The Making of a Novel: 5 Great Writers on the Perils of Being Sidetracked

08/17/2010 05:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I stayed up late last night taking out my second chapter and starting to re-build it, and I got sidetracked watching videos of violin prodigies on YouTube. As a result, I was tired this morning, and so instead of working on my chapter again right away, I put it off. I did my other work -- which admittedly needed to be done. And now it's late in the afternoon and I have other things I have to do -- errands, and some mail to go through. And so I can see how I might not get to my novel again until late tonight. If I did this every day for a week or two or three? My story would never get off the ground. To remind me -- and you -- to get right back in the saddle after a lapse, here are 5 great writers on the perils of being sidetracked:

  1. "I hear people say they're going to write. I ask, when? They give me vague statements. Indefinite plans get dubious results. When we're concrete about our writing time, it alleviates that thin constant feeling of anxiety that writers have - we're barbecuing hot dogs, riding a bike, sailing out in the bay, shopping for shoes, even helping a sick friend, but somewhere nervously at the periphery of our perception we know we belong somewhere else - at our desk!" - Natalie Goldberg.

  • "The most important thing for a writer is to be locked in a study..." - Erica Jong.
  • "If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy or both - you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." - Ray Bradbury.
  • "I got so discouraged, I almost stopped writing. It was my 12-year-old son who changed my mind when he said to me, "Mother, you've been very cross and edgy with us and we notice you haven't been writing. We wish you'd go back to the typewriter. That did a lot of good for my false guilts about spending so much time writing. At that point, I acknowledged that I am a writer and even if I were never published again, that's what I am." - Madeleine L'Engle
  • "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." - E.B. White