The Great Enemy of Writing

Recently I was scrolling through YouTube searching for a lyric video that my church can use during the Covid-19 Lockdown as part of our Sunday online gathering.

Usually, YouTube adverts annoy me. I sit there with my mouse or finger poised ready over the countdown timer box. As soon as it hits ZERO I click it and I’m away from the advert and on to the video content I was searching for in the first place. But this time was different. The video captured my interest straight away.

It was american author, Joyce Carol Oates speaking about writing. In the opening statement of the video, which is advertising a Masterclass that she has done, she says, “The great enemy of writing isn’t your own lack of talent, it’s being interrupted by other people.”

This statement really struck me and motivated me to watch the entire advert. It was really quite interesting.


Like many creative people, I suffer from procrastination. I much prefer to operate in the thrill of the chase, the joy of discovering or learning something new. As soon as something gets monotonous or starts to feel too much like a lot of effort, I quickly move on to something else. This is not helped by the fact that most of the time I move from deadline to deadline, both for my church as well as within my tutoring business and songwriting. It is only on the rare occasion when I don’t have a deadline looming that I stop and look at past half-finished projects that are gathering dust, and often choose to start something new. Procrastination is a problem for me.

Recently I have been making more of a determined effort to complete the writing of a memoir that explores the period in my life when I went through having cancer and how I was able to reconcile this with my faith, in fact, how my faith in Jesus is what carried me through the storm. I have this almost complete manuscript just sitting there. But yet, I keep choosing the new, more exciting thing.

So I party agree with the above statement. Interruption is the biggest enemy to my writing. Sometimes the interruption comes from other people, but more often then not, the interruption comes from me. From my desire to pursue the new more exciting thing.

Finish Well

I have been recently reminded that time is short and that completing something is actually an important discipline not just to have in life, but an important part of my discipleship and walk with Jesus, We are called to finish well. Not just life, but those things in life that we invest our time and effort in.

To combat my destructive tendencies, I am now determining to set aside at least 30 minutes a day where I practise my writing, either here on my blog, or on teh unfinished manuscript. Yes, the thrill of it has worn off somewhat and I am now in the phase that requires a lot of hard work and discipline to re-write and edit the whole thing, add in extra bits, remove those that don’t work, and generally make it a better ‘read’ as a book. This will take time. It will take effort. But most of all it will take perseverance and determination – not to be interrupted.

So thank you Joyce Carol Oats for your advert. I won’t have time to attend your Masterclass, but you have helped me to go some way to eliminating the enemy of interruption from my writing process.

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