7 Monstruous Activities That Devour a Writer’s Time


‘The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time,’ said Bertrand Russell.

‘Unless you have a novel to write,’ quoth Vincent Mars.

1. Reading about writing

Books on writing are helpful, but I don’t think they can teach you how to create. They can show you common mistakes you are likely to make, and offer tips on how to avoid them, but to write good fiction you have to feel with your own heart and think with your own head. You have to find the answers yourself.

2. Speaking about your book

Mentioning it in passing to friends you want to impress is okay. But any lengthy discussions on it will waste your energy. It’s better to spent that time writing your book. For this reason I have my doubts about the effectiveness of writing groups. Maybe they are good for helping you edit your book, but otherwise I have my doubts.

3. Reading fiction

When I began studying English I used to read for hours, and then if I had any time left, I wrote. Now I do the opposite. Every writer is first a reader, but after a point, you read to sustain your writing. You should still read as much as possible, but do it with discrimination, for bad writing is contagious. Do it after you reach your daily word count.

4. Watching television

A bad habit hard to get rid of. But once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. I don’t have a TV in my room. I only watch major sporting events like the final of the Champions League. I watch films on my laptop.

5. Procrastinating

Manifests itself in many forms, from an obsessive drive to rename and rearrange story files on the laptop just before starting to write, to dreaming about hatted women in Spain. The more excited I am about a story or writing project, and the more I want it done, the more I tend to procrastinate. The only cure for it I’ve found so far is to write in the morning, immediately after I wake up, before anything can distract me.

6. Using social media

I’m not on Facebook, but I am here on WordPress, and this takes me usually at least 30 minutes of my time every day. Sometimes much more. It’s important to use your blog as a channel to talk about your writing. Not necessarily for publishing your work, for I have my doubts about online publishing. But for introducing readers to your work, and for speaking about literary topics in a way that helps you improve your writing, but this with moderation, and only after your daily writing session are done.

7. Watching porn

Arguable a male-only problem. I have not watched porn for two years and a half, and I don’t ever plan to. For a young irreligious, shiftless young man like me I believe this is an outstanding achievement.

What distracts you from writing, other than reading my blog?

(This is an old post rewritten and republished.)

97 thoughts on “7 Monstruous Activities That Devour a Writer’s Time

  1. Writing distractions:
    dirty dishes
    reading blogs
    pay bills
    doctor appointments
    The only reason I have time to write now is my temporary retirement.

  2. Reason #7 is hilarious. I wish to be one of those pretty females who distract aspiring writers. 😉 if i had known about #2 BEFORE i would never had told my mum I was writing a book. NOW i know why she doesn’t care anymore.

  3. Everything. Thanks for visiting my blog today, glad I’ve found yours! I just told my husband I needed to do some writing and he said “after you apply to a job.” I responded that if I did that, I would never write. I agree with you about blogging, it is a great way to keep yourself writing, but it often isn’t the kind of writing you want or need to be doing. At least it keeps the juices flowing though. Writing is better than not writing.

  4. Point nr 4:
    I gave up TV when I started studies. I clearly announced that I can live without TV. And I was right.
    Right now I still don’t have a TV. I think it’s just a time killer.
    But I, like you, watch movies on my laptop or in the cinema.

    Point nr 6:
    I don’t think having a Facebook account changes anything. It’s not that much fun. I’m glad to have it cause I connected with old friends this way. But, honestly, we don’t talk every day!

  5. “Just like a good secret, an unwritten story loses its charm if it is mentioned often.” – agreed!

    “Pretending to be nice to bad relatives” – now that’s an interesting one I haven’t seen anywhere else, at least not written under such a specific heading.

    I’d say my biggest two *obstacles* to successfully writing a story are:
    a) developing a story when I’m not in a position to write it, and so satisfying the internal urge to complete ‘the thought’ i.e. ‘the story line within’. If I don’t randomly write it down soonish, the story will evaporate from my mind.

    b) actively stopping myself from developing a story line because I don’t think I’ll have enough time to write it down or develop it fully before some other task has to be done.

  6. The social media one is the killer for me. See, here I am, instead of finishing up that revision…it was going to well this week… Great blog young writer…and your writing is superb.

    1. I really try to write before I do anything else in the day, which is why I write in the morning.

      Compliments about writing make me want to trip the light fantastic about the house, all by myself.

  7. I get distracted by my writing from feelings of crippling low self worth.

    Then I don’t want to do anything, let alone write, so I do other meaningless tasks.

  8. I have a family. They distract me, but I don’t mind.
    #7 is hilarious. Please tell me you love your mother. She’s not a distraction, is she?

  9. Time to wrote should never be secondary to time to live. Writers shouldn’t ever isolate themselves from life. Especially from pretty women! Writing isn’t life. Writing is the opposite. It’s what you do after life. Drink, drive fast (not after drinking,though), fuck other men’s wives, jump off tall things, swim with sharks. Do stuff, then write about it. What are you going to do in the minutes before you die? Regret you didn’t write more. No – you’ll regret you didn’t live more!

    1. I have to disagree Seb. In my opinion writing is a life , a form of it, and maybe even greater because the sky literally has no limit in the world of words. I would want a pen before i die, not the cigar I never smoked. 🙂

    2. Yes, yes I understand what you mean. But if you think this hat-wearing writer would choose some dusty books over a woman in a hat, you are deceiving yourself. If she has a wide brim, she only has to say the word, and I will burn all my books.

      It seems to me though that people who do things make for lousy writers. Many writers probably write because they can’t do. 😉

      1. Ha ha! 🙂 What did the say in “MIller’s Crossing”? If you ever have to choose between an woman and a hat, choose the hat!

  10. Oh my! On number 7 – I’m pretty sure there are many women writers who would say the same thing about men, only for slightly different reasons 😉

    On number 12 – the problem in the days of mobile phones and social media is that no longer is a lock and a key enough to keep troublesome people/family at bay! One now has to lock the door, and dodge the phone, and use multiple emails and various names so as not to be found where one spends most of one’s time – on-line. And even then…

    1. Would that I knew what those reasons are! 😉

      That’s why I don’t have a mobile phone!

      PS: Since your moonbeamed message, each new comment you leave on this blog is a graceful melody resulting from the flapping of Australian butterflies’ wings.

  11. every time i come home from gypsying, im dead beat. it leaves me no strength to write. write hard boy, so that when you grow up you wont need to gypsy like i do. write smart boy, so that when you are at the depths of despair, all you need to do it write.

  12. My biggest one is my job. Sometimes, I use opportunities at work to write very lengthy poetic emails about anything at all. I may be emailing purchasing about needing a certain product, and I’ll pretend this product is alive and that it wants to come here to Seattle so it can drink much coffee and collect moss.
    Kudos on your #4, by the way, and you’re right – porn will suck creativity from your brain. Sadly, the religious are no less affected than the irreligious. 😦

  13. #1 is right on, sir. I spent the better part of four months reading “writing advice” columns, books, etc. I realized, at the end of it all, that I was making more mistakes by trying to follow the rules than I did before I realized there were rules.

    The man who knows every sports statistic in history may win at trivial pursuit, but that doesn’t mean he will throw a football any farther,

    1. I really think most of those books on writing and websites with advice for writers and so on are actual distractions from writing. I think they do help with blog and web writing, but not with story writing.

      Story writing is a solitary activity!

  14. I seem to find all sorts of distractions when I’ve got a scene to write that’s quite emotional or conflict led … I often immerse myself in absolutely unrelated “research” … housework, cooking and especially baking have to also be curbed during writing time.
    It helps that I have dedicated writing time every day, around the same time.
    Keep writing 🙂

  15. i stare at your posts so long i run out of time to respond. plus i never know what to say, you often speak what i already thought, yet hadn’t voiced. you are my favorite living writer… i think. also, i’ve yet to purchase or own a tv. 🙂

  16. The main distraction that I usually face while writing (especially in blogging) is my parents itself! They are simply shouting at me with a query that, what actually does this task serves you? :/
    Anyway, thanks a lot for this thought provoking share. 🙂 😀


      1. Yeah, I must take care of them! The relevance of a son/daughter actually matters here in a much prominent way I guess. But still I have got my own maturity within this 19 years of life you know? Simply shouting without any a specific reasons isn’t at all fair, huh? 😀 🙂


  17. Well the thing which distracts me from writing are my studies and other credit goes to my laziness 😛 … Some times I feel like please send me some one who can scribble down for me or sometimes even too 😀

  18. I definitely agree with the write before you read comment. If I start reading with my tea in the morning, I never seem to get to my journal and writing!

  19. Social Media is the worst for sure. Always the number one source of procrastination for me, especially when you can justify it with “well I read some great articles off Twitter!” SMH

  20. Lol at #7. I’m trying to think about what detracts from my writing time … oh no, wait, that’s easy. WORK. Gah. It never seems to end. Oh, and trying to write a second book while promoting my first book is just murder on my creative juices. We writers are a sorry lot indeed.

  21. For me, my main vice is checking social media stats obsessively. I’ve realized that #2 and #3 are very dangerous, so I avoid them at all costs.

  22. I agree that reading about writing can only go so far. I too write best first thing in the morning. I don’t watch TV or movies, and certainly not porn (alas, I am a girl). I procrastinate by cleaning and exercising. I use facebook to stay in touch with friends, and occasionally to stare without thinking. And I hardly imagine you to be reckless, dear Vincent.

    1. I am wont to toss my hat on the bed and weep when Oliver Colors’ biography proves trickier to write than expected. Isn’t that a kind of recklessness, dear Jessica?

      1. Mm. No. If you were to toss it out the window, perhaps… The bed is far too safe.

        I weep often, too. But that is not my recklessness.

  23. I am so far down the media rabbit hole, which isn’t entirely a bad thing for me. I want to write in/for the media. But I still dream about the novel I will hopefully write when I stop putting it off.

    Well said, yet again.

  24. At first, when just started reading, I noticed I HAVE read this before and even “liked” it already! But… your “tone” told me I should continue even though. And… now I see the difference! 🙂 Blame it on the labels! 😉

    Your writings are distracting, indeed! But I value this distraction much.

  25. Caught up with the places of the outside world for work, and the wild places it takes me, sometimes leaves one a little to tired to write, that’s what distracts me. Most of everything else can be skipped past, but here makes for an alright distraction in reading from time to time.

  26. although i agree with some things on your list (tv watching, facebook) I find that sometimes when I procrastinate (surfing the web for example) I can sometimes find inspiration.

  27. I think #7 is a great achievement, especially since the images in porn get stuck in your head, and they are next to impossible to erase. I find this actually truncates creativity. You get stuck in a mental rut.

  28. First,
    Hold up. Whoever told you porn is a male-only problem was probably a man, and was wrong.
    Thank you for writing this post. This is helpful for me. I am an avid reader and sometimes my writing slips because I am caught up in someone else’s imagination. I have to find a 50-50 balance between writing and reading. I am obsessed with them both.
    I haven’t had a TV since 2006. I love it. Although, Netflix is quite a distraction at times.

  29. I don’t have hard and fast distractions… They depend.
    For example, music gets the creative juices flowing and sometimes, just puts a hold on it… I guess that is because I get lost in it, in the music.
    Other times, when I am bent on publishing an article on my blog, nothing distracts me… not even the shoulder pain that I get because of staring at the screen for hours.
    But yes, mail, books and other blogs are my most common distractions.

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