Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 28:

“It’s so nice outside that I don’t want to be inside writing; I need that vitamin D!

When I was writing my first book, I lived near the Washington, DC, zoo, a park-like place that was pretty to visit.

Over that writing year, if I was struggling with writing, I would often think, “today would be such a nice day to go to the zoo.” And sometimes I gave into that impulse and sometimes I didn’t.

I learned over that year that the same activity, going to the zoo, had very different results. Sometimes going to the zoo refreshed me and cleared my mind. Other times, going to the zoo ruined the day, preventing writing and making me anxious about my lack of productivity. The very same activity was sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

In other words, the toughest thing about writing is knowing which days you should resist going to the zoo and keep writing, and which days you should take a break and go to the zoo. 

I learned two tricks to help me decide which to do.

I ensured that what was driving me out of the house wasn’t the frustration of the moment, or that particular sentence. If I started to feel like going to the zoo, I would keep writing until the top of the hour or for another fifteen minutes. Often, the feeling would pass. If it didn’t, I would go. 

I also kept track of how going to the zoo made me feel. I noticed that going to the zoo often was a good idea at the very end of chapters or the very beginning of a big section, giving me a chance to leave the previous chapter behind or work through my ideas away from the page and saving me many drafts.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 28, one of the distraction obstacles listed on page 32 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).