Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastinate means ~~ v. intr. – To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. ~~v. tr. – To postpone or delay needlessly.

Some writers seem to have a never ending flow of ideas. They always have something to work on, something in the pipeline and even more ideas finding their way into a special “Ideas” notebook or folder. Then there are the other type of writers who find choosing the right idea more difficult. They spend so much time asking themselves “How do I get started” and searching the internet for the answer, that nothing actually gets written.

Here are a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Just sit at your computer and type. Doesn’t matter what, whatever is on your mind. What you did this morning or yesterday. Get the flow started and then at some point you can cross over into writing your novel.
  • Flip through magazines and newspapers and see if ideas can be stimulated by what you are looking at.
  • Take the phone off the hook and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the internet or the television. Pull the cords out, if you have to. This is writing time, not surfing time.
  • Same goes for eating and drinking. You’re only wanting these things because you can’t make yourself write!
  • When you do start writing, when it’s time to stop – finish in mid sentence so that when you return to your work tomorrow the thought is already there. You can finish the sentence and then continue typing.
  • If you get really desperate try opening the dictionary at any page and then writing a sentence using the first word you see; or, try to think of new words using each letter of the word you first see.

Here are some other suggestions:

Keep an open mind

Sometimes you can be doing something else and a character will pop up in your mind and shout “Hey, I wanna be in your next story”. Who are you to deny this person? Take notes and listen to what the character has to say because these are the best characters ever.

In other words, let your subconscious mind take over. It really does work.

Commit yourself to a deadline

Set a deadline for when you want to finish the chapter or novel. Make sure it’s a realistic deadline otherwise you won’t make it and you’ll be disappointed in yourself.

Another form of this is to set times especially for writing. Say… an hour a day. If you find you sit in front of a blank screen for most of that hour try giving yourself a reward when you’ve written a page or 1000 words – whatever works best for you. The reward can be allowing yourself 30 minutes on the internet or that cup of tea you wanted so badly.

Again, be reasonable or be stressed!

Start anywhere

Remember, you don’t have to start at Chapter 1 word 1. If that’s the reason you’re having trouble getting started go to a scene that you feel enthusiastic about and start writing. Often, once a few scenes are written the rest start to flow much more easily.

Don’t, however, write all the exciting scenes first and leave all the boring in between bits to last because then you’ll have a novel almost finished but you’ll be dead bored writing the rest of the story and will experience major procrastination problems.

Have more than one project

This is something that works for some people but not all. Have more than one project going at once. It’s better if each project is at a different stage and then if you get stuck on one project you can switch to another for a while (letting your subconscious take over on the first project).

Don’t forget that you can switch between activities in the same project too. You can concentrate on research, writing, redrafting, editing, and planning. Whilst you’re doing any of these things – you are still in writer’s mode.

Read

Most writers like to read so this shouldn’t be a problem. Read books in the genre you are writing or that are aimed at the audience you are looking at for your work. Reading wisely has two effects: 1) It helps you relax, and 2) It is great research.

Find other writers

Joining writer’s group and visiting writing message boards is a great inspiration and I highly recommend doing both. Naturally, don’t let these groups interfer with your writing by demanding too much of your time but sharing ideas and thoughts with people just like you, is an excellent way to help get the creative juices flowing. It also helps you to realise that you are not alone. There are many people just like you and I sitting alone in a room, trying to write a novel. By reaching out to those people, you will find a new desire flare up within you and “procrastinate” will be a word that no longer fits in with your personality.

You’ve Decided to Write

Perhaps, you have been jotting down snippets of thoughts and ideas onto scrap paper or maybe you have been writing little stories for years. However you started, you’ve decided that you want to write and you want to be published.

What do you do now?

  • Set up an area in your home especially for writing. Somewhere peaceful and quiet, where you can think and be creative.
  • Buy a computer with a decent word processing programme installed. Some people still like to write freehand but most publishers only accept typed manuscripts so why lessen your chances of being published by being in the minority group.
  • Read everything you can put your hands on about the art of writing. Visit your local library, book shops and search the internet for up to date information.
  • Think about joining a Writer’s Centre, Reader’s Group and Writers’ Message Boards on the internet as they usually have access to many useful resources and ideas.
  • Subscribe to Writers’ Newsletters.
  • Think about enrolling in a writing course or workshop. There are plenty available on a variety of subjects.

The Right Mindset

When you decide to write, you may encounter various obstacles. The biggest of these is often self-doubt. There is a lot of competition out there, so what makes you think you can make it when so many other haven’t. If we all thought like that, no one would ever get published. If you have the right mindset, the determination and a love for writing then you are on the right path. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

If self-doubt plagues you then this is where a supportive family and friends can make the difference between completing that first special manuscript or consigning it to the wastepaper basket.

Rarely, will you be able to sit with other people who also write with a passion so it is important to realise that you have entered into a very lonely profession but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If you’re doing it properly, you won’t have time to feel isolated with all those characters inside your head and those plots waiting to be put down on paper. Besides, these days with the internet at most people’s fingertips, you’ll be surrounded by other people who know and care about what you’re going through whenever you feel the need.

Making Time to Write Each Day!

This is critical to every writer. You will need to write every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the day, in the middle of the night, on the bus or if you steal a few moments at work to jot something down but you must discipline yourself to write EVERY day. If it’s only to write fifty words or edit an existing manuscript. The more practice you get, the better.

When you do sit down to write forget about everything else for that short time. The housework can wait, take the telephone off the hook and get your spouse or kids to tend the garden for a change. It’s time for you to be creative. After a while, you will discover that a certain time of day works best for you. Try to keep that time free.

The First Draft to the Last

Your first draft doesn’t have to be good and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about spelling, style, and grammar just yet. Just write. Get it all down on paper (or on disk) and worry about the rest later.

Before you start editing your work, put it away for a while. A couple of weeks or even a month should be enough. Then start reading it through with a pen and pad beside you so you can make notes. Again, you’re not looking at spelling, style and grammar for the second draft either – you should be checking that the storyline, plots and main points are coming through as they should.

Have you included all the necessary information? Are your thoughts logical and orderly? Have you started your story at the LAST possible moment, the place where the character’s life is about to take a real dive towards trouble? Does it make sense or has it been contrived to make it convenient for you, the writer? Does the reader get to know the characters? Does the story move along at a nice pace or is it slow and boring?

The third draft is when you check the spelling, style and grammer. If you have pointless words in your story, delete them. Study your first page and make sure it catches the reader immediately. This is also the time when you should trim your story.

If you are an unpublished author then this is a very important point to remember. First novels should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length. Less than this and the reader feels unjustified in parting with their money to buy the book because they feel as if they are being ripped off. If you have more than 120,000 words, however, the publisher will look at you as a financial risk because they have to outlay more money to publish a book by an unknown author that may flop.

For the fourth draft you should print your work out. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’ll find as it’s much easier to see them on a printed page. Once this final revision has been completed, you will be ready to start looking for an agent or publisher.

You Want to Write

Why do you want to write? Is it to escape the world in which you live, to entertain other people, because you want to see your name on a shelf in a bookshop or simply because you enjoy the craft. Whatever the reason, if you want to write… write! However, take the time to work out your storyline, to identify with your characters and know the industry, just to name a few very important issues.

I hope the information found on these pages will help you do this and will be a stepping stone to you reaching your goal. Click on “Writing” in the navigation bar at the top of the page to see the list of categories on writing.