Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Welcome to the first Monday in August when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative issues or business, such as dealing with agents, editors and publishers, or anything to do with the writing life.

Next week I’m presenting a workshop at the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference in Sydney, and I’m bound to come across one or more writers who intend to start writing “as soon as…” I don’t expect to be reading their books any time soon if at all, and here are three reasons why.

1. “As soon as…” never comes

What these writers mean is they will write as soon as everything in their life is under control. And guess what? Life is never that co-operative. If you truly want to write, you need to start now, no matter what state your life may be in.

Writers are good at what Oscar-winning screenwriter, William Goldman, calls, “putting off doomsday.” Yes, writing is hard. But it will never get any easier while you tap dance around the process.


2. You will always have an excuse not to write
Do you recognise any of these? I’ll write when:
I have more time
I know what I want to write about (you find out by writing)
The weather is not so hot/cold.
Christmas/New Year/School holidays are over
I finish my research
I’ve defrosted the fridge
The world becomes perfect

Nobody ever has all the time, money or clear head space to start writing. Some of the most successful books were written under the most difficult conditions. I’ve written while moving house, when family members were sick, and when writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Writers write.

3. Writing is like housework. It expands to fit the time you have.
A meme going around the internet says that we get the most housework done in the five minutes before unexpected guests drop in. The same can be said of writing. Have you noticed how you can fiddle around all day trying to get something written. Then as soon as you know you have to be somewhere else at a set time, the words seem to flow?

If only you didn’t have to leave now.

This is your creative brain tricking you into thinking the writing is suddenly easier, knowing perfectly well that you have no choice but to leave it soon.

One solution is to pretend you have to leave the desk an hour or more before you actually do. If this spurs your writing brain, you’ll get as much done as if you’d been there all day.

Another trick is to set a kitchen timer. Tell yourself you’ll write for the next thirty minutes then you can stop. But don’t stare at the blank screen. Write something. Write garbage. But write words. This act of starting is almost magical, making it easier to keep going. You may not even notice when the timer goes off because you’re already caught up. And if you are ready to stop by then, at least you’ve put in a solid thirty minutes at your chosen task.

Remember, the world doesn’t care whether or not you write. You are the one who’ll feel you’ve let yourself down by not writing the project burning inside you. And unless the words are burning inside you, you may never write at all.

Set deadlines for yourself. Even writing one page a day (about 250 words) every day for five days a week will give you a 65,000 word manuscript – the length of a genre novel – by the end of a year. And that’s with weekends off.

How do you get past the “as soon as…” challenge? Comment using the box below. I moderate posts to avoid spam. If you want your comment to appear right away, sign up using the button at lower right. I don’t share your email addresses with anyone. Happy writing.

AORW cover
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Read some reviews of Valerie’s first Beacons novel, Birthright, at


Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring for August – why writing “as soon as…” won’t get your work done" (13)

  1. Personally I have found this to be so true.
    I had wanted to write a book for awhile but didn’t know how. I was given some great advice earlier this year: “just start”. So I did. I wrote 102,000 words in four weeks. I also kept my husband and four teenagers fed and watered, and worked full time as an intensive care unit nurse at the same time!! Then over the next four months I re wrote and re wrote and edited and then submitted firstly to the RWA Valerie Parv completion and then to some publishers.
    If I had never started or waited for perfect writing conditions I wouldn’t be where I am now – with my first publishing contract with MOMENTUM BOOKS.
    I encourage everyone to just start. And then keep going!!!

  2. The NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo’s are great for getting writing. Having a goal helps, whether you end up with masses of typos or beautiful prose! 🙂 I read this to my mum, who finally has access to a computer where she can write, and I think she will again. Soon. (Especially since we’ve finally lined up all the suspects for the mystery we’re co-authoring! 😉 )

    • Writing with a co-author, or reporting to a critique partner or writing group are all great ways to keep yourself on track, Marion. Best luck to you and your mother.

  3. Bronwyn McEvoy said:

    So true. My house is never tidier than when I should be writing.

  4. it’s easier to put off housecleaning for me. You are right on the money about this. I use writing to put off just about anything else.

    • There seems to be two camps, Kathi and Bronwyn – those who need life to be in order before they can write, and those who use writing itself as their escape. Being one of the latter means you get more done because life is nearly always throwing challenges at us.

  5. serenadorman said:

    Thank you. This is perfect! I find that my creativity ebbs and flows so it’s a challenge to write when you’re just not feeling it. I think your tips will help greatly.

    It’s amazing to think what writing just one page a day could result in. An all-time favorite quote of mine I found recently is, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

    Amazing mentoring as always.

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