Q4U: Avoiding Writing

A few days ago, a commenter on this blog wrote,

The Xbox 360 is the greatest writing-avoidance device ever created. How many book ideas have died at the feet of “just one more game” of Guitar Hero, Mass Effect, or Bioshock?

Well I wouldn’t know an Xbox if it dropped on my head, but it got me thinking. We all have our avoidance tactics.

What’s your best one?

Have a great weekend!

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Andrew Pelt on March 25, 2012 at 12:17 PM

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  2. Bri Clark on August 16, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    >Dear Rachelle,

    I love to read. Books for me are like gossip to a southern belle and bless my heart there is so much to choose from.

  3. Pia Veleno on August 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    >It used to be World of Warcraft, but I finally broke that habit this summer.

    Now it's Twitter or SparkPeople.com. Worse, I rationalize all the time on SparkPeople as good for me since it's about fitness and health.

  4. Cynthia Watson on August 15, 2010 at 6:46 PM


  5. tamara hellgren on August 15, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    >Running errands, cleaning the apartment, doing laundry and other chores, brushing the cat… I call it my "productive procrastination."

  6. Bernadette on August 14, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    >Sleeping. Especially when my WIP isn't going well, I find I just can't keep my eyes open. Perhaps I'm boring myself…

  7. Jennie Allen on August 14, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    >This computer and all of your blogs! šŸ™‚

  8. Michelle DeRusha on August 14, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    >Cleaning. I have a problem. It's called Triple Type A.

    And twitter. Just saw your tweet about spilling your coffee in Starbucks. Hate that. Hope your clothes come clean!

  9. Sharon A. Lavy on August 14, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    >I am procrastinating here in Alaska.

  10. Mary Campbell on August 14, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    >kids, hulu and so many books so little time.

  11. Susan Bourgeois on August 14, 2010 at 6:57 AM

    >I strive for balance each day. I get my housework organized very early on in the day so that I have it out of the way for the most part.

    Then I go to my computer, check my e-mails, write on this blog (lately)and check out the daily news. I think it's important to stay on top of things going on in the world. I don't write on several blogs because to me, that would be a distraction from writing and personal goals in this area. Right now, I write on one blog, this one, because I enjoy the information from this blog.

    I don't watch much TV. When I do, I find myself wondering about the person who wrote the script behind the sitcom or movie! That's when you know you're a writer.

    Lately, because I am soon to begin a book on fiction, I've been researching and working on my story world.

    I'm absorbing right now. I'm getting organized for my book and setting things up.

    My children are all adults. I finally and I do mean FINALLY have the time to do what I have always wanted to do for over two decades and that's write without distraction! I think writing is some sort of calling. It has been for me, that's all I can say.

    Years ago, when computers first came out, I began writing to my teenagers. They say that's a good thing to do, just to guide them in life. Writing on the computer is so easy and neat, especially when you're a fast typist. Add in the fact that I have the worst handwriting one can imagine, and the keyboard has become my best friend. Once I found the computer world, I was able to type out whatever I was feeling at the time. Experts say that's a great way to relieve stress. In those days, when we were raising teenagers (two daughters, one sone), there was always something going on where I felt the need to get it down on paper. It has been wonderful, that's all I can say. I love to write and I've come to realize that I've been writing(hopefully in preparation for writing "real" books), for over two decades.

    If I'm distracted, it's because I am working on reading books or materials that I need to be writing for this project. I also have two personal blogs of my own.

    I call these good and important distractions.

  12. Kathryn Magendie on August 14, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    >Twitter, and television . . . although I have a hard and fast rule that I very very rarely break: the Television stays OFF during the day and the earliest it is allowed ON is 3:00 PM in the afternoon: rare exceptions! So, if I'm avoiding my manuscript, it makes it a little more difficult to do since one of my two time-suckers is off limits for most of the day!

  13. Tessa Quin on August 14, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    >Reading blogs.

  14. Edwina on August 14, 2010 at 3:23 AM

    >Reading emails! I can't stand for my inbox to have unread emails in it and I will spend hours every day reading emails and blogs.

  15. Lee Mannion on August 14, 2010 at 1:44 AM

    >Anything at home. No inspiration. That's fine, I'll just make a cup of coffee. While drinking the coffee I'll notice that the floor needs vacuuming. While vacuuming I'll become sick of the state of the house so I'll start surfing for new house products or go to the DIY store and look at colour charts. Then I'll repaint the damn wall…it just goes on.

    That's why I ended up working in the library. You're not allowed to make coffee, vacuum, re-decorate, receive any phone calls or make noise of any kind. You have only 1 choice – to get on with it.

  16. iamfrightenedtoo on August 14, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    >does editing count?

    i am having trouble editing a manuscript, where i have spend more time on the thing than an average human should…. all while forgetting other ideas to write about.

    my droid x takes up more of my time than it should too.

  17. April on August 14, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    >Blogs, e-mails, Facebook… Basically anything online or in my Google Reader.

    My other frequent excuse is "I'm mulling it over." While it's true that figuring out tricky points in my WIP in my head before writing it down can save me a lot of time and heartache, sometimes I abuse that excuse. :/

  18. Jan Markley on August 13, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    >Facebook is the electronic social media equivalent to channel surfing. At the end you haven't really accomplished or watched anything.

  19. Kathryn on August 13, 2010 at 11:39 PM


  20. R. D. Allen on August 13, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    >Agent blogs, songwriting, and Paragraph Role-Playing are what gets me the most.

  21. Neil on August 13, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    >All the above excuses and every one that follows this one. I am so scroomed.

  22. Neil on August 13, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    >All the above excuses and every one that follows this one. I am so scroomed.

  23. Leigh D'Ansey on August 13, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    >I've deleted games off my computer but I can't delete the blogs I enjoy reading! (okay, I've figured out how to play some of those darned games online as well. I just need to exercise a little self discipline.

  24. Amber Hunter on August 13, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    >Fortunately, I've gotten out of the habit of playing World of Warcraft with my husband. It has to be the single greatest time sink known to man for the 9+ million subscribers that play.

    I've replaced this time waster with another, more productive, one and only realized I'd done so after reading Rosemary Gemmell's post on blogging in her Reading and Writing Blog.

    It seems I've picked up the habit of following the blogs of other writers when I get stumped on a project, or just to put off work in the first place. But on the up side, I'm at least learning something every time I do this! And at least it's not the mindless, soul sucking thing that is WoW.

  25. Reena Jacobs on August 13, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    >Twitter (I'm addicted to the links posted even when I'm not conversing. That's how I ended up here!)
    Netflix (you know they have entire series to stream?)
    Contests (Once or twice a week I go on contest binges.)

  26. Olga on August 13, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    >Talking with friends. Oh, and self-discouragement. That's always an effective one. Reminding myself that I've never finished a single writing project, and why am I bothering, again?

  27. Rosslyn Elliott on August 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    >Stephanie, I am amazed at your toughness. There's no way I could do logic puzzles while I write. The logic puzzle of the novel itself wears me out. šŸ™‚ You must have a brain of steel.

  28. Supamom on August 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    >My best one are three rambunctious boys under the age of 8! I couldn't imagine having a whole day to write! God made me a night person for a reason! šŸ˜‰

  29. Supamom on August 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    >My best one are three rambunctious boys under the age of 8! I couldn't imagine having a whole day to write! God made me a night person for a reason! šŸ˜‰

  30. Chambray Blue on August 13, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    >Two and a Half Men marathon.

  31. Kelly Wittmann on August 13, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    >Minor health issues that I inflate into major drama. My sinuses, PMS, a toothache, you name it. This week it's been the heat and humidity, which in my defense have been pretty unbearable. So, I've been blogging, but telling myself that "real" writing will have to wait until I'm in my comfort zone.

  32. ARJules on August 13, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    >The internet. It's amazing how much time I can waste looking at completely irrelevant websites/blogs/facebook posts/etc.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes. I said it. What can I say? Buffy makes me feel better. šŸ™‚

    My pets.

    The lint that is stuck to my shirt.

    Scrubbing the toilet.

    Cleaning in general. (How can I work in a pig sty like this??)
    *clears throat* Yeah. I never procrastinate.

  33. Noel on August 13, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    >My desk. Can't write because it's too messy. Clean it up and then can't write because there's no time left.

  34. wonderer on August 13, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    >The Internet, hands down!

  35. Cacy on August 13, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    >Going onto goodreads.com and reading all the bad reviews for books I love. Keeps things in perspective. No matter how across-the-board loved a book supposedly is, there's always someone out there willing to give it a one-star ratings.

  36. Horserider on August 13, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    >Blog reading. =D Internet. Twitter. Reading books. Beta reading. Friends. Family. My favorite TV show, Doctor Who.

  37. Rhonda on August 13, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    >Reading. Period.

  38. Allan Krummenacker on August 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    >Finding things that need to be done around the apartment. They may not be crucial, but puttering is my number one method of avoiding writing.

  39. Preston on August 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    >Well, since I'm the one who wrote the original comment, I guess I'd better stick with the XBox as my answer. šŸ™‚

  40. Kat Harris on August 13, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    >Gardening. Winter is a great time for me to write. šŸ™‚

  41. The Red Pen of Doom on August 13, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    >Playing Angry Birds on my iPhone. Curse you birds!

    And taking the dog for a walk. I don't actually own a dog, I have to borrow my friend's, so that's real dedication for you.

  42. LilySea on August 13, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >Reading. And/or listening to books read aloud via librivox.org and crocheting.

  43. Carol J. Garvin on August 13, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    >As I sit and stare out the window I notice my flowers need watering, fertilizing, deadheading, picking… something! More often, however, writing is the perfect avoidance tactic for some other less desirable task, like watering, fertilizing….

  44. Karen on August 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    >Blogging. (It's writing, right?) And, since I write YA, watching silly teen shows while trying to justify it as "research."

  45. nightwriter on August 13, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    >My fave TV shows: Mad Men, White Collar, The Good Guys, Rescue Me, Psych, Project Runway, Top Chef…
    Why do all the best shows only play off-season?

  46. Lori Benton on August 13, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    >Currently it's a computer geek-turned-spy named Chuck Bartowski.

  47. Rick Boyne on August 13, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    >Does commenting on blogs and updating your status on Facebook count as writing? No?

    Then blogs and Facebook. Definitely blogs and Facebook!

  48. Tere Kirkland on August 13, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    >LOL, it's called a nook, and I pretend I'm doing "research". Yeah, research.

  49. Krista Phillips on August 13, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    >Reading… I justify it because it's good to read books in your genre, right? But if I were honest, sometimes I use that as an excuse because the words just aren't coming to me.

    Twitter/facebook/blogging are all good ones too.

    Oh, and making brownies. MMMmmmmm, it is diet avoidance too!

  50. Debbie Barr on August 13, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    >Internet and any TV show I love to watch that comes on late-ish in the evening (my writing time). I'll be watching and I'll realize "Hey! Ace of Cakes is on! I'll just watch one more episode before I wrote…." such a bad idea.

  51. Kate on August 13, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    >Research, planning, and blog reading. Yep.

  52. mary bailey on August 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    >I love your Q4Us on Friday, Rachelle. So fun!

    My best avoidance tactics: reading blogs, reading books, working on my monthly budget, and staring blankly into space….!

  53. HL on August 13, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Playing with the Cat
    Cleaning (because i desperately need to dust that one tiny little corner of the apartment that I've been ignoring for 6 mos)

  54. JRMann on August 13, 2010 at 10:32 AM


    Say Yes to the Dress [+Assorted TV shows]
    Reading other books [big one here]
    Writing in my diary

    ..Pretty much I'll do anything to avoid it sometimes.

  55. Anonymous on August 13, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    >Agent blogs. Seriously I spend half the day reading and writing comments if the topic is really juicy!

  56. Erica Vetsch on August 13, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    >Surfing the Internet.
    Big Kahuna Reef 2 Computer Game

    And sadly, I've been known to clean the keyboard on my laptop when I'm really desperate not to write.

  57. Heidi on August 13, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    >The internet in general, Facebook in particular. Notebooks and pens are my lifesavers. I write it out first, away from a computer, and then type it up.

  58. aliciablade on August 13, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    >These days – planning my wedding! Seriously, how is a girl supposed to get married and finish a novel at the same time?

  59. Beth on August 13, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    >Um, let's see:
    Home schooling

  60. T. Anne on August 13, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    >Children, meals, laundry…oh wait, that's life. Distract from writing? The Internet and all it's evil social networking schemes. On occasion I'll get sidetracked with Internet shopping as well. It's hard for me to pass up a free shipping offer.

  61. Heather on August 13, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    >Housecleaning, telling myself I'll work "just a few more minutes" on a big organizing projects, and surfing the internet. I'm really bad about it right now. Oh yeah, and looking at all my writing projects and wondering how in the world I'll ever get them all done. *sigh*

  62. Dara on August 13, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    >The streaming Netflix videos. I have nearly 200 in my instant quene. And it's even easier to access now that I can watch them through the Wii.

  63. Jared Stein on August 13, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    >Telling myself how awful my writing is…

  64. Camille Eide on August 13, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >If ideas for story or scene aren't throwing themselves at me, ANYTHING within reach works. Clipping my nails, answering emails, family errands, net surfing, and especially "networking." That's a good one.

  65. Brad Jaeger on August 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >- Reading blogs of agents, editors, publishers, interns, authors and aspiring authors

    – Facebook

    – A couple of forums

    – The woman I'm seeing

    – My own blog (www.brad-jaeger.com)

    – Reading

    I'm guilty of a lot of distraction.

  66. piscesmuse on August 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >Reading. Absolutely 100%. Also if I my house is a mess I need to deal with that, or it just ticks at me. It's like I am finally able to relaz after the house work is done. Speaking of soo need to do that.

    Also blogs I follow – getting caught up on that, and my twitter feed I use as distractions.

    But a good book or a dirty house will keep from even getting close to my computer. Once I am there, I can garantee some words, I just need to get through the blogs and so on.

  67. S. May on August 13, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    >What about writing to avoid other things?
    That's where I'm at!

  68. Anonymous on August 13, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    >Oops. I see my comment that *everything* can be a reason to avoid writing posted under "anonymous." Here it is again, with ID.

  69. Anonymous on August 13, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    >Very good question, Rachelle! How about, "Everything!" From finding one more thing in the day-job that *must* be done before writing can start, to saying, *tomorrow.* Every day!

  70. Stephanie McGee on August 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    >Online logic puzzles.

    If I'm in first-draft mode, it usually goes something like this: Write a paragraph, solve logic puzzles for twenty minutes, write a paragraph, back to logic puzzles.

    It's not the most productive, but that break when I get really stuck seems to help.

    Editing mode is different. Usually it's just random web surfing. I'm pretty good at staying task-oriented though when I'm editing and revising. It's just that first draft that gets me into shiny object syndrome.

  71. Teenage Bride on August 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    >Reading books instead of writing my own hahaha.

    Happy Friday

  72. steeleweed on August 13, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    >Work, baseball games and websurfing.

  73. Gwen Stewart on August 13, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    >The internet. I'm a curious person, almost insatiably curious–my dad says I was his "why, why, buy why?" child. There is just SO MUCH to learn on the internet, and in so many ways! Video, reading, personal accounts….

    I tell myself that learning will make me a better writer. But not, of course, if I never WRITE anything. **sigh**

    Okay, I'm turning off the browser now. Off to edit! šŸ˜‰

  74. Heather Sunseri on August 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    >All social networking. If I'm struggling with a section of a book, I head straight for my Google Reader, Twitter or Facebook. I wish I would clean, like Wendy above, or head to the gym. I usually work out my plot problems while on a bike or elyptical, or while dusting or running the vacuum. hmmm.

  75. Cynthia Schuerr on August 13, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    >The very things that are meant to help….facebook and twitter!

  76. BK on August 13, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    >Industry blogs

  77. Noelle Pierce on August 13, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    >Jewel Quest III, Facebook, Twitter, Instant messenger chatting. In that order. *grin*

  78. Amy Sue Nathan on August 13, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    >It's a tie between reading blogs and watching tv. Sometimes I do both at the same time. Like, um, uh, eh, right now.

  79. Nancy on August 13, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >Facebook–I had to de-Facebook myself totally–I was completely addicted and checking it…well, let's just say, I was checking it way too often!

  80. Richard Mabry on August 13, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    Watching baseball & football on TV.
    Following my agent's fascinating blog.

  81. Maria on August 13, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    >The excuse that my kids are awake and so I can't concentrate to write. I have both night owls and morning larks for kids–so they catch me whether I try to write at night or in the early morning. I'm getting better at writing while they play, but it is still interesting to continue a thought with the constant interruptions.

  82. Nairam on August 13, 2010 at 6:56 AM

    >Internet in general. Even though I don't really play games, you can waste a lot of time on the internet.

  83. Lisa on August 13, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    >Reading blogs, social networking sites, reading books, watching mysteries on dvd and cleaning. I have noticed that when I'm cleaning, I'm thinking about writing. When I'm doing the other things, I'm really not.

  84. Wendy Paine Miller on August 13, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    >I clean. šŸ˜‰
    ~ Wendy

  85. Keli on August 13, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    >Literary agent blogs!

  86. Jen J. Danna on August 13, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    >Without a doubt, my main distraction is the internet. As a writer you want to be involved in Twitter and in reading and commenting on industry related blogs but then you look up at the clock and think 'where did my morning go?'.

    On the topic of games – I know myself too well and this is why my kids don't have an X-box. Not because they'd spend too much time on it, but because *I* would! So I've ducked that bullet at least…. but I do so love my internet… *sigh*

  87. Katie Ganshert on August 13, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    >I've never had this problem. When it's time to write, I boot up my laptop and get straight to work. I never ever ever get distracted. Ever.

    Except right now. Right now I'm supposed to be writing.

  88. Pauline on August 13, 2010 at 4:26 AM

    >Now, this is where I excel! I've seen every single episode of 'The Hills' and 'The City' (yes, this is a confession) and rationalized it as I was working on a chick-lit novel and the catty characters were supposed to inspire me.

  89. Nicole MacDonald on August 13, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    >net surfing *sigh*

  90. Theresa Munroe on August 13, 2010 at 2:26 AM

    >Even though I check Facebook occasionally as I write and read writing and screenwriting blogs (only a few) I get a lot of writing done, even after a full day of work. Writing is my stress relief from a demanding teaching job and living with cancer. I use writing to avoid other things, like housework. How can I clean when my characters have been waiting hours to move on?

  91. TERI REES WANG on August 13, 2010 at 1:51 AM

    >Even my blog posts are getting shorter and far between, because….

    > too busy keeping up on the blogs of others.

    > Facebook responding.

    > etsy shop, preparing, listing, and renewing of all possible inventory.

    > eating.
    > sleeping.
    > day dreaming.
    > staring at the sun.
    > staring at the stars.

    Just think about writing…makes me not be able to turn one word to print. Any and no excuse will do.

    I am doomed. Cheers!

  92. Not in Charge on August 13, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    >I'm with Vicki. I devo burn notice etc . . . and then stay up too late catching up on my shows, telling myself I'll do my housecleaning while watching just one, but there must be suction in where ever I perch for just a minute, because it sucks in my butt and I am caught for way past my bedtime.

    I also get stuck adding publishers and editors and book blogs to my twitter account instead of writing the book I've wanted to write.

    This is as bad as being an alcoholic in terms of wasting my life, and having no writing, no innner senxe of self.

  93. E.D. Lindquist on August 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    >Mine was World of Warcraft. Nerdy, yeah, and utterly, ridiculously addictive. I had to quit the game altogether because I could NOT focus. It's been 2 years and I still have withdrawal pangs!

  94. Vicki on August 13, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    >I'm with Kim. Reading blogs, reading books, reading about writing… Watching excellently written shows (House, Bones, Burn Notice)… Oh, and Pokemon *whistles innocently*

  95. Kim Kasch on August 13, 2010 at 1:27 AM

    >Reading blogs šŸ˜‰

  96. Kathi Lipp on August 13, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    >I've had to take games off my phone and computer, (Free Cell and Flood It,)and when I really want to avoid a deadline, there is usually bakers chocolate involved…

  97. Mireyah Wolfe on August 13, 2010 at 1:04 AM

    >Twitter. Wizards of Waverly Place (yay DVR!). Blogging. Chatting. Sleeping (that's a big one there.)

    But I am *trying* to be better about it! And by better, I mean *not* procrastinating, not finding new ways to do it…

    I'm gonna be quiet now. o.o