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No excuses - 5 tips from famous authors to stop avoiding writing

Believe it or not, the most difficult thing for a writer to do is to write, the easiest thing to do is to procrastinate. When you find that you’re looking for excuses to not write, and it has become a chore, you need to make a change. Here are five tips to get you back in the game.

I’m just too busy. I need time to relax from work. I’ll start again tomorrow. I’m always editing and reediting and don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I’ll have more free time after that thing. A similar book to mine has just been published, I need to start from scratch.

If you’ve ever said any of these things you are just looking for excuses and you need to change something. Tomorrow never comes, you never find more time, there’s always ‘that thing’. Here are five things that will stop you procrastinating and get you writing.


Involve writing in something you’re already doing. If you sit on the sofa of an evening with something on the TV, you have a long commute on the train, or you sit in the park with a sandwich at lunchtime, these are times you could be writing. It’s not about finding the time to write, but better utilising the time you already have.

Gertrude Stein wrote on scraps of paper whilst being driven around on errands by her wife, Alice B. Toklas. The stopping and starting of the traffic influenced the rhythm of her poetry.

2Ignore word counts

New writers get fascinated with word counts, figuring out the optimum number of words to write a day, in a month, in a year, how many words are in a novel, and how long it will take to write their book. Fixating on the numbers can only make the job seem larger than it appears to be. Don’t worry about it.

If you set yourself a solid target you can set yourself to fail. You might get stuck in the mindset that you don’t have the time so won’t even bother to start. Instead, just write when you can and what you can. It could be 100 words or a thousand. As long as you get something down.

James Joyce famously was once asked if he’d had a good day writing. Joyce replied happily that he had. When asked how much he’d written the reply was ‘Three sentences’.

3Try writing in a different medium

Modern technology makes writing very easy, with spelling and grammar checks, but sometimes this encourages you to edit on the fly. Editing as you write is a distraction, something that can hold you back from writing when all you need to do is get the words on a page.

So, get the words down on an actual page. Write with pen and paper. This will stop you obsessing with getting it perfect before moving on, and help you just get the words out. You can then type everything up and dedicate some time to editing another time.

Author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, wrote longhand on index cards. This also gave him the advantage of being able to mix up and rearrange scenes easily.

4Don’t force yourself to write every day

Like word counts, forcing yourself to sit in front of your screen every day can actually be counter-productive, and cause you to resent writing. Don’t put yourself though it. Instead, write three or four times a week, give yourself some breathing room. If you’ve already written that day and you have some free time to write later, count that as a second session.

Take the opportunity to go and enjoy doing something else, it will probably inspire you and kickstart your next writing session.

Mary Angelou said “Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

5Visit friends and family

Go and visit a friend or family member with the intention of writing. You can enjoy a change of scenery, and being in the presence of someone else means you are less likely to slack off. You’ll be more productive and want to show off the results when you’re done. If they’re writing too you can offer each other support, and make it a regular writing session.

Jane Austen wrote in the family sitting room with her mother sewing nearby.

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