Procrastination is something that every writer suffers from. In fact, it seems a particular infliction of writers. And it can often be a writer’s worst nightmare, but it can also be a gift.
Yes, you read that right. A gift.
Let me explain.
First, we need to take a look at what we mean by procrastination and why we do it before we look at how we can avoid it or use it to our advantage.
First of all though, I’ve started keeping track of all my procrastination activities. Go over to my author account, @jeniceauthor, and hit the Procrastination icon.
What do you mean procrastinate? I don’t procrastinate!
Procrastination is involuntary. You might not even realise you’re doing it until you snap out of it and look at the clock. Oh, look! You’ve been on Facebook for a whole hour!
It’s often defined as the involuntary act of ‘avoiding an unpleasant task’, which is a load of rubbish. Writers love to write. They need to write. But they are some of the biggest procrastinators.
Instead, procrastination is the involuntary action of avoiding something that is hard work.
And writing is haaaaard!
You need to get into the right headspace, you need to get creative, you need to work out plot problems and develop characters. You need to find the right words. It’s not only hard, it’s exhausting. So, of course our brains often try and avoid it.
Okay, so I procrastinate. What can I do about it?
There are a number of productivity hacks to help you avoid procrastination, but it all boils down to one thing: will power.
You have to make yourself write. Force yourself to ignore all other distractions and just get on with it.
Let’s look at some things that can make this easier to do:
- Develop a routine. Carve out half an hour or an hour (or however long you can spare) each day to sit down and write. Writing is a habit and in order to build a habit, you need to be regularly working at it for about two months.
The problem is that once you fall off the wagon, even for one day, it can be so difficult to get back into it. So find a good time, set an alarm and force yourself to write whatever you can during that time (it doesn’t have to be good!).
- Find a quiet spot. Or a noisy spot. Wherever you write best. Take yourself away from your family or leave the house and find a coffee shop. On the train during your commute or stop off at the library or café on the way home or during lunch. Carve out a writing spot for you. Not only can it help you concentrate but by writing in the same spot every day, your brain will eventually flip into writing mode as soon as you enter that environment.
- Is it the story that you’re avoiding? Hey, maybe it is an unpleasant task. If you find yourself getting bored when you sit down to write then consider changing something in your story or writing something entirely different to get your creative juices flowing.
- Reward yourself. Yes, writing should be its own reward but sometimes it isn’t. If you reached your word target for the day, reward yourself! Indulge your procrastination and relax your brain. Watch your favourite show or feast on your favourite food or go shopping. Whatever works for you.
Using your procrastinate skills to improve your writing
Don’t forget. Some procrastination can do wonders for your writing.
How do you procrastinate?
By daydreaming? Clicking through things online? On social media? Doing the household chores?
All of these things can help your writing.
If you’re daydreaming, then you might be coming up with new characters, settings, plot lines, any kind of new idea for your current or future stories. By letting your mind wander, the answer to plot problems will spring at you with wild abandon (in my experience, usually when you’re in the shower. Cue panic as you try to remember it).
If you’re lost on the internet, you might stumble across an interesting article that inspires a new plot or helps with a plot problem.
If you’re buried in social media, you might discover an opinion or helpful tip that can give our motivation a boost or help you untangle where you feel stuck.
Doing the household chores? This is pretty much the same as daydreaming in the shower. The answers to your plot problems or that winning piece of dialogue could jump into your head at any moment. But at least you’ll be able to find a way of writing it down without dripping everywhere.
Writing isn’t just about getting words down on the page. It’s about editing, proofreading, research and, yes, a whole lot of thinking. In fact, procrastination is such a helpful tool for writers, it’s encouraged to make time for procrastination in your schedule.
Go on. Schedule in some daydreaming time. And when someone asks you what you’re doing, tell them shh, you’re writing.