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Combating Procrastination

Some days it’s hard to sit down and write.  Call it fear.  Call it laziness.  Call it whatever you want, but inspiration can’t strike if you aren’t working.  That’s easy to say, but some days it’s seemingly impossible to get your butt in the chair and actually start writing.

First, let’s look at the procrastination side of things.  Here’s the list of the top five things I would rather do some days than sit down and write:

  1. Reality television – I will never understand why Storage Wars (or looking at other people’s tossed off crap) is more fascinating than writing.
  2. Reading to my kids – I love reading even more than I love writing.  If someone would pay me to sit around and read all day, I’d probably chuck this writing gig and camp out in a hammock filled with books for the rest of my days.  I especially love reading to my kids. The joy that they experience in learning about a vulture’s wingspan or Jack and Annie’s escapades in the Magic Treehouse is priceless.  Given that I’m instilling a lifelong love of the written word in my kids, I wouldn’t call this item procrastination.  At the end of the day, though, I’m still not any closer to my own word count.
  3. Grocery shopping – especially if it’s at SuperTarget because then I can sneak over to look at t-shirts with sarcastic sayings on them or baskets made from wicker or reeds or wood.  I am a firm beliver that you can never have too many baskets or too many tote bags for that matter.
  4. Sleep – No matter how many times I set the alarm for 5 a.m. to beat my kids and husband out of bed and get a few hundred words under my belt, the cool sheets and my warm Snuggie convince me to hit the snooze button about twelve times.  Yes, I own an as-seen-on-TV Snuggie and I’m not afraid to say it. A friend bought me a leopard-print one a few years ago. It makes me feel like Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island when I wear it.  Yet another thing you can never have too many of – fleece blankets.
  5. Internet – Who invented Pinterest and why is it so addictive?  It’s so much easier some days to create a virtual life on Pinterest than it is to sit down and face the real one which involves writing.

Now for the top five ways I have discovered to combat my urge to curl up with my baskets, blankets and tote bags, create pin boards on Pinterest which include beautiful baskets, blankets and tote bags, and watch Storage Wars in which I often get to see other people’s old baskets, blankets and tote bags.

  1. Deadlines:  Real deadlines.  My article is due at 10 a.m. deadlines.  The first draft of my book is due on July 31st deadlines.  We’ve already proven that I’m a planner who loves calendars and timelines.  However, I don’t always answer to myself very well. I come out of the gate strong with self-imposed deadlines and fizzle out quickly.  Deadlines imposed by other people (preferably with checkbooks to pay me) are another story.  Give me a deadline from one of my editors, and I hop out of bed when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. to edit (or finish) my story.
  2. Writer’s conferences:  Once I have a writer’s conference on my schedule, I crank out the word count. Register for the conference; put it on your calendar and work backward to create a realistic writing schedule to ensure that your synopsis, book proposal or manuscript are ready.  You only get limited chances for face-to-face agent pitches.  Don’t pass up those opportunities because you wasted your days watching Gilligan’s Island re-runs.
  3. Critique groups: When someone else is counting on me, I always come through.  No one is going to fire me or disown me if I don’t get that chapter finished for my next critique group meeting.  But, the fear of being the only one to show up at the weekly meeting without a completed chapter provides the motivation that I need.
  4. Freewriting sprint: Sometimes writing is just like working out.  Getting started is the hard part.  Once you start, you usually want to keep going.  On days when I don’t have looming deadlines, it’s more difficult to find the motivation to write.  I set a timer and force myself to freewrite on my current project for ten minutes.  I type as fast as I can and let the ugly words flow.  When the egg timer starts ringing, I’m usually lost in the scene.  It’s too late.  I’ve been sucked in by my own words, and I know that I’ll finish my word count for the day.
  5. Word count goals:  Breaking a project down into realistic goals makes it less scary and more doable.  On a non-deadline day, I usually aim for 1,000 words.  Two 500-word sessions are very realistic for my schedule.  If I’m throwing together a first draft, I can dash off 500 words in 30 minutes.  One hour of writing per day puts me 1,000 words closer to a finished draft. I should specify that deadline days (work days dedicated to a project with an upcoming deadline) are structured much differently for me. Those are the days when I don’t need to search for motivation.  Deadline days are when the professional writer in me takes over.  I stop sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike, I shut off Storage Wars (or at least mute the television) and write.

What are the crazy ways you waste time when you should be writing? What are your best techniques for combatting procrastination?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. A fun article! I love the reference to Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island. I am a world-class procrastinator, even though I love to write. I fall asleep on the couch with my laptop about a half-hour before my son gets home from school. Haven’t figured out how to combat that yet. Wish I liked coffee! Thanks for the tips.

    November 10, 2011
  2. Sara! Are you spying on me? I know I need to get writing… thanks for the kick in the butt.

    November 10, 2011
    • Get to work, Diann. There’s your virtual kick in the behind! 🙂 Happy writing today!

      November 11, 2011
  3. Palm Trees & Bare Feet #

    One of my favorite quotes is: “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” ~ Jack London.

    This quote always gets me to write!

    Great post! 🙂

    November 11, 2011
    • Do have an appropriate club you could send my way, Palm Trees? I love Jack London. I think a good club pretty much fixed anything for him.

      November 11, 2011
  4. hndbff1999 #

    Sounds Like Hakuna Matata. Haha. Well, to get away from writing i…: Blog, play on my phone, do homework, watch TV, check my email, check my grades, talk on the phone… etc…

    November 11, 2011
  5. Ah! I just wrote a post yesterday (when I should have been writing), about what I like to call “Shiny Object Syndrome”.

    It’s right here, if you’d like to take a peek 🙂

    Great advice! And the “deadline” thing is what always helps me churn out those words a whole lot faster. I graduated in May, and spent the majority of my summer blogging or Facebooking or doing summer vacation-y type things, instead of using my free time to work on my novel. But suddenly, as soon as NaNoWriMo began on November 1st, I’ve suddenly added over 40 pages in a little over a week. Those ideas have been milling about in my head for quite a while, but the deadline drove them out.

    Once NaNoWriMo ends, I’ll have to use some of these other techniques to keep my butt in gear. Thanks for the motivation! 🙂

    November 11, 2011
  6. Deadlines with chechbooks attached or my writing group’s deadline does it for me. You are right, there is nothing more embarrasing than showing up empty handed.

    November 11, 2011
  7. When I don’t want to write (or work out for that matter) I will let anything distract me, especially organizing things. If my life (or just condo) is in a mess, I have to fix it in order to work again. That’s how I made it through my ARE exams. But my 2 biggest slogans I’ve seen in advertising (Not sure where) have been: “Its NOW or NOW!” and, “Procrastinate Later” which always makes me laugh. So I remind myself to procrastinate procrastinating.

    November 11, 2011

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