Many years ago I heard someone say that procrastination is not the cause, but rather the symptom of something else. I tend to agree. Think about it – when you’ve procrastinated there was probably something more pressing requiring your attention. Or perhaps some truth you were trying to avoid. Let me explain.
I’m one of those folks who, if I’m procrastinating I know that there is something else that needs to be done before I can be productive again. Sometimes it’s as simple as vacuuming the floor, or clearing off a cluttered table. Sometimes it means completing smaller tasks and getting them out of the way so I can move on to writing. This means that the cure to procrastination is to find that one thing standing in your way and overcoming it. If it’s a messy house – clean up. If it’s an emotional issue, journal about it (that can at least help you get it off your mind). If your problem is that you can think of 100 things you’d rather be doing instead of writing, maybe it’s time to look at your project from a different angle or work on a different scene. It could be a sign that your story isn’t working.
When you’re a professional writer, procrastination is a big no-no (if you like to eat anyway) and you really should try to avoid it. This means knowing yourself and knowing how to get yourself moving again when you fall into a stalemate. Sadly long bouts of procrastination have the potential to become bouts of writer’s block.
However, I have some things I do that keep procrastination (and thus writer’s block) at bay. Not all of them will work for everyone. So as I always say – take what works and leave the rest.
1. Always have more than one project going. That way if you get stuck on one, you can move to another and still remain productive. If you can’t multi-task, try to find the real cause of your procrastination and deal with that.
2. Journal. Nothing can bring a writer to a screeching halt faster than emotional upsets in day-to-day life. Journaling about the things pissing you off, making you sad, or driving you crazy will at least help you get the stuff off your chest. That doesn’t mean I’m saying ignore the cheating boyfriend or the fact that your kid is flunking algebra. It just means that you should do your best to not allow stuff like that to hamper your productivity and one of the ways to deal with that (and it works for a lot of people I know) is to write it down somewhere. Not to mention writing down our feelings can help us to understand them better and may even help you come to a solution yada, yada, yada. Basically – you’re a writer. Write.
3. Make a writing schedule and start learning to write by a schedule. In the real world of professional writing your editor doesn’t care if you don’t feel inspired or you’re procrastinating. You have deadlines and you have to find ways to meet them. Taking your writing seriously enough to actually pen it into your day’s agenda is a great way to train yourself to meet deadlines. Treat it like a hobby and it will forever remain a hobby. Treat it like a career, it could become a career. Like attracts like.
4. If you’re waiting to feel inspired before you write — there’s something wrong with your story. Either start something new, read a book, or hook up with some writing friends over coffee and have a brainstorming session. There comes a point in every serious writer’s life where Jack London’s immortal quote becomes a mantra: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
5. Using sheer willpower – sit you butt in the chair and start typing (or writing longhand if you prefer). Use writing prompts if you have to. Here are a few to get you started:
- – Describe your favorite beverage to an alien.
- – You’re the first person on Mars (or the last person on Earth). What goes through your mind?
- – Remember an adventure you had with your first pet.
6. Turn off your wi-fi connection/television/phone ringer.
What say all of you? What are the tips and tricks you use to battle procrastination? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
About The FM Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour
Today’s post was inspired by the topic Procrastination this month’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read their thoughts on procrastination, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. I blog with this tour the 25th of every month. Up next on the tour: Becky Pratt!