04 Mar Conquer Procrastination and Get Writing!
You’re excited to write. You talk about doing it. You make plans to do it. Trouble is, you’re not writing.
You’re not alone. Developing the discipline to write consistently can be tough, particularly when you are first starting out. Everything else seems to get in the way. Here’s how to get yourself on track when you find yourself procrastinating.
Tackling Procrastination – wait for it…
Life happens. Priorities shift. Your family needs you; work asks more of you. There are a hundred and one reasons why you can’t find the time to write today. We all start the day with good intentions, we tell ourselves we’ve blocked off the time, whether it’s our lunch hour, or after the kids are asleep. But when the moment strikes, invariably something else has come up and wormed its way into your mind, whispering “I am more important.” Or worse, “I’m tired, there’s no use trying now, my brain is mush.” Or “I’m slammed today. I’ll write more tomorrow. Promise.”
But then tomorrow becomes today. Literally. And maybe you get your writing in. But if you find the pattern repeating, here are a few things to keep in mind to get yourself back on track.
Your project begins with a single sentence
Each time you sit down to write, you are taking a step toward completing your project. Even if you write for thirty minutes, you are making progress. Appreciate every moment you spend writing; pat yourself on the back. If you feel good about the time you spent writing, you’ll want to do it again. And soon.
Make realistic commitments, setting yourself up for success
Be honest about the time you have. Chances are you have more time than you think, but if you are not realistic about the commitments you already have in your life, you will continue to let your writing fall by the wayside.
Don’t show up to accomplish more than can be accomplished in that time period
It’s okay to write for a small period of time. You can accomplish lot in an hour. Even the ten minutes while you’re waiting at the doctors can be productive.
But don’t think you’re going to write the most perfect prose in that time. Know going in how much time you’ll need to accomplish the goal you’ve set for yourself that day. If you’re editing your entire book, respect that it will take you several hours over several days. As a benchmark, the average word count is 1000 words per hour, once you’ve developed your rhythm.
Create a set time and a safe environment in which to write with others
I’m a huge believer in finding a consistent time for writing. It helps your loved ones if they know on this day and time, you’re going to be focused on your writing. If you can, find others to write with you, join a writing group, make the commitment where you have some accountability, where people expect to see you.
Surround yourself with supportive, non-competitive colleagues
Most writers are not anti-social. While writing can be done while you’re alone, you’ll continue to feel motivated and inspired if you have others writing with you. It’s like going to the gym – we all do better with a buddy.
Relinquish the burden of always thinking you should be writing, by scheduling time to write and time NOT to write
I’m suggesting that you’ll avoid procrastination if you schedule time in your week to write, but you must also respect the other demands on your time – you have family, work, friends; all those hundred and one other things that want your time and attention. Make time for them and you’ll value your writing time even more.
Have other suggestions? Let me know how you stay focused and keep working on your writing goals.
* Additional credit to Rennie Saunders, for allowing this expansion of the Shut Up & Write! Method.
Catherine Ellsworth is currently working on a science-fiction novel and runs a monthly critique group in the Bay Area.When not writing and reading, she eavesdrops on commuter conversations, monitors the development of AI, and fantasizes about living on other planets.