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Procrastination has to be one of the top enemies of productivity.
Steven Pressfield, author of “War of Art” would call it one form of resistance.
Today, author and blogger Ali Luke from Aliventures provides some strategies. My personal tools include Write Or Die for first draft writing and diarizing like a crazy person, blocking chunks out for each part of my life.
Admit it, you procrastinate. All writers do. It’s perfectly understandable, too: writing is just plain hard at times, and sometimes you genuinely don’t have the energy to write.
Too much procrastination, though, can be incredibly frustrating. If you’re keen to finish a book – or even a blog post – but just can’t get started, then you need a simple, reliable way to get on with the writing.
And if you’re not sure you have a procrastination problem at all … well, just read on.
Procrastination doesn’t just mean playing your umpteenth game of Angry Birds. It often looks more like this:
- Reading blogs about writing
- Buying more books about writing
- Tidying your desk so that you’ll be ready to write … really soon …
- Hanging out with other writers (offline or online) and talking about writing
If a lot of your time revolves around thinking about writing or learning about writing without actually writing, chances are, you’re procrastinating.
Here’s how to stop:
Step #1: Break Your Project into Bite-Sized Chunks
However big or small your project is, you can break it down. “Write blog post” might leave you staring at a blank document. “Brainstorm topics for blog post” followed by “Create outline for blog post” is a lot more do-able.
The same applies for huge writing projects. For a non-fiction book, a great place to start is with a chapter outline. For a novel, you could work out who your main characters are and plan your first few scenes. If you still feel overwhelmed about making a start, break down your project even further.
Do it: Work out the first five bite-sized chunks of your project (a good rule of thumb is that each should take no more than an hour).
Step #2: Schedule a Time to Make a Start
It’s so very easy to put off writing until everything else is out the way. Week after week, you promise yourself that as soon as you’re a bit less busy, you’ll get on with the book (or the blog, or the magazine article pitches).
Months – even years – can go by, and you still won’t have stumbled across the “perfect” time to write. Make time by scheduling writing sessions. If you plan ahead, you’ll find you’ve got more time than you realised.
Do it: Look at your diary for the next week. Find one hour for writing, and mark it in as an unbreakable appointment.
Step #3: Set a Timer Going
If you find it hard to focus, then use a timer while you’re writing. (A kitchen timer, or the one on your phone, will do just fine – or you can use an online timer like Tick Tock Timer or e.ggtimer.com.) I find that between 15 and 30 minutes works well.
While that timer’s going, just write. Your emails can wait for half an hour. You can get a cup of coffee in fifteen minutes. Don’t worry whether what you produce is good or bad – keep writing, without going back to edit.
Do it: If you’ve never tried writing with a timer before, give it a go during your next writing session. Most people find it a very effective way to stay on-task and to write faster.
Step #4: Write Like Nobody's Watching
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we write. Often, we’re much too self-critical: this is no good; I can’t write; no-one’s going to read this anyway, why bother?
No-one but you will see what you write – unless you choose to let them. You can write something outrageous or scandalising. You can write something incredible self-indulgent and cliché-ridden. No-one’s watching you, and no-one’s judging you. If you like, you can delete or throw away your writing once you’re done. Hopefully, though, you won’t: you’ll realise that there’s a lot of good material there, and it just need some shaping and editing.
Do it: If you’re feeling intimidated, remind yourself that no-one needs to see your writing until you’re ready. Try writing continuously for just ten minutes (go quickly, and don’t worry about grammar or spelling) – this should help you get into the piece.
Have you got any tips to add for getting over procrastination and getting on with writing? Or have you got a procrastination problem that you’d like some help with? Just leave a comment below!
Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, living in the UK. If procrastination keeps tripping you up, check out her post How to Overcome Three Common Causes of Writing Procrastination – Today for more help and advice.
Click image: Flickr CC CurlyBob