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.

Comments

  1. 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!

  2. JUST DO IT! 🙂

  3. JUST DO IT! 🙂

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

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

    http://www.tamiewrites.com

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

  7. 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.

    Thanks!
    -whisper

  8. Anonymous says

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

    -whisper

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

  10. Anonymous says

    Thanks; I shall! (Oh good) 😀
    -whisper

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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…)

  14. 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?

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

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

  17. 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…
    -sigh-
    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… >.>

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. “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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