Tag Archives: Procrastination

When Words Won’t Come

We’ve all shared tips on how to write every day and how to fight that devil, procrastination. Or in other words, how to nip our laziness in the bud. Laziness is indeed a real thing, but often when we think that that’s exactly what our problem is, it isn’t. It’s overwhelm. Beating ourselves up with a whole lot of self-recrimination doesn’t help either. Feeling bad about yourself in general isn’t going to give you a fabulous boost of creativity or spur you to action. More than likely you’ll just spend the whole day playing Candy Crush and then top off your day eating piles of pizza while pondering your uselessness as a writer and in general. The secret to avoiding this is to know your real enemy.

We’re all very similar. All day long most of us are inundated with reasons to fail at whatever it is that we’re doing. We have lots to do as well as our writing. Family responsibilities, marketing, day jobs, and the list goes on. Then when we do sit down to write we freeze right up and not a single word comes out. A few angsty minutes staring at the blank screen, and then hello pizza, TV, and self-recrimination.

Next time this happens to you, before setting in motion the usual procrastination-busting sequences like clearing up your work space and forcing yourself to just dive in to any first sentence, take a deep breath and have a look at whether or not you have reason to feel overwhelmed. Then be kind to yourself. Break things down. Go slow. One sentence at a time is fine. One word at a time. It’s a common human behavior when faced with something that doesn’t seem doable to freeze and do nothing at all. You have your fight or flight instincts which are quite common and discussed often, and your freeze instinct fits in with them. These days in the modern world where we don’t often have to physically defend ourselves or run for the hills, many of us find those instincts coming into play on an emotional level and often wreaking havoc with the way we live our lives. The freeze instinct can be just as damaging as the punch or run. Often when what faces us seems frighteningly undoable by us, instinct tries to save us with the old immobilize and ignore. No matter how much we want to write, we just can’t seem to start.

A good exercise here is to realise that it’s a feeling generated by inappropriate fear blown out of all proportion. Be kind to yourself and accept that the fear is reasonable to you though, and then stay right where you are and let it come. Don’t head for the pizza until the anxiety goes away. Consider that even though you might write something not particularly fabulous it won’t be the end of the world. Writing nothing will never expose you to be a rotten scribbler, but ask yourself if the stress levels of staring at the blank screen and the extra poundage from avoiding it are worth it.

Accepting that you feel overwhelmed either by the thought of writing, or the enormity of writing a whole book in the little time that you have available, and giving yourself a little imaginary hug is a great step to getting words on paper again. If you can only write two words an hour, give yourself kudos for trying rather than self abuse for the teeny wordcount. Often tough love is not what’s needed when the story won’t come out. Try a little bit a self sympathy instead, and just do the best that you can. Recognise that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. You’re human. That’s a lot more conducive to being able to write than calling yourself lazy.

Writer

Having Fun With Procrastination

Procrastination doesn’t set in because you suddenly see your writing as work, and all work must by its very nature be nasty. Procrastination generally sets in when you subconsciously convince yourself that you are going to fail. I read a very interesting article on a pretty good way to beat procrastination. Sit down quietly and visualise yourself – you, living your life from that point on.

See yourself pointedly not writing. Making coffee, washing long departed Granny Sue’s apron by hand on the off chance that you will ever desperately need to wear it. See your manuscript – just sitting there – not growing. See this going on for the next few weeks or months – or years. Then look that future self up in your head and say, “Hi.” Tell yourself how fabulous your new jeans are, and ask your future self how she/he feels about you not making the effort to write your book way back then, when the apron seemed so important. Caring about your future self and well being is actually a very big deal in the procrastination busting department. Feel the disappointment when old Future tells you that she’s totally lost the desire to write, and that there is no way of ever knowing just how different your life would have been if that book had been brought into the world.

It’s a very odd experience feeling the hurt of hurting your future self like that by your own free choice. Odd enough maybe to just get your superhero all fired up enough to put rear in chair and get to getting on with it. If that doesn’t work though, sometimes it’s a good idea to build yourself a Procrastination Palace. I’ve been working on ideas for this for the workbook I’m working on right now, so I’ll share one of my favourites with you.

Rather than just make list of your possible plot holes, get a little crafty with your writer’s block. Buy a whole pile of sticky notes, or just cut up some paper into squares. Think of this as your procrastination busting jigsaw puzzle. Write a character on a square, together with all his fabulousnesses and foibles, and the way that he looks too. Turn it over and write a bit about his role in your book. Do this especially with people who seem not to have any further direction in your story. Write out some pivotal scenes the same way. Scenes already written, scenes that you’ve been planning to write, and scenes that just pop into your head while you’re playing with your puzzle. Move them around. Talk to them. Ask them kindly if you can assist them in any way to move forward. It’s probably not a good idea to do this in a coffee shop unless everyone there already knows that you’re a writer by the way. Amazing the stuff that we can get away with. And you may also be amazed at the ideas that pop up this way while you’re seeing the parts of your story as physically different parts, and physically interacting with them, even if in a strange way.

Go ahead. Have fun with your procrastination. Wear a jolly hat and scarf to get in the mood. It’s really hard for fear (fear = blockage) to retain its grip when you’re having a ball, and before you know it you’ll be scribbling away.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Be a Writing Warrior

One of the best books to have in your writer’s tool box is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Just like any other profession, we scribblers should have books by those who have so successfully gone before to inspire and teach us. Steven’s original claim to fame was the bestselling novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, but he has quite a few great non-fiction books out there now too.

One of our biggest stumbling blocks in our writing lives is resistance. In fact in all aspects of our lives resistance can cause us to refuse to even take on a hurdle rather than risk falling at it. Resistance is what leads to procrastination. Steven is a religious man and some disagree with him when at one point he likens it to evil. All of us have battled resistance in one form or another, and I for one agree with him. When those little voices in our head get busy trying to stop us from starting anything that will lead to our success and joy, they most certainly are evil little devils.

Steven gives a small list in his book of those activities that most commonly elicit resistance. A couple of those he mentions are:

The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, no matter how marginal.

The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise for profit or otherwise.

Any diet or health regimen.

Any program of spiritual advancement.

There are eleven altogether, but I just want to give an indication of the pursuits rather than swipe swathes of his writing. I suggest rather that you buy his book, and read it, and then read it again every time you feel too intimidated to either start writing or carry on writing.

As he does, I also see resistance as an external force, coming from all sorts of directions. People, situations, and life’s challenges. Resistance is a force, wherever it comes from, that wants to stop us from achieving the best that we can, and being the best that we can, and it must be fought at every turn. Never fear it. Always challenge it. No matter how good it appears to be to give up on your writing and just do something easier, you will always be happier in the end if you fight back and write regardless of the fear or apparent obstacle.

The bigger and more fearsome the fear of writing, or the thing or person that’s trying to stop you from writing, or doing anything really, the more important it is for you to do it anyway. So remember fellow scribblers, when it comes to writing there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Write on through – fight on through, always, no matter how dodgy the sentences look at the time. If resistance is trying to stop you, then know that you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing.

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