By Marie Tuhart
Why do we procrastinate?
Sometimes it's because the job itself seems too overwhelming? Or too hard? Or we don't know where to start? By procrastinating we can cause ourselves stress, guilt and loss of productivity.
Many times we underestimate or overestimate the task itself, which then very quickly we fall into a procrastination mood.
Other causes, perfectionism can cause procrastination, feeling too busy (time management issues), being told you are lazy and the fear of failure are the most common. And each time we let ourselves procrastinate, we reinforce the ability to do it.
A common myth around writing is you have to have large chunks of time to write and because we have busy lives, we procrastinate. You don't have to have large chunks of time.
Break it down into smaller chunks. If time is an issue, schedule 5-15 minutes chunks of time and write. Many of us lose time by sitting in waiting room, waiting for our kids, waiting for our significant other or short periods of time where we really can't do anything because we're waiting. Or at least we think we can't. Writing in 5-15 minute chunks showed me that I could make progress in little time.
Since I work a day job and have family responsibilities, I have to watch every minute of my free time. So, I started carrying a one inch binder to work that has my current WIP information in it. My character sheets, plot outline, etc. During my half-hour lunch, I start writing. Or if I'm starting a new book, I'll start working on characterization during this time. I'm amazed on how much I can get done in that thirty minutes time frame.
I will also write while dinner is cooking. That is down time for me, dinner's in the oven and no one is clamoring for my attention. I can snatch fifteen minutes to write or outline the next scene.
Try it, you'll be amazed not only how much you can accomplish, but your productivity will go up.
Another issue is that the project feels too big or what I need to do is too big and I'm overwhelmed by the task. Again, break it down into smaller chunks. I used to have a daily goal that I needed to write so many pages in a day, and each day I kept losing ground. And it wasn't that the amount of pages was big – usually 5-10 pages per day – but it seemed impossible on most days. Finally I decided to stop with the page count and use a word count. So I'd tell myself I needed to write 1,500 words – that's roughly 5 pages.
The 1,500 words seemed more manageable than 5 pages, once I started that, not only did I find myself writing the 1,500 words (on most days I won't say all because life does interfere), but at least 3 out of 5 days I'd write more than 1,500 words.
If can't do the words, break it down even more. Think about writing a scene, it doesn’t have to be in order. You may be more interested in writing the black moment scene to give you insight to your characters, go ahead do it. There's nothing that says a book has to be written in order.
I've found the more I write, the more I want to write. My productivity has increase.
Other tricks you can use:
Talk with your writing group/critique group about why you're having problems writing. It could be the writing project itself, and maybe you need to try something else. This has helped me when I was trying to write a series contemporary romantic suspense book and I couldn't get it to work. Why? Because I'm not really the romantic suspense type of writer.
Turn off the computer screen; you can't see what you've written so you're less likely to hit the delete key. While you might have some creative typo's it's amazing how it frees you up to type without having to look at the blank white page.
Figure out where your time goes? Track what you're doing every day, for at least a week and I mean everything. This will show you where your time is going, and where you have time to spare. When I did this I found I could use my lunch time at work to write, on certain nights of the week I had 2 hours of downtime that I could use for writing.
Be realistic about how much time the writing project will take. If you're writing a 120,000 word historical novel, you work full-time, have a spouse, two kids, a dog and fish. Realistically you're not going to be able to write that in a month – unless you can go without sleep for that long. This is where breaking the project down comes in handy, you can break it down into how many words you need to do to have the novel done.
You can break out of the procrastination habit, you may not totally conquer it, but you can starve it off.