Tell me if this sounds familiar: Your one precious hour of writing time, carved from the demands of your “real” life, has finally arrived. Your characters are poised, frozen in midair, waiting breathlessly for you to tell them what happens next. You scrunch into a comfortable position in your desk chair, poise your fingers over the keyboard, and…
Wait, is that smudge on the monitor? Better find a Kleenex and wipe that off, so it doesn’t distract you. And while you’re at it, grab a soda from the kitchen, just in case you get thirsty. Might as well bag the garbage while you’re there—which reminds you, when you get back to the computer, you better do a quick bit of research to see if you can find out when plastic garbage sacks were invented. And, what the heck, might as well check Facebook one last time while you’re at it. What’s it going to hurt, right? It’ll only take a sec.
The problem is that one “sec” leads to another, and, before you know it, you glance at the clock to find you’ve wasted fifty minutes of your writing time not writing.
Much as we love writing, as soon we sit down and take one look at that intimidating blinking cursor, our tendency is to start procrastinating, usually with seemingly innocent minutiae that adds up before we know it. It’s a wicked cycle to defeat once it gets started. We get into the habit of thinking we need these procrastination techniques to “ease” us into writing or to “warm us up.” So we check our email, plan our grocery list, or straighten all the pictures in the room. Long-time crime writer Lawrence Block had to play one game of solitaire for every page he wrote.
At times, procrastination can seem like an incurable disease. Fortunately, however, I have an infallible solution, and it can be summed up in three little words:
Just start writing.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. As soon as you sit down at your computer, start typing. Don’t wait for the perfect moment of inspiration. Don’t wait for the right words. Start typing, even if all you come up with is utter garbage. An object in motion will stay in motion. Once those fingers start flying over the keyboard, they’re that much more likely to keep flying.
On the other hand, once you start procrastinating by letting yourself do unimportant little tasks, you’re likely to keep right on procrastinating. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get away with that one peek out the window to see if the sun is still shining (And then I’ll start writing!). Maybe you will only take one peek; but, then again, maybe you’ll end up staring at the clouds for the next ten minutes, instead of writing that much farther into your manuscript.
Procrastination is only a monster when we give it the opportunity to grow. Scare it away right at the start by awing it with the thunder of your furious typing!
Related Posts: 4 Reasons I Quit Writing Exercises
Why Word Count Goals Can Be Destructive
10 Habits of Successful Authors
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Story by K.M. Weiland