Ten Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing

May 04

Stop watching cat videos and writeProcrastination is a writer’s worst frenemy. We resent it, yet can’t ever seem to get enough of it. Especially now that it’s so darn easy to do, thanks to the internet. Back in the olden days, when writers had to duke it out with a clankity-clank typewriter, procrastination required effort. A writer had to, well, stand up… walk away from the desk… and find something else to read or watch or do. Today, one simply needs to bounce and glide a few finger tips to leave the frustrations of a document behind and escape into the wonderful world of brainless distractions. Watch a video of a cat playing the piano, tweet a complaint about the rain, comment on your friend’s Facebook update, pick out what you’d buy from Banana Republic online, if you could only afford it (ok, that’s just me).

It takes a mighty strong will to resist the allure of the internet and focus on that dang manuscript that you plan to finish today… tomorrow… next week? Next month?

For the truly seasoned procrastinator, the natural course of action is to blame Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, throw in a little Zuckerberg, and whomever invented Google… I could look up his/their name(s) right now, but then I’d be back in the digital land of diversions and may not return to this post for another hour. The only person to really blame for your procrastination, however, is you.

As a writer, myself, who flits from blogging to business writing to fiction writing, I have many times been seduced by the call of procrastination. However, I’ve also learned a few tricks to help me stay focused on my latest writing task, which I find is particularly hard to do for novel writing because the only one checking in on my progress is me. I’ve compiled a list below to help writers, like me, shun digital procrastination and stick to their personal deadlines.

Top 10 Ways to Stay Focused on Your Writing, and Not Procrastinate

  1.  Allow yourself a certain amount of time every morning (or before you usually start writing) to visit your favourite sites (shopping, YouTube, news sites) and get your guilty pleasures over with.
  2. Unplug your wi-fi and step away from the router. Don’t turn it back on until you’ve written a minimum amount of words or worked a set amount of time.
  3. If you’re a sucker for Twitter or Facebook, limit yourself to one or two times during the work day that you can connect with all your friends and followers to share your own pithy updates.
  4. Keep a timer by your laptop. Use it throughout the day for various writing projects, especially the ones that are easiest to procrastinate on (you know the ones). Don’t allow yourself to a break until the timer buzzes.
  5. Reward yourself for your progress. For example, for every two chapters you complete, allow yourself a small prize, like a glass of wine or an overpriced Starbucks specialty coffee.
  6.  Find a writing partner with whom to compare progress and cheer one another on. See who sticks to their deadlines best – you don’t want to be the loser, do you?
  7. Read the Books section in your newspaper regularly. Want your masterpiece in there one day? Well, remember that next time you push back another deadline for your manuscript.
  8. Accept that some days, no matter how hard you try, the words will not flow out of you. But don’t excuse yourself from sticking to your required writing time. Part of learning the discipline of not procrastinating is staying the course even when it’s not producing the results you want.
  9. Set a notepad beside your laptop and record how often you toggle out of your writing screen and onto the web. Track the amount of time, too. That will help you realize where you are wasting the most time and help you to rectify it.
  10. Write an awesome note to yourself that tells you what you want to accomplish – whether it’s finishing a novel, finding a publisher for your non-fiction book, or seeing your short story in The Atlantic. Post it where you can see it, and every time you find yourself straying from your goal, READ IT.

Did I miss any ideas? Feel free to add more in the comments section if something has worked well for you. Then, get back to your writing!

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