How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating With One Simple Habit

How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating With One Simple Habit

How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating With One Simple Habit“How writers can stop procrastinating” isn’t just a question of the writing life. Sometimes it’s the question. After all, if you’re not writing, then all the other good writing habits and knowledge you’ve collected are just going to sit in the back of your brain collecting dust. Fortunately, there’s a simple fix.

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.

Are You Stumbling Into the Wicked Cycle of Procrastination?

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. You get into the habit of thinking you need these procrastination techniques to “ease” you into writing or to “warm you up.” So you check our email, plan your 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.

How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating… in Just 3 Words

At times, figuring out how writers can stop procrastinating seems like trying to find the antidote to an incurable disease. Fortunately, however, I have an infallible solution, and it can be summed up in three little words:

Just Start Writing.

The Fool-Proof Plan for Overcoming Procrastination

If the formula sounds simple, that’s because it is. Here’s all you have to do:

  • 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.

How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating

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.

Which Habits Are You Choosing to Create?

If you start procrastinating by letting yourself do unimportant little tasks during writing time, 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 you give it the opportunity to grow. Scare it away right at the start by awing it with the thunder of your furious typing!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion? What do you think is the best approach for how writers can stop procrastinating? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Lol, I was wiping a smug off the screen just before I read this!

    It is so true, I time waste but convince myself it is necessary to my writing. I am in the process of reorganising my Internet activities, this way I will increase my writing time. Will I spend it writing? Probably not!

  2. Ugh, definitely needed this post. The last several days I’ve been procrastinating like crazy, instead of moving on in my book. Thanks for the kick in the pants 😉 Off to write!

  3. I’m telling ya – those smudges are dangerous! Good luck with your reorganization.

  4. @Mia: Always happy to deliver a kick or two! *cracks whip*

  5. My goodness, have you been there when I was “supposed” to be writing. I am so glad I am not the only person who procrastinates. I really need to get better about ignoring the distractions.

    By the way, you are the winner of a book on my blog. Stop by when you get a chance.

  6. Yep, I was lurking in the corner, taking notes. 😉 Thanks so much for the book! Looking forward to reading it.

  7. You’ve been watching me! Had just started with a blog post I’ve been procrastinating on when I saw this article on Twitter and just had to check it out.

    Duly chastised now. 🙂


  8. So true…and such good advice. I have this problem more with revising than drafting, but need to kick myself into gear and just get moving. It’s never as hard as I think it’s going to be once my fingers start moving. 🙂

  9. It’s with the start of the writing where I procrastinate.

    No problems with the editing, editing, editing…

    Just getting those first pages going.

    Speaking of going…might be nice for a walk before I start a new project. 🙂

  10. Funny! Yes, I am guilty of this. I’ll stop writing just to check Facebook updates or read new notifications. Those things can wait—they’ll still be there when I get my writing done for the day, so I just need to get busy and do it.

  11. Yes such things as putting a word on a blog… temptation lies everywhere esp. with internet.
    But I don’t get soda nor is my chair comfortable.
    Procrastination is not just for writing, it seems easier because of the proximity, intimacy of it with writing but that phenomenon comes from using a computer.
    The damn thing makes it too easy , maybe if it was not internet connected, into a hut in the wild…

  12. I totally do this, but usually at the end of a scene. I figure “this is a nice time to take a break,” but the break lasts the rest of the day. Now I’ll feel guilty enough that I’ll keep writing past the scene break! Seems like a weird thing to thank you for, but thanks!

  13. @Cecilia: Back to work! Chop, chop. 😉

    @Jamie: Exactly. It’s always those first few minutes that are the toughest. Something about facing that big blank screen is terrifying. But as soon as we get typing, things usually start to flow.

    @Marisa: I put a lot of stock in “creative lollygagging,” and mine usually takes the form of long walks. But never at writing time! :p

    @Lorna: Checking (and replying to) email became a real speed bump for me when I finally got wireless Internet a few years ago. I learned in a hurry that I needed to shut the Internet down before I started writing.

    @JC: I know some people who keep two different computers: one for Internet and leisure, the other for writing. Works if you can afford two computers!

    @Jenn: Oh, I’m always happy to supply guilt trips. 😀

    • “@JC: I know some people who keep two different computers: one for Internet and leisure, the other for writing. Works if you can afford two computers!”

      I really ought to do that. I actually have two computers, and I keep meaning to divide up their functions, but it’s really hard for me to do so. Each has a different operating system, and while each one has better capacity for certain types of tasks, it’s the disk space that’s killing me. The one with all the high-functioning programs that I need (Photoshop in particular– and the first person who says anything about gIMP gets a kick in the pants; I have needs, okay?) has so little space available, and the one with all the oodles and oodles of space doesn’t work well with all the heavy programs I need on it. And while I would LOVE for that one to become my Internet-surfing companion, it is no longer supported and can’t update anymore, and the big websites I go to (DeviantArt) won’t work with my outdated browsers.

      So you know what I do? In the middle of my writing (on my low-space, big-programs, updated-browsers computer), I suddenly have an overwhelming need to research this one, tiny little detail I overlooked earlier, so naturally, there I am for two hours, doing my research and opening thirteen different tabs, because if I have to wait for one page to load, I might as well open YouTube or iHeartRadio and have something to listen to while I wait– oh, and I like this artist, so while I’m thinking about it, I should look up what other kinds of music she’s done– oh, this article links to this other article, so I should see what that’s about– hey, this person in the comments mentioned something that a certain presidential candidate said, so I need to check on that and verify if that’s true or if they’re twisting his words– and doggone it, he really DID say that, what a heartless jerk, doesn’t he know anything about the US Constitution?– I should say something to this dude in the comments who’s spouting propaganda, because he doesn’t know WHAT in the world he’s talking about– oh, geez, look at the time, I have to go to bed! Well, guess I’ll have to try to write this chapter again tomorrow. 😛

  14. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  15. You bet. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. OMG – yes this is totally me – I thought I could revise and watch West Side Story last night – 2 hours later I’d sung every song in the musical, checked twitter and facebook dozens of times and got no writing done. However, when the movie ended – I was able to get some done! Happens to the best of us huh?

    Thanks for the post ;o)

  17. Part of procrastination’s pull is that it’s so easy to come up with things that are easier to do. Sometimes “easy” wins out over “rewarding.”

  18. I clean my computer once a week and smudge proof it. Yes, geek runs strong in my blood. Because I know that I am easily distracted….ohhh look shiny.
    Yup it was a shiny :-), where was I? Oh yeah,cause I know my weakness it is set firmly in my head that when I start Word it’s time to write. Because of that I do all my chores, cooking,cleaning and get everything out of the way. Some days I don’t want to write when I have time to so those days are spent on character development and improvement. When I sit down to write I have a fresh pot of coffee made, a full cup, something to snack on and a small prayer before I start word. If I don…Oh look…SHINY!

  19. I’m big into preparation. Setting up to write by putting everything I’m going to need within in easy reach – and removing anything that might prove distracting – means I’m that much less likely to get sidetracked.

  20. Oh, I’m awful when it comes to things that make me procrastinate! It can be my daughter or my dog, or anything in between–blogs too! If I pause in my writing, especially if I’m really tired, I’ll stare out the window and have no idea how much time has passed!

    At a seminar I attended last year at one of my local Sisters in Crime groups (Kansas City is fortunate to have 2 groups), a guest author stated that when he sits down to write, he shuts off the internet (or writes on a machine that can’t get on the internet). In order to stay focused, he has a second document open for things related to research or general to-dos so if he thinks of something he needs to take care of, he just writes it in the second document and continues on writing. I haven’t found myself using this principle yet, but I’m sure it would be handy.

    Of course, how long can it really take to look something up on Wikipedia? ;p

  21. I think parents get extra kudos for avoiding procrastination. Little ones can be *very* distracting, not mention time-consuming! You go!

  22. I understand procrastination when it comes to Pap smears and dentists and cleaning toilets and paying bills.

    But why do we procrastinate doing something we love???

    Be right back. Just one more game of Bejeweled Blitz . . .

  23. It wouldn’t be because Bejeweled Blitz is just a smidge *easier* than writer, would it? 😉

  24. It’s funny how as soon as I sit down to write, I suddenly remember that the bathroom needs to be cleaned. Thanks for the post and the reminder. The monitor does NOT need to be cleaned and the bathtub can wait to be scrubbed.

  25. If there’s one good thing that can be said about cleaning the bathroom – probably the only thing – it’s that it can always wait!

  26. JUST DO IT! 🙂

  27. JUST DO IT! 🙂

  28. Yep, those three words sum it up pretty well too!

  29. BUSTED!!! Were you in my room last night watching me procrastinate? Is that where you got your inspiration to write this article from?!! 🙂

  30. You caught me! Where would I be if I couldn’t spy on hapless writers for inspiration?

  31. Anonymous says

    The afternoon after I read your post I was sitting down to write and was very, very close from checking e-mail, Facebook, etc…. then I remembered this and forced myself to WRITE! Yes, it was crippled garbage, but it got a long-stalled story moving.


  32. Anonymous says

    GACK! Sorry, I mean, what I WROTE was crippled garbage, not your article! *sheepish* So sorry if that came across wrong. 🙂


  33. Congratulations! Now keep it up! (And, no worries, I knew what you meant. 😉

  34. Anonymous says

    Thanks; I shall! (Oh good) 😀

  35. You are brilliant — and this is a brilliant post. How have you found the time to be lurking behind EACH of our computers to know what we are doing instead of writing?

    Excuse me, I have to go clean the cat box, the bathtub, the veggie crispers in the bottom of the refrigerator.

    Then I’ll get to writing.

  36. I’d tell you my secret of omnipresent lurking… but then I’d have to kill you. 😉

    You must be stuck on a really difficult scene if those three icky jobs are taking precedence!

  37. Problem for me – is that most of my writing is non-fiction journalism and I can’t “just start writing” till those I need to interview CALL ME BACK! grrr. Me thinks I should get back to Fiction and leave the journalism to those with more patience than I.

    (She says as she procrastinates by reading blogs on procrastination…)

  38. Nothing more frustrating than waiting on other people – esp. if you’re a prompt person, and they’re not! Maybe you can just write fiction in the interim?

  39. Great post! Procrastination is something I seem to be an expert at, lol!

  40. This is one area that doesn’t seem to have any lack of experts!

  41. Anonymous says

    But, I’m just getting to be really good at spider solitaire! And I just HAVE to watch Criminal Minds. And there’s this whole RPG game design I’m working on. And I CAN’T forget my cartoons…
    I’m with you. I do feel infinitely better when I can say I’ve added another page to my novel.
    Nadine Liamson

    • I started laughing at what you wrote, and all that stuff sounded so familiar that I was going to make a joke that you must be my mom. XD

      ..And then I read the name you signed with. XD XD XD

      You know, someone else on here mentioned something about a writer always playing a game of Solitaire for each page they wrote, and I thought, that sounds like you, too!

      Sadly, I’ve started getting back into Solitaire, and that foretells danger to me and my novels… >.>

  42. I guess it’s kind of like junk food. It sure tastes good while we’re eating it, but we don’t feel as nourished when we’re finished.

  43. Say your inner demon “Shut up and right” 😀

  44. Thanks for this simple advice. I often suffer from this “disease” called procrastination – too much distractions. Especially the internet and facebook, in my case. Lately, I went to a public library and wrote in the study room – I had no internet connection there and was amazed how much that helped me to avoid procrastination 🙂
    Another time I had the idea on our balcony. (I hadn’t before, because it’s rather small.) That helped, too. I like the view there and when I thought about a sentence, I just stared into the blue sky for a minute. There, I was able to write more and much longer. So at least now in the summer I guess I’ll stick to write on the balcony as much as possible. Because at my desk and in the room I normally write, sooner or later I always find something to distract me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve been noticing the effects of “Internet brain” a lot in my own life lately–not just in specific distractions from projects, but in a general shorter attention span and all that good stuff. I’m always trying to adjust my necessary use of the Internet in a way that best optimizes my productivity. It’s a constant juggling act, since the Internet is one of those things writers today can’t live with and can’t live without. But one thing I always do is turn the Internet OFF during writing time. Makes everything so much easier.

  45. You’ve just described what I do with my “writing time” perfectly. From now on I’ll say your words and not ‘perform’ my actions!! Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I always think of that scene in Nim’s Island when Jodie Foster’s character organizes her keyboard and her mouse, gets everything straight, and then looks at her computer in panic. That’s me! Then I take a breath, start typing, and everything’s downhill from there.

  46. I absolutely loved this. My problem also stems from being painfully disorganized writing wise. This will help in so many ways. Thank you K.M.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I always like to find the hardest part of a project (which in writing is in the writing) and do whatever I can to make it easier. Organizing and prepping ahead of time goes a long way. If I don’t have to stop and brainstorm plot twists, I can just keep right on going without distraction.

  47. “What do you think is the best approach for how writers can stop procrastinating?”

    I have a theory: Take your writing seriously. There’s this awful stigma about being a writer, that it isn’t a “real” job, that you aren’t going to amount to anything as a writer unless you accomplish (insert long list of arbitrary achievements), and that even if you do get published, you’re always going to live on ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee. (And beer. Somehow beer always makes it into the equation.) A lot of people don’t take writers seriously, and it causes us, as writers, to reflect that same attitude when we sit in front of the computer screen and we’re suddenly hit with an attack of low confidence. For a lot of writers, that lack of confidence lurks in the subconscious for so long, they don’t even remember that it’s there. Low confidence makes you not care as much, and not caring as much causes you to get distracted easily because, what do you have to lose? Your book isn’t finished anyway, it gives you so much trouble that you become certain that you might be good but you’re not *that* good, even if it gets published not a lot of people will read it, and you won’t make a lot of money, and it’ll have so little impact on your (potential) readers/ society/ nation/ the world as a whole, that it doesn’t matter if your book waits another hour, day, week, etc.

    I’m not saying this is 100% truth for all writers, or even all procrastinators, but I have a suspicion that it’s one of the bigger factors.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Bravo! I totally agree with this. The longer I write, the less I fight inner lies like these, and the less I fight them, the less they interfere with my ability to write and write well.

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