writing. 😉

    I am firm believer that all writers must be avid readers, but I can definitely see how reading can take you way from being a writer. However, taking a quote from Jeff Goins, “A writers is someone who writes”.

    Reading has its place in a writer’s journey, but it should have an end so that writer can get to what a writer does which is writing.

    Thank you for this post!

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      Yeah, absolutely agree William! Joanna Penn makes a good point in her book, Business for Authors about reading books about the different parts of publishing a book. To paraphrase she says that you should read books about things like editing only when you’re actually in the process of editing. And I think there is real truth in this. Unless it’s helpful, inspiring, solving a problem that you’re having and it’s going to lead you to get your head down and do the work, reading these kinds of books might just be a way to put off what you really need to be doing.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • http://williamballard.weebly.com/ William Ballard

        Great point! I have not had the honor of reading Joanna’s book but it sounds a like a great one. Great advice mentioned too! If only the majority of writers could grab a hold of that wisdom.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Great points, Andy! I tell my writers these things all the time. But it helps to come from someone different. Will pass this along!

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      Thanks Susan. Very glad to be able to back you up! 🙂

  • http://www.reclaimingyourfuture.com/ Toni – Reclaiming Your Future

    Number 1 is the exact reason I come here 🙂
    And I’m right there with you on Number 5 though not necessarily feeling sorry for myself but doubting myself wondering how I can have the audacity to advise others when I so very often ignore my own advice lol.

    Great post Andy!!

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      Haha yes I know the feeling Toni. ‘Feeling like a hypocrite’ could definitely be another thing that stalls me. Thank you 🙂

  • Ani

    nice post. Yes, most of the habits sound familiar. I am trying to get rid of them though 🙂

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Me, too, Ani! 🙂

  • Sammy

    Yeah, that right. I can of got caught up in the ‘reading about writing’. And this is very timely for me. Am going to get started and avoid the pleasures of ‘having written’.

  • momtheobscure

    All of them, especially waiting for inspiration. Then comes doubt and fear and oh, just give up and get the laundry done! I’ve got to figure out how to break my shell. Great article, btw.

  • http://www.addictivegeek.com/ Mayank Jain

    Brillaint article.

    I could really relate to all of those points.

    “Researching Yourself into Oblivion” is exactly what happens to me so often. I just go a bit too deep …

  • Eric Pulsifer

    Ewww. Can claim many of these. Particularly #1. I finally cleaned out my RSS feeds, which had many blogs on the craft. I’m down to a couple now instead of more than 25.

    I figure the time I spent reading those things could well have been spent at the keyboard hammering away like a deranged beaver, actually honing my craft.

  • John

    Awesome article its really helpful for me Dissertation Writing Services

  • mitcoivanov

    Otherwise said: Stop reading and start writing.