What? Oh, yes. I just have to finish my coffee, load the dishwasher, clean the cat’s bowl, check my Facebook author page, nip on to Twitter – but only for five minutes – do the filing, have a Skype with my critique partner…

Um, what book?

Even writing this blog is a distraction. So why don’t I settle down and do what I love and lose myself in my book’s imaginary world for hours on end? This is a question that burns into every writer’s consciousness.


  • Books will not write themselves; whatever fantasy you conjure up, the writing elves do not visit overnight.
  • Editors get cheesed off with undisciplined writers. And then there’s the fearsome agent stalking you… or your self-publishing colleagues repeatedly asking when your next book is out.
  • The only way to sell more books is to write more books.

Three things to consider:
Lack of concentration
Is your physical environment comfortable? Are your chair and desk at the right height? Are you alone with your door shut to the rest of the world? Is the voice mail/answerphone on?
You can fix the physical. Even if it’s only half an hour or an hour, everybody is entitled to some “me time”. Be ruthless during that time – no Twitter, etc. I was cheered last weekend when a famous author admitted to me that she wrote one paragraph at a time, flitting back and forth to the computer for intense bursts of half an hour at a time in between doing a million other things. She dismissed the idea of x words per day with a wave of her hand. Yet her output is prolific.

Lack of confidence
You ask yourself, ‘Am I churning out rubbish or is there a possibility that somebody, somewhere will love my work?
If you’ve had critique or assessment through a writing group, a writers’ organisation, a reputable on-line critique site, feedback from an agent/editor or published authors, you’ve probably got some idea of that and of where to concentrate in order to improve. Even if you think your latest work is total rubbish, you can give yourself  permission to write badly because you have the luxury of going back and fixing it by rewriting it. Again and again. And it will improve. 😉  And sometimes, doubt about your beauteous prose can make you look at it with a sharp eye. Perhaps you do need to change that character’s story arc, or inject some emotional punch into that boring scene.

Does that doubt whether writing is a proper job still hammer away in the back of your brain?
This is the one that assails many writers. Here’s the answer: yes, it is a proper and fit occupation. How do you think all those books you love to read came about? Some people can’t string a sentence together. It’s a great skill as well as a gift to be able to put together a coherent story of tens of thousands of words that makes people’s spirits soar,  takes them on an emotional journey,  puts them in the middle of the struggle for survival, or in the shield wall of a famous battle of antiquity. It’s like any other art form, difficult to make a living at, but what is produced brings enormous pleasure individually to many and makes the world a far better place.

If you have any magic solutions, please let me know!
Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out early summer 2014.

2 comments to Distractions

  • Thanks, Alison. I couldn’t agree more. There’s such a lot to keep you from writing, but there’s such a lot to get out of it!

  • Alison

    This is always my conundrum with Twitter and Facebook! I had had so many good leads from both of those that I am loath to ignore them. And they’re fun!