What’s a Writer to Do?

Unfortunately this beautiful brass bird bell from
Denmark has come to represent Twitter to me:
the big bird in the room that chimes for attention

Have you noticed how some blog posts leave you thinking: “Oh that’s nice.” Others make you think a little more. Still others you could take or leave. Then there are some, just a few, that really make you sit up and pay attention. 

In the past 10 days, I’ve read 3 posts like that. Posts that reinforce the little voice I’ve been hearing in my head, saying: I NEED HELP! Why don’t I write?

The day before yesterday, Nina Badzin posted Mixed Blessings of the Internet. Nina issued “a cry for help,” asking how we writers get our daily WIP writing done while still keeping up with social networking.

I responded (inadequately) in comments. (The truth is I had gotten about 2 hours of sleep after Hurricane Irene. Add to that, I was in a pretty down mood. I think my comment reflected it.) The gist of my answer to Nina is that I DON’T get my WIP done, or not very well. But that I keep doing it (social networking), drawn like a moth to the flame.

The second truth is that in the middle of a hurricane I was thinking about how to tweet about it—I was actually a little more worried about that than I was about not being able to cook a hot meal. (In fairness the storm had been downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it reached us, but still…)

Just like all writers, there are a lot of things vying for my attention!
The bird bell, of course front and center, represents Twitter and all social networking

Why do I spend my time the way I do? I started thinking about this last week when I read Post #2 that struck home: Slaying the Green-backed Dragon on Cynthia Robertson’s blog. Cynthia wondered if writers are more productive when working another job full time or when they are able to write full time on WIPs. In essence I responded that it didn’t seem to matter to my productivity level, whether I worked or not.

Right now I don’t work full or part time (about a year ago my part time job dwindled down to two or so hours a week—budget cuts). I no longer have children at home, like some of you lucky mothers. And thanks to the economy, my freelance client base has eroded away. In essence I have all the time in the world for my WIPs.

But my third truthis that my writing productivity is based more on my state of mind—how happy and relaxed I am—than on how much time I have. In fact, my most productive time, as a writer (of fiction), was when I was home full-time with two children. I wrote three middle-grade novels, one early reader, two picture books, three published essays, one nationally published short story. And the editorial feedback I got back from “good rejections” (there were plenty) was, well, good. But, note to self and readers: still no novel published.

Which brings me to Post #3, How Much Time Do We Really Need to Write, posted this morning on Natalia Sylvester’s blog. After reading Cynthia’s blog post, she experimented by dedicating an entire day to her WIP, nothing else, to see how much more productive she might be if she only had her WIP to work on—like I do.

And that, dear readers, brings me to MY problem. I have two really promising (my opinion only) WIPs: “Heavy Duty” and “Manila Folder.” One is over one-third written, the other slightly less. But I spend way too much time (more than I care to track) on Twitter and commenting on blogs.

My two WIPs AKA
“Heavy Duty” and “Manila Folder”

I rationalize: Twitter and blog commenting is necessary—it’s part of building my writer’s platform. That’s why I started. Way back six months ago when I first started, a blog post told me to.

But now something more important has happened. You tweeps are my friends: Nina, Natalia, Cynthia, and about 14 others of you that I talk to almost everyday. I wrote a guest post for Natalia a couple of months ago about this. If I’m not on Twitter as much, I’d miss you! My writing life is very solitary. I don’t go to coffee shops, I don’t have a writer’s group. I sit at my desk or at my kitchen table, (purportedly) writing.

Nonetheless, the fact remains. I need to get to work on my WIPs, drum up freelance writing business, write and submit short stories and creative nonfiction, write my blog, and—oh—live my life, maybe even clean my house. And then there’s Twitter, the big bird in the room…

But the real problem isn’t Twitter, it’s me. Why don’t I write? My two WIPs are well defined, great ideas (just my opinion, granted), but I am making much-too-painfully slow process. I honestly believe it’s not because I’m doing anything else, like blogging or Twitter, too much—it’s just that everything else takes priority. And I’m just not writing enough. So, why don’t I? What’s a writer to do?

Have you had times that you simply can’t or won’t work on your WIPs? What have you done about it?




  1. Jan says:

    Hi Julia,
    I don’t have a fiction WIP because I write parenting articles, but I still struggle with feeling frozen at times. To me it’s all about fear and the lies we hear in our head that we are not enough. So…stomp on those lies and face your fears and just start. Write a letter to yourself. Write an angry note or a pleading note to encourage yourself to just start. As they say in the Pacific Northwest, just do it.

    Yet, easier said than done. Hugs to you today. j

  2. I’ve been there! When I started querying agents for my novel back in October, I told myself I’d start working on my next book right away, but I couldn’t. I told myself I needed a break, and spent the next four months obsessing over the querying process. Then I signed with my agent, and told myself that now was the time to focus on editing the book & preparing it to go on submission.

    So I basically I didn’t start working on this new book until Aug 1! There were a few months before then when I honestly tried to start a new book and simply couldn’t. I got stuck in research mode, only to decide I wasn’t 100% into the ideas.

    One day I sat back and realized that if I’d started the new WIP when I’d planned, I could’ve had a first draft, or even a first edit by now. And my biggest fear was that a year from now, I’d be in the same place.

    The hardest part was getting back into a rhythm after so much time off. It’s a lot like jumping into a cold pool; you contemplate and try to prepare for it, but once you’re in, your body adjusts to the temperature. My best advice is to jump in, and remember that time passes fast. When it does, if you start today, you’ll have so much more to show for it.

  3. Dearest Julia … you are NOT alone. As I commented on ALL of those blog posts you mentioned, I was in the same boat, quite literally. My freelance all but dried up for about 1.5 years, during which time I was going to “try my hand at being a full-time novelist.” Well, the results were less than stellar. I got about 30K done over a year. Pitiful, because I was doing what you were doing – blogging, reading blogs, Tweeting, obsessing over whether I was keeping up on my Tweeting. All the while, intellectually, I knew that this misguided prioritization was NOT helping me meet my goal of becoming a novelist. Without the novel, the platform building meant nothing; the priorities were completely misaligned. I knew that, but … I carried on with my poor behavior.

    For me, the revelation about my own personal work style came about two months ago when, miraculously, freelance picked up at a dizzying pace. I have written more fiction in the past two months than I did in the previous four … because 1) I am making the time for it 2) I KNEW this about myself already – but I was reminded how I MUST be ultra busy to be productive 3) For me, I think the variety that Natalia mentions is key … doing the paying stuff that I might not like all that much (and sometimes hate) is HUGE motivation for me to get back to the fiction that I LOVE. I can say that I really appreciate the fiction more now than ever.

    So the scary reality I think I’ve come to accept is that, if I ever ‘make it’ as a novelist, I am still going to be doing freelance on the side, or some other large project (hmm.. house build?) so that I can keep the fiction fresh, and keep the passion alive.

    I feel your pain, buddy… And the only thing that has gotten me away from my obsessive compulsiveness about Tweeting and blogging is that I’ve simply been too busy to keep up with it. And you know what I’ve learned? The world hasn’t ended. I still have friends on Twitter who support me, and I’m still gaining followers. People still visit my blog. I’m even contemplating time off from my blog for various periods – so that I can, again, make my WIP the #1 priority.

  4. Jan, It’s so interesting to read that you feel like it’s about fear–and I’ve written a post in the past about feeling like an impostor so I know exactly what you mean! Still, there’s something even more with the fiction. Not good enough and also that I don’t reall have the chops. I’m trained as a journalist and have never taken creative writing classes, so my theory is that I don’t think I’m as good as anyone else…. as you say “Just do it.” Maybe I’ll try a letter & remember your kind words when I get discouraged! Thanks for the hugs and encouragement! xo Julia

    Natalia, Thanks for the encouragement — and what you say makes so much sense. For me it really is starting to feel like if I don’t do something soon then maybe I just won’t EVER do it…. so I better get going. As you’ve done, I look at how long it’s been…. all the time that would’ve produced a book. Thank you for your advice and enouragement! xo Julia

  5. Melissa, I always appreciate your insight so much — I know we’ve been on such similar paths with our careers, and I have faith that (if I want it to) my freelance business will eventually pick up again. That said, I think you are much much better at refocusing yourself and multitasking when you are busy. I tend to distract myself with lots and lots of extraneous things going on (Twitter and blog commenting being my newest shiny object). Which continues to beg the question: WHY? With your, Natalia, Cynthia, and Nina’s encouragement continue plugging away — and perhaps in the meanwhile pursue answers to my own particular flavor of procrastination and lack of discipline! xo Julia

  6. Cynthia Robertson says:

    These are all great comments, Julia, and these ideas about what could be the issue for your fiction writing all went through my head as I read your post, because we’ve all experienced these roadblocks.
    I don’t know if you are frightened of failure, but I do know you don’t need to be. I’m sure you are a wonderful fiction writer. Perhaps writing some fiction for your blog and hearing the good feedback you will get would help you get over that? I know you said the ghost story was NOT fiction, but it still showed me you can do it. And very well.
    As to Tweeting and blog reading & commenting: I have had this same issue. I work in a business environment where the talk and focus is all on money. The people I work with do not read much outside the topic of work, and they certainly don’t write fiction. So the friendship with you all makes me so very happy! Writers are my people…my tribe. And it is difficult to not jump onto Twitter and spend all morning every morning with you all. No smoker ever had a more difficult time quitting smoking than I have not opening up Twitter at 5 in the morning – when I know all my East Coast buddies are on there chatting it up about writing & sharing there lives. But I had to quit doing that, because I wasn’t getting my fiction writing done.
    Now I use it as a reward later in the day…and not every day. And you knwowhat? I still get followers and people still read my blog posts and leave comments. And now I am once again making headway on my WIP.
    I think structuring my day works for me. Maybe it will work for you too? When you had your kids home, and were so productive, you probably had to set aside time to write. If I don’t structure my free time I end up just wandering from one thing to the next. I bet you do that too. Try structuring your day and sticking to it. And as for the fear thing: try writing some fiction for us, your fans. xoxo

  7. CMSmith says:

    I am probably the last person who should be giving any kind of opinion or advice on this.

    But for me it’s pretty simple. I just have to DO it.

    When I was working on my memoir, I got pretty far along and then came to a dead halt. I let it sit for weeks, maybe months. Mostly because I had come to the difficult part for me — writing about the final days leading up to my sister Annie’s death. I wanted to finish it. I was approaching the year anniversary of Annie’s death, so I committed to writing each day about what had happened on that date the previous year.

    It was heartbreaking and I went through tissues by the cases.

    But I got the draft done.

    You just have to do it.

  8. My problem is that I always want to be writing. I wish I had a pause button for everything else in my life. I’m an editor, too, and while I love editing and am happy when I get a new editing job to work on, my immediate thought is, “Oh no! When am I going to write?” I lose a lot of sleep for this reason.

  9. Cynthia, I really appreciate your kind and complimentary comments about my writing so much! I don’t know about writing fiction for my blog (or my fans, thank YOU 🙂 — honestly, it terrifies me, so you may be right that I’m frightened of failure! As for making a schedule for myself, it’s exactly what I’ve been leaning toward. Now that summer is over, my time is much more my own — and there’s no reason to respond by trickling time away on Twitter or blog hopping. Thanks again for your ideas and lovely compliments! xo Julia

    Christine, Just do it seems to be a common piece of advice here — maybe I’m just less disciplined than a lot of you!? I’m so sorry that you had to go through that with the draft of your memoir about Annie — but it’s interesting that it was because of the fear of the difficult part. Both my WIPs deal with issues that are fairly intensely personal things I’ve gone through as well, and it just occurs to me that maybe that’s why I’ve inched along! Good insight, Christine — and now maybe I really can just do it?! xo Julia

    Kelly, You have the exact opposite problem to mine! It’s a good one — I once wrote a middle grade novel that was like that: I could not stop writing and I think I wrote the whole thing in about two weeks…. I so wish I could get a little bit of your drive right now! So awesome!

  10. This certainly is the topic of the week. Like you, my writing productivity tends to reflect my state of mind rather than time I carve out. I know everyone always says writer’s block isn’t real, lawyers don’t get law-block blah blah blah. But as with writing, or anything, for me, I can’t do it right now I can’t do it right now. This mostly relates our non-deadline WIPs.

    I think when you get the ball rolling on just one of those things you mentioned needing to do, the rest will follow. I always love reading your blogs. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are talented!

  11. Loved the post. And OBVIOUSLY I’m right there with you. I’m sorting through the responses on my blog and on yours. Going to check out Natalia’s now. One message I’m hearing that I like: people who’ve stepped away a bit don’t feel completely out of the loop. Maybe that’s part of my fear . . . that I’d be forgotten. And Natalia brought up a great point on my blog . . . IF that really happened, would it be SO bad? If I didn’t have as many Twitter followers or blog readers would my world fall apart? Probably not.

    I know I need a schedule. Of course that seems a little impossible to imagine once the baby’s here, but like so many have said, it might be more about prioritizing than scheduling. X amount done before I can xyz. No matter how long x takes. I’m thinking about it this week and I plan to report back on my blog next week.

  12. Oh, Julia,

    This is something every modern writer must struggle with; you are NOT alone! One of the best things I have discovered is simply unhooking from the Internet during my writing time. In our new house I refuse to put in Wi-Fi since it is so easy just to tap into my email account or blog when I should be writing. Now that this wee one is on his/her way, I need to multi-task even more! Oy. We WILL get our WIPs done, m’dear! You’re already showing how dedicated you are by this blog post!


  13. Sara, So sorry you share my frame of mind issues….I hope you’re less paralyzed than I am at times! As you say, it’s mostly the non-deadline WIPs; any deadline writing is a piece of cake for me! Thank you for your kind words about my writing and the suggestion I not be too hard on myself — now THAT is a lifeLONG work in progress! xo Julia

    Nina, Thank you for giving me the inspiration for this piece — you’ve been a bit of a mentor to me all along my bloggy trail so it seems hard for me to believe you’re EVER worried about stepping away and being out of the loop! Your readers are quite devoted, as they should be… you have a wonderful blog. Nonetheless, I hear what you’re saying: it’s worrisome to think of losing ground. And there has to be a way to balance all of it. And I think the schedule may be the way to go… I’ll look forward to your next post! xo Julia

    Jolina, You are very kind! I am redoubling my efforts, with great suggestions from this post. You are quite wise to avoid the WIFI — not an option for us since we have at times five different laptop users, yikes! Lucky for you, that little babe is YEARS from demanding WIFI! 🙂 Thank you for the lovely encouragement! xo Julia

  14. Susan says:

    I feel your frustration, so well put in your post. Sometimes I get that little witch sitting on my shoulder who whispers, “Why did you ever think you could become a writer?” But now I really can’t blame her. I have no schedule, I refuse to make one even though I’ve told myself it’s necessary, I find all kinds of excuses for why I can’t get to my other writing, and I also think I’m lazy. I really think a mandatory, forced schedule is a must. You have to be willing to set aside a period of time and just write and write and write, keep that pen moving even if everything you write is crap, just to have something on the page. Eventually, you find you’ve written something good and worth keeping and you’re that much farther along. Being lazy, I haven’t been able to do this yet.

  15. JM Merchant says:

    Hi Julia
    Another thought provoker, and slightly resonate of the blog I posted this afternoon.
    Trying to get myself to write is very difficult at the moment. If I can persuade myself to just sit down, I can knock out an article for Milli in about an hour and a half.
    But even if I can get myself to sit down, I can’t seem to get anywhere with my fiction. I’ve got 2 short stories and the novel all pounding on the top of my skull, and a couple of older stories I want to re-edit now I’ve got a better idea what I’m doing, but getting anything onto a page…doesn’t seem to want to happen.
    Admittedly, I have an occasional job which tuckers me out from time to time, but I still have plenty of free hours to write, I just don’t!
    If you find a good way around this, I’m sure we’d all love you to share.
    Jo x

  16. Michael Ann says:

    Hi Julia. This is my first visit to your blog (I’m on She Writes). The topic of this post is so timely for me! And, I think for many because I’ve been in this discussion several times already this week. We are all feeling overwhelmed by the social media. I am not a novelist and have no WIP, so I can’t imagine how you all do this! I do have two blogs, and the member of several writing and blogging groups. The networking (tweet, FB, blog hops, groups) is starting to really get to me. This is not what I singed up for! But it seems necessary to get readers. I am going to really try to find some balance. Set hours for specific things or something. And also…I know I’m going to just have to let go of some of it and realize, like you said, the world will not end.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post and I will also go read the others that you mentioned!


    See? I can’t even leave a comment without the requisite “link back.” !!

  17. Susan, I like your suggestions, and I know that ultimately I just need a forced schedule with “butt in chair” time. Still, whether it’s laziness or fear or another reason altogether, like you, I have not been able to do this yet. What I need is a little good witch sitting on my shoulder and whispering: “YOU ARE A WRITER! Go forth and write!” Thank you for your encouragement! xo Julia

    Jo, I will be very happy to look for answers and share with you whatever I find out — I’m absolutely certain it will be the main topic of this blog for a few weeks so stay tuned. I hope you and I both find a way to motivate ourselves to use our time for writing when it is available! Meanwhile, I will definitely head over to your post after I finish this comment! xo Julia

    Michael Ann, I’m glad to provide a timely topic your first stop by! Social media is quite overwhelming, and it’s just one more thing to add to the already crazy lives we all lead, right!? I too plan to set up some kind of schedule for myself, no question. But before I do, I’ll definitely swing by and check out your two blogs! 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment & your visit to my blog. It’s nice to meet you (and thank you for the link back!)

  18. Erika Marks says:

    Julia, I am going to be most unoriginal and echo what every one has been saying which is, you are not alone in this!

    I would whole-heartedly agree with what you said about productivity and lack of time–it must be one of Murphy’s Law–but no question, it seems true. And I am so torn over the addition of Twitter–mostly because I feel I have this wonderful network of, yes! friends! and not checking in seems unimaginable at this stage–so how can we beat ourselves up for nurturing this technology when it becomes a huge part of our routine? I don’t know, but we do, don’t we? We feel badly for wanting to maintain these connections, and suddenly we feel neglectful of our WIPs.

    The truth is some days the words DON’T flow and some days the temptation to check in on Twitter, FB and email is too strong.

    I don’t know if any of that made any sense–but I hope it makes you feel better, how about that, my friend? Hugs!

  19. Nancy Kelley says:

    I second Melissa’s comment, though it’s something I’ve only learned about myself this summer. I must be busy to be productive. If I have all the time in the world to finish a project, I will take all the time in the world. If however I have ten things demanding my time, I will zip through each of them at the speed of light.

    However, that doesn’t really answer your question, as I understood it. You were talking more about staying on target, right? Here’s what I do: I work for 25 minutes, then take 5 minutes to stretch. I do a block of 4 of these, so working for 2 hours. Then I take 20 minutes off. There’s a name for this, but I can’t remember what it is. Whatever you call it, it works.

    Good luck!

  20. Julia–reading this cheered me up no end! My tutoring business has dried up recently and being at home alone writing is strange and difficult–hard to form distinct working hours etc. I had luck publishing short stories a long way back, but no luck marketing my novels thus far. When I had an agent she guided me towards non-fiction which was easier to market, and I’ve so enjoyed the ‘shorter form’ of blogging and writing poems. I will say that the experience I had in my creative writing classes has been absolutely stellar. I was dying to take them, but during the first class or two I was resistant, peering around the room and about to give up, and then gave them time. If you’re interested, I think you’d really enjoy one! Let me know how it goes; you are not alone, my friend! Wish we could meet for coffee and to chat about books!

  21. Ann says:

    Hi Julia! I have absolutely NO answers for you (sorry). I read your blog because I think you’re an interesting person and I ADORE your writing!

    I understand how social media can get in the way….I follow SO many blogs that I have to be careful about spending too much time blog reading and commenting and not enough time in the kitchen and letting my own blog slide!

    Twitter is new for me and I tweet my recipes, some stumble upon and say hello to friends, but it’s not been a be-all-to-end-all proposition for me….but I see how it can be!

    I wish I had the answers…but if your WIPs are anything like your blog, they’re super!

  22. Liz says:

    I am not a writer, so I can’t speak from that angle. But I will say 2 things.

    1. Joann from Laundry Hurts My Feelings – who’s in the process of getting a chick lit book published – also ran into this problem and stepped away from commenting and Twitter for a while.

    2. I think so many bloggers either started blogging, already a writer and with many professional writing intentions, or started blogging as a hobby and then it lead to other things.

    While it’s not easy to draw the line and force yourself to cut back, it’s necessary. It becomes a matter of productivity.

  23. FROM ELIZABETH YOUNG (this comment came through to email but for some reason I could not post it to Blogger!!):

    Ride it out Julia, because stress is lousy for compelling writing I have discovered. I am also home full time and my kids are grown up and gone, but there’s such a fine line between keeping in touch with everyone on the Internet and trying to get to one’s own WIP. Like you, I’m not right now, but know that the scales will tip one day and that will be it, everything else will have to wait or take a backseat.

  24. Erika, It definitely does make me feel better knowing that you and other writers experience my same pulls and frustrations with schedule and writing. However, although it’s not unique, it is still very hard when you’re in the middle of it! That is probably what makes the whole online writer community such a paradox for me — the very thing that is helping me feel more connected as a writer is the very thing that is making me less productive as a writer! Thank you for your support and encouragement, friend! xo Julia

    Nancy, Thank you for your very specific personal method — I have heard of similar schedules, and so I’ll follow up and look for the name, as you said. It sounds like it might help me, too, to have a very scheduled day. I really appreciate your suggestion and help! (And I know how effective it can be, judging from *your* productivity level!) xo Julia

    Reeling, I have been looking for and thinking of (for a couple of years) taking a creative writing class, so I’m glad for your recommendation. I’ve sometimes wondered if that “stamp of approval” from a teacher/professor would help. I certainly feel confident in blogging and nonfiction, but I get so choked with fiction! There isn’t a lot going on in Maine but it may well be worth a weekly trek to Boston! I agree, coffee and chatting about books sounds LOVELY!! Thanks for a great comment and the support. xo Julia

  25. Ann, THANK YOU!! You are one of the most upbeat & positive people I know, and I feel quite remarkably fortunate to have you for a fan — how’d I get so lucky? Cooking is so time consuming that I cannot imagine the time you put in; it certainly pays off with some of the most appetizing blog posts I’ve seen on any cooking blog! Thanks again my friend! xo Julia

    Liz, I really appreciate the pointer to Joann — I’m not familiar with her blog but I will check it out! I hope it doesn’t come to that (I’d MISS YOU GUYS!) but I definitely need to do something different. One thing that definitely helps is having wonderful bloggers (like you) who understand and are on my side…. what I REALLY need is one of you standing in my kitchen and cracking the whip!! (p.s. If I took a break, can you imagine how many cute things I’d miss that your girls are doing??? You’d have to email me w/ updates! 🙂 xo Julia

    Elizabeth, (sorry for the glitch with your comment, darn Blogger!) You are so right about stress — definitely a killer of almost all positive in life. I like your attitude and point of view…. I suppose sometimes I let it get to me and forget that as with all things in life there are ebbs and flows! Thanks so much for your encouragement and comment!

  26. Country Wife says:

    Well, I don’t have a WIP or anything, but I feel what you’re saying because I also stay home and don’t have many commitments.

    Two thing I’ve found that keeps me mentally sharp are: make sure I spend time with people outside of the virtual world (go for walks with the neighbor, have friends over for supper, etc).

    Secondly, not allowing myself to sleep in. It’s easy to let myself do that but I’m just not on top of my game when I do.

    So I rise early and build real-life relationships.

    Have a great rest of the week!

  27. Country Wife, That’s a really good suggestion about getting out of the virtual world! I’ve been thinking that myself a lot lately, too. I realized how bad it was when I met A NEIGHBOR (5 houses away), who is also a writer, through a Twitter friend who lives in Arizona! I’ve got to get out more!! (she said, sitting at her computer in her PJs…) As for the early rising, I agree, the earlier the better! Thanks so much for your encouragement! xo Julia

  28. I love your brass bird bell! Have your tried ringing it to shake things up? In the art of feng shui ringing a brass bell can rid an environment of stagnant energy. You could ask out loud for the energy to be rechanneled toward your own writing dreams.

    (Weird advice, I know, but your commenters have given so much good advice on the actual writing front it can be hard to follow that :~)

    I actually have the opposite problem with social media – I find it a chore and have to force myself to do enough of it to “stay alive” as a blogger. But when I was first doing Twitter and Facebook, I did get addicted, so I know exactly what you’re struggling with (including that unnatural thing where you’re obsessively thinking about how to tweet a crisis-like situation).

    I guess I do have one suggestion: the 10K Day over at Fear of Writing. If you can do it without obsessing over the word count (which is not what the main spirit of the event is about) that would be 1-2 days every month (depending on whether you did both the Wed and the Saturday) where you would devote an entire day to your WIP(s). If you do it every month, it picks up momentum. And that can spill over into your daily writing life. (I have sometimes kept writing all day Thurs after a Wed 10K Day because I got so into it!).

    ~ Milli

    P.S. Lately I’ve been taking up some opportunities that are nothing to do with writing. I find that I’ve gone stale and I want to do something more physical than sit at my computer and “just do this.” Like others in this comment stream, I’m coming back to the idea that crowding my writing life out of the picture somewhat might be good for getting my appetite back.

  29. Milli, Certainly the Irene tweet thoughts led to a lot of the cries for help in this blog post — glad you understand! That is a great idea to ring the bell; I will definitely try it! And when is the next 10K day? I think it may be time to ring that bell and start this boxing match with a 10K day! (p.s. I’m of course intrigued by what your latest opportunity is… can’t wait to find out!) Thanks for your encouragement and support! xo Julia

  30. Great! It would be heaps of fun to have you there. (And I love the bell-ringing metaphor, stretched from feng shui to boxing :~)

    Months with holidays aside, the 10K events are always held the third week of every month. September will be Wed the 21st and Saturday the 24th. I’ll let you know when the RSVP page gets posted.

    Meanwhile, here’s some fun reading to get you into mental-prep mode:


    (If the link isn’t clickable, click on Fear of Writing at the top of this comment and then click on 10K Day in the blog menu.)

    :~) Milli

  31. Hi Milli, I thought boxing was a good metaphor because I’m coming out swinging… thanks for the dates, I’ll check out the link!

  32. j says:

    Oh, Julia, I feel your pain! I do great(ish) when there’s a deadline but not so great when there is no one but me waiting on the finished product. I have never been able to unravel my neurotic love-hate relationship to writing. I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone though. Thank you!

  33. j, It’s so interesting that it’s possible for you (and me) to write when we have deadlines but self imposed deadlines don’t work as well. I sometimes wonder if there would be a way I could train myself to react as though I did have a deadline… in any event I agree it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Thank you for your empathetic comment and for your visit to my blog!

  34. I too enjoyed Cynthia and Nina’s recent blog posts about time and writing. And I also find myself making charts and writing out all the things I’m doing so I can keep track. Which is why I realized it’s way too much. And yes, I need to be writing! Right now, it’s nearly midnight and I’m getting caught up on the hundreds of blog posts I haven’t read. Think if I used that time to write. But I love reading the blogs too. I think we just need more time in the day.

  35. Thanks for the twitter shoutout Julia. This has been a pet peeve/existential angst issue for me. If I am a writer that doesn’t write, am I then I writer? So much of my professional identity is tied up in being a writer that when life took a turn where I could not work for a year, it really, really became a mental conundrum.
    There are two kinds of writers, those who thinks writing is hard, and those who thinks sourcing is hard. I love interacting with sources so, I belong to the kind that find the writing part hard. The hardest part of that is sitting down to write as I said on twitter. Once you have sat down it is no problem to hammer out pages and pages.
    I keep telling the students I work with to set daily word count goals, if they do that despite the content being poor, they are still going to get in a habit of writing.
    One of them recommended a book called the War of Art, which motivated him to sit down. I often recommend a podcast geared towards graduate students, but the advice also applies to writers, especially on larger projects.

    The podcast can be found here: http://www.kosmosonline.org/group-post/podcast-writing-your-dissertation-and-setting-research-agenda-interview-dr-mike-munger

    And a brief text version of the same advice can be found here under the cryptic title 10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly: https://chronicle.com/article/10-Tips-on-How-to-Write-Les/124268/

    Those were the resources I wanted to share with you. I hope they are useful and you got a professional community right here! I can so relate to the lonesomeness too!

  36. Leah, I love making lists and charts — and I’ve also done timetracking in the past — but you are so right: what we really need is more time in the day! And like you I often think about the time I take to read blogs that might be spent writing…. such a quandary! A while back I wrote a blog about the timeturner spell from Harry Potter — and how I wish I had one; boy would that help! xo Julia

    Lene, Thank you so much for dropping by with those great resources — I will definitely be checking them out! It’s so true that a lot of it has to do with habit. I remember my advisor in journalism school saying about how to write: “put your butt in the chair.” If only I had you or HIM to get me in writing shape, standing in my kitchen with me! Thanks again for the resources and for your encouragement and support. And especially thanks for your visit to my blog –it’s so nice to meet you!

  37. Tia Bach says:

    Great post, I can so relate. I have a sequel I’m working on and a YA book brewing in my head. I do think having three kids in school (11, 9 & 6) helps me prioritize my time. I know I don’t write well once they are home or late at night.

    I try to work an hour on my WIP (and if it’s flowing, longer) and then set a timer (the mother comes out) for 45mins-1hr to do social media and back to WIP. Then I do an hour from 8:30-9:30 (all my kids have to be in bed by 8:30, although they can read) strictly on social media/email catchup. Then, hubby time. It seems to work.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are days I get sucked in and the WIP suffers. But, like you, these are my friends. I moved recently… add that to the solitary writer existence, and I see very few adults until my husband comes home.

    Thanks for making me feel less alone!

  38. Tia, I am quite envious of you having those three kids at home — I was my most productive as a writer in those days! That said, I love the schedule you’ve put together, sounds like a good one! The solitary writer existence has worked both for my productivity and against it, so I know how huge that is. I’m kind of dealing with that same thing right now because although I haven’t moved, most of my friends have moved away! That’s one of the reasons I love connecting with writers like you on Twitter and through blogging. I’m an introverted person but I do need *some* people time! Glad to help you feel more connected! Nice to see you! xo Julia

  39. artistsroad says:

    First off, I have to thank Melissa Krytzer Fry for tipping me off to this blog post and the three others you just mentioned. I just read those three and have now reached yours. Of course, Melissa sent me here because I’ve been wrestling with the same issues (and also used my blog to explore them further).

    As such, I don’t have a lot of answers to offer. I do know that I used to go on Twitter first thing in the morning, now I wait until at least mid-morning, and give myself the early morning for creative work (writing, editing, outlining). If I look down the social-media rabbit hole, it might be hours sometimes before I’m back, so at least I make sure I’ve produced some kind of creative writing before I look down that hole.


  40. Patrick, I really really love the idea of the mid-morning Twitter delay — such a great idea. The metaphor of the social-media rabbit hole is exactly right on. I’ve had days where my husband comes home for lunch and I have not moved off my chair, reading blogs/tweets for the four hours he’s been gone. TERRIBLE. I think this simple idea is one of the best I’ve consdidered. I already started the same thing with email, not looking until I’ve unloaded the dishwasher, made coffee, etc. but I think you take it the logical step farther. THANK YOU!! And thanks so much for your visit to my blog!

  41. Wow, such lengthy and excellent comments on this one. You obviously hit a nerve with writers, my friend. Even though you’ve struggled with your WIP, at least you’ve been logging creative output with your blog, right? Think of others out there (ahem) who barely even blog, and instead, spend time reading and commenting on others’ blogs. Here’s hoping that some way, somehow, someday, the time you spend in social networking will help you (think positive). 🙂

    One thing I highly, highly recommend to get back to WIP-writing is using pen and paper. Leave your electronics behind and go sit outside somewhere—or at your kitchen table, it doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t have access to technology. For some reason (and I only found out about this by default when my computer crashed a few years ago), writing by hand totally engages a creative part of my brain and puts me in a fiction-writing mood. In this day and age with everything so fast-paced, writing by hand forces you to slow down and concentrate on what you’re doing. But it might take you a couple of times (maybe a couple of chapters, weeks…) to get into the groove of it. But it really does stir up the creativity!

    Barb 🙂

  42. Barb, For what it’s worth? Are you kidding me? Not only is this a great idea, but I think you may be too hard on yourself (and believe me I know a thing or two about THAT!). I really appreciate you commenting on this because I count you among my circle of writers I’ve met via social networking. To be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve done my blogging job if certain people don’t comment, and you’re one of them. You always are mega-supportive and enouraging — and I love your comments and ideas. So I suppose that is one of the major positives of social networking and how it’s already helped me! xo Julia

  43. Lisa Ahn says:

    I love what Natalia writes about just jumping in. Now I have to follow that advice!

  44. Lisa, I love Natalia’s advice and others here as well — now, as you say, it’s the FOLLOWING the advice that we need to do! That is the trick! Thanks for your support! xo Julia

  45. Julia, I am so glad I’m not alone in this quandary. At least the blogosphere does that for us – gives us a sense of community.

    One thing that makes me get down to business is sharing pages with a friend. If I know we’re going to meet on Tuesday night to read each other’s work, then I know I have a deadline. I don’t want to embarrass myself by not having something that I’m (relatively) proud of.

    If there’s no one in your immediate area you could also try doing the same with a friend online. I have a friend who uses Skype so it feels like a real meeting.

  46. Jacquelin, You hit on the exact reason I love the social media scene — the community. I am interested in your sharing/exchanging pages idea; I’ve never done it before nor do I know anyone I could do it with — and I have to admit I’m nervous about it! But I may consider it especially if I can do it with an online writer friend. Eventually I will need others to read my work, and this would be a way to ensure I was proud of my end result. Thanks for a great suggestion and for the visit to my blog! 🙂

  47. A wonderful post, Julia. I’m a very solitary writer, too, and given that I don’t have the same “lifestyle” as many others, the writing only puts me further outside the normal boundaries. Having online friends and fellow writers is a really exciting thing for me, and I am finding myself more and more drawn into the writer’s life the more wonderful people I meet who are also on this journey.


  48. Ashlee, Thank you for your comment & compliment! I have no writer friends IRL, and so I know exactly what you mean about the online community being a way to meet others on this journey — what a lovely way to put it! It is such a dilemma because it is exactly this that sometimes keeps me from being as produtive as I could! I am so happy to have met you along the way of this journey!

  49. I definitely have had times when I can’t get any work done. Productivity for me comes in waves. I have weeks where I do really well, and weeks where I feel like the laziest person in the world. I think the idea in Cynthia’s post is interesting. I’ve wondered whether I would be more productive as a writer if I did work a full-time job. Sometimes I think I would be. I’ll let you know what happens if I ever go this route.

  50. Jen, I feel better when I hear other writers who have similar styles to me — like you do! It’s so interesting that writing comes in waves, but I often think of part of the writing process for me being thinking…. working out stories in my mind, planning things out. Are you like that too, in your waves of lower actual writing productivity? I’ll be curious to hear if you’re more productive if/when you go the full-time job route. Here’s to writer productivity 24×7 🙂