General, writing

The Procrastination Habit

We’ve all done it. Putting off that one thing that we need to or want to do because it’s not what we feel like doing right now. Procrastination can become as much of a habit as writing. It’s too easy to tell ourselves ‘I work better under pressure’ or ‘I’ll have time later’ when we’re distracted. This can be especially true when we’re on a troublesome scene or we’re just not feeling the passion for the story. So how do we kick the habit?

Apply pressure. If you find yourself thinking you work better closer to the deadline anyways, try adding in the pressure of a ticking clock instead. I’ve found word sprints are immensely helpful for getting words on the page. Blocks of ten, fifteen and even thirty minutes can be just long enough to get a chunk of work down but not long enough to agonize over every single word. When working on edits, twenty and thirty minute chunks for each section work out a little better since there’s much less writing and more rearranging going on. With editing, the trick is actually to break it into sections and dedicate each ‘sprint’ to one section.

Reward yourself. Stress is not a good motivator for everyone. If the idea of trying to cram words onto a page in a set amount of time makes writing harder, try setting up a reward system. This could be something like a treat every x amount of words, or an episode of your favorite show after going over x amount of pages. Alternately, set up big rewards to celebrate your milestones like finishing the first draft, the second draft, getting feedback from beta readers and sending out queries and so on and so forth.

Baby steps. Whenever you find yourself using the ‘I’ll have time later’ excuse, you just know you’ve fallen into a common trap of procrastination. Sure, you might have time later, but are you going to have the energy? Rather than putting it off for later, go ahead and write a few words now. Remember that even fifty words now is fifty less to write later, and fifty more than you had yesterday. Even if that’s all you end up getting done today, it’s still a tiny victory over procrastination. Tomorrow you can try for fifty-one.

Go back to the start. I know this sounds counterproductive, but hold on a moment. I don’t mean start all over, I mean go back to the start: look at what this writing project means to you. If it’s a blog, what was the message you wanted to share? If it’s a story, what was the story you wanted to tell? What inspired it in the first place? Look back at those sources again and let them reignite the inspiration that caused you to start writing in the first place. Go ahead and take one day to procrastinate all you want–but procrastinate with those things that got you started. Those sources of your creativity and passion.  Then look at where your project is and whether it’s a case of procrastination, or whether your subconscious was trying to tell you you’d gotten away from your vision.

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