For the moment, at least, I think I’ve finally managed to break out of the procrastination bind I was in for a few weeks. I spent almost the entire day working on my NF book yesterday, and boy, does it feel good! I had enough momentum going I could have worked through the night, but decided getting a little rest might help me have a strong day today, too!
I thought about it, and here’s what has worked for me, to help get me out of procrastination and back into “real” writing (off-line, working on my book). For purposes of this post, I think for me I have two types of procrastination – active and passive.
Active procrastination is when I deliberately avoid work. It is a conscious decision. For example: write on my book or clean the bathroom? I think I’ll clean the bathroom.
Passive procrastination is when I try to sit down and write, and allow myself to get distracted. Maybe I decide before I get started to zip in and check my email – then look up two hours later and decide I hardly have time to get anything done before bed, so give up for the day. Or similar things. The passive procrastination method has been eating me up lately, so overcoming that is what I’m going to concentrate on, here.
Ten Ways to Break through Procrastination
- Avoid TV. Sounds simple, but hard to do.
- Avoid the Internet. Ditto. Email, websites, blogs – all are the pitfall here.
- Avoid doing “extra research.” This one is a tough one for me. I’m working on a non-fiction history book. Research is what it’s all about. But it’s easy for me to spend hours on this – and avoid writing – when maybe what I was “researching” really isn’t that important, at least, not in the first draft.
- Ignore the phone. I need to consider my writing time sacred. Just like I would turn off my cell phone if I went to church, I need to have the same sacredness and respect for my writing time at home. And ask others (friends, relatives, telemarketers) to have the same respect as well.
- Avoid re-reading an entire chapter. Sure, reading what you’ve written is an essential part of the writing process. But when I’m working on a book – there’s a lot to read. Instead, I need to stay focused only on the last page or paragraph that I’ve written – not the entire 20-page chapter.
- Stay focused. A corollary to #5 – I need to know where I’m going next in my narrative, and concentrate on that. “Avoid narrative distractions” is another way to put this. Do I really need to tell about Abigail’s dress at the ball when the storyline in this chapter is about the use of cotton bales to protect Union ships during the Civil War?
- When I stop for the day, make a note of where I’m going next. This technique has really been helpful for me, when I remember to do it. It helps me know exactly where to start the next time I sit down, and sometimes it has helped me to see gaps in my storyline or research that need to be filled in.
These last three have been the most important for me, lately:
- Get right to work! I find the simple act of getting started to be my most difficult task. I can spend an entire hour meandering around before even opening the document on my desktop and sitting down and getting to work. Once I get started on writing, I’m fine, and can usually keep going. But it can take me an hour to get to that point, sometimes – and by then, it’s easy to be distracted and not-write at all.
- Make sure you are seated comfortably. The other day I figured out one of the reasons I couldn’t sit still at my computer while writing was simply because of my uncomfortable chair. I would fidgit, my legs would get twisted and cramp, and my arms hurt too because of the position of the keyboard on my desk in relation to my chair. I put a seat cushion in the chair, and voila – I have a six or eight hour day to my credit! Small things – big changes.
- Use music to my advantage. I’ve found that playing a CD of some of my favorite music helps in many ways. First, it puts me in a good mood. It gives me a positive outlook, and also helps focus my mind. It helps me avoid TV. It also, in some inexplicable manner, helps me stay focused enough to get started (#8). It helps me over that hurdle – which is a big one for me – and once I’ve cleared it, I can get underway. Music is so important for me to get started on my writing – that within 30 minutes, I am so engrossed in my writing that the music fades into the background, and I often don’t even notice when the CD finishes playing. That’s the kind of concentration I’m aiming for!!
I hope that I’ll be able to remember these techniques the next time I get stuck in a procrastination rut, and I hope you might find some of them helpful in your work as well. I’d love to hear from other writers about what works for you in overcoming procrastination.