Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obstacles for Writers--by Elizabeth S. Craig

Sometimes we just run into some problems or conflicts when we need to write.  Just like there are internal and external conflicts, there are also internal and external factors that seem bound and determined to trip us up.


•    My children.  Bless their hearts.
•    The weather.  This past winter was all about snow and snow days from school.
•    Dishwasher and laundry buzzers. “We’re done! Come unload us!”
•    Dust.  And supper.
•    Too much quiet.
•    Too much noise.
•    Napping pets that just beg you to curl up with them for thirty winks.
•    That darned internet!


•    Feeling distracted (usually by all those external factors)
•    My internal editor (must-be-silenced!)
•    Feeling overwhelmed by the scene ahead

So what can a writer do?

•    Analyze the problem—it’s probably a different obstacle on different days.
•    Are you at home? Try going to a library or coffeehouse or chain restaurant with WiFi
•    Or…completely escape the WiFi by going somewhere that doesn’t have it.
•    You could disable your own internet connection at home for a while…unplug that modem or router or repeater.  (I cheat and plug it back in, so I can’t be trusted. I end up just leaving.)
•    Go outside and write if you’re feeling restless. Take a notebook if the glare is too bad on the laptop.
•    If you’ve been writing on paper, switch to writing on computer.  Switch to paper if you’ve been working on Word.  Sometimes just a small change like that can help me regain my focus. (But I can’t write too long on paper or else I have too much catching up to do on the computer.)
•    Write quickly.  Give yourself a deadline and word count goal and set a timer. Tell yourself for the next 15, 25, or 45 minutes that you’re going to really churn out some words.  Silence that internal editor.
•    Introduce some accountability into the equation. I’ve made an announcement on my Facebook page before that I was going to write for an hour straight and check back in with my word count for the hour.
 •    Try the carrot and stick method--promise yourself that once you've written X amount that you'll treat yourself to a bowl of ice cream (or whatever you're craving.)  Or tell yourself that you can't check email, etc, until you've completed a certain number of words.

We all face obstacles to reaching our writing goals.  If I can figure out what it is that’s tripping me up on a particular day, I have a better chance of nipping the problem in the bud and reaching my word count for the day.  How do you keep going when you encounter writing obstacles?

Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010. Delicious and Suspicious releases July 6, 2010. 

As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.
Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams)
Twitter: @elizabethscraig


Anonymous said...

Some good advice here for writers. You are right about the range of obstacles and yet there is usually some way of overcoming the obstacle if you really want to write. Thanks so much for sharing.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

You always have the best tips for writers. And that is why, my friend, you are one of Writer's Digest's best resources (site) for writers. Thanks,Elizabeth

Thanks to your host as well.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Internet, cats, and household stuff are my biggest distractions! Stupid laundry. I need a dryer that folds and hangs up clothee for me.

I can't write in my office because of distractions. I usually grab my notebook and go sit on the couch.

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Elizabeth for putting the responsibility where it belongs! I love the posting that you will write for an hour trick. I've used that with great results. Even though I am positive that no one cares or knows even - I do what I tell you I'll do but oddly not what I'll tell me I'm going to do. Yikes.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Unfortunately, I usually don’t keep going when I encounter obstacles, which is why your suggestions on how not to give in are so helpful. Thanks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Some good ideas, Elizabeth. My biggest disctraction tends to be exhaustion. When I'm beat, my mind shuts down and I don't want to do anything productive.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth - Thos are such good ideas for getting past the many obstacles we writers face. I've found that your carrot/stick and accountability strategies are really helpful for me. They don't stop the laundry buzzer of the family-needs dilemmas, but they help : ).

Peggy Webb said...

Good post, Elizabeth. Discipline is the writer's best friend. I set weekly page quotas that will allow me to make my deadlines with room to spare. Making the quotas weekly rather than daily allows me some flexibility. It also allows me think that I'm in charge! :)

Alan Orloff said...

Hah! Too much quiet, too much noise. That darned Internet!

As always, you have your pulse on what ails us writers.

Great post!

Bluestocking said...

Definitely done carrot and stick before and tweeted my to do list. But sometimes I just need to stop and think about why I am feeling so disjointed -- and it usually has implications for potential problems with my WIP.

Laura S. said...

Fantastic list, especially the last three! I don't let myself blog until I've completed my writing goal. It works really well for me because I enjoy blogging so much!

Susan Cushman said...

The internet and my internal editor both slow me down. Great tips in this post, Elizabeth. I have tried the one where you tell your FB buddies that you're going to write for an hour and two and won't be checking back in 'til that time frame is up. Ultimately, of course, it's about discipline, isn't it? Here goes:-)

The Daring Novelist said...

What I'd like to do is find some writer's equivalent to Parkour - that's the free-running sport where the runner makes use of the obstacles in his way.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Cassandra--It's true...we could all make up some excuse not to write (and we all probably have some good, genuine reasons not to be able to.) But we can work around them!

Journaling Woman--Thanks so much! I appreciate it. :)

Diane--Ugh. Yeah, let's not "go there" right now with laundry! I've got some waiting to be put away even as I type.

Jan--We have to believe they'll care and they'll fuss at us if we don't get our hour in!

Jane--Hope they help!

Alex--That's a tough one. I do 2 different things for exhaustion--drink caffeine (which, of course, isn't what we're supposed to do! But it works) or elsse I'll go to bed early and get up in the middle of the night and write.

Margot--I think they can help for some of the obstacles, anyway! Mainly the internet ones, I'm thinking.

Peggy--Weekly page quotas sound like a good idea!

Alan--Thanks for popping by!

Bluestocking--I do think that analyzing *why* there's a problem is a big part of finding a solution to it. :)

Laura--Blogging makes for a good carrot for you, then!

Susan--And tell them to fuss at you if you get distracted!

The Daring Novelist--We'd all be running around picking up laptops and Post-It notes. Sounds like a plan!

Julie Johnson said...

I too write on the run and have learned to be flexible about how I do.

But sometimes it can be frustrating to have to leave it when I'm in the midst of something really good...but groceries do need to be shopped for, etc. I guess that's just life.

It's reassuring to hear that other writers are making it work. Thx for the tips.

Julie Johnson

Hart Johnson said...

Great suggestions, Elizabeth! I LOVE the FACEBOOK wordcount accountability one! I may have to try that one tonight. I seem to be flummoxed with internal distractions at the moment, and have not yet found the mute buttons for hubby or children... (I'm pretty darned good at ignoring the household chores though)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Julie--I get some of my best ideas while I'm running errands! :) And you should see me dragging the kids to the skate rink all summer...along with my manuscript.

Hart-- A mute button for the family! Ooh, I do like that idea! :)

Cleo Coyle said...

Super list and I'll probably make use of a number of those ideas this week! And I must add that I just can't wait to get my hands on your series launch book DELICIOUS AND SUSPICIOUS. Congrats on its publication next month!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks so much, Cleo! I'm excited, too. :) Good luck with your own writing--but you're so prolific with your series that I can't imagine you run into too many obstacles you can't overcome!

Iris said...

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