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Monday, November 15, 2010

Jumpstart Monday // DEFEAT writer's procrastination

The stress of not writing is worse than not writing! Have you ever had a panic attack because you weren't writing?

An article in Psychology Today offers 10 things you should know about procrastination. Read the entire article to get the big picture, but here I'll highlight 3 of the issues as a self-assessment. (Be honest.) 

1. Is procrastination part of your lifestyle? Then you'll probably suffer writing procrastination until you get a handle on it. 

2. Do you make a lot of excuses for procrastinating? When you were a child, was "the dog" always "eating your homework?" 

3. Do you think you have more time in the day to write than you actually have? Do you constantly say, "I didn't get any writing done today? Where did the time go?" According to the Psychology Today article, "Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others." 

Wonder if she practiced today?
I disagree with point #4 in the article: "Procrastinators are made not born." The doctors had to induce labor when I was pregnant with my daughter because she procrastinated for 2 weeks. To this day, if she really doesn't want to do something, it's WWW III to get her to do it.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, "Do I really want to write this book?" 

I believe fear is the cause of writer's procrastination – fear and the quest for perfection. We don't know if we have what it takes to write not just a good book but a perfect one. But we don't have to write a perfect book. It should be accurate, of course, but it doesn't have to be all that literary. It should just be grammatical, clear, organized, and interesting enough to keep the reader's attention. You can do that.

I've also learned that fantasy thinking is a big part of the problem. We talk about writing a book, even brag about it. We think about it all day long, but by the end of the day, nothing was actually written. 

By the way, what's up with the Monday morning blues? It's like we've agreed as a nation that Monday is the worst day of the week. Studies have found that people drop dead on Monday morning. Maybe we need to change our minds about Monday. It's not so bad.

The Psychology Today article didn't offer much hope for a cure. "Procrastinators can change their behavior—but doing so consumes a lot of psychic energy." It was also suggested that procrastinators may need therapy. 

No no no. Sometimes therapy can be another form of procrastination.

I have found some simple ways through the years to put a foot up my own rear end and get moving. Basically it involves working with the procrastination. If you can't beat it, join it. Here's what I do. 

1. While procrastinating, keep a notebook on hand and opened to a blank page. Sometimes writer's procrastination and writer's block go hand in hand. You may have started writing in earnest, but the words simply dried up, and then you started to procrastinate because you couldn't face the blank page. This happens to all writers, experienced and novice. 

No matter how I'm procrastinating – watching TV, shopping, or surfing the net – I'll see the opened notebook in my peripheral vision. When I open my purse, I'll see the small notebook opened to a blank page. On the car seat, the notebook is opened to a blank page. My subconscious seems to understand my desire to get to work, so it does, too. Amazingly inspiration will often strike. If I'm driving, I'll pull over (yes, even on the expressway), and write. Now I know you can't depend on inspiration to complete your project, but use it for the gift that it is.

2. A study cited by PsyBlog says we can avoid procrastination by focusing on the details. This works for me. When I get an idea, I start taking notes. Although this is not writing per se, it is part of the writing process. Taking notes often jumpstarts full scale writing.

3. Instead of seeking therapy for your procrastination issues, try writing all about it in a journal. Journaling forces you to dig deeply into what you think, how you feel. This is often exactly what you need to jumpstart your book project.

4. If I deliberately obsess about writing right before going to bed, I'll wake up in the morning with ideas I just have to get down.

Some writers have rituals to get them started. What works for me may not work for you, but hopefully these tips will help.

Donna Marie

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