Tuesday, October 19, 2010

7 Tips for Writers to Overcome Procrastination

“When I’ve caught up with my emails and dealt with xxx, I’ll write my blog post.”
“I’ll just do xxx and then I’ll write the next section of my book.”
Recognise either of these statements or variations on the same theme?
Feel free to fill in the xxx with whatever fits your particular situation and your way of thinking. Whatever xxx you come up with, essentially they all relate to the same issue – procrastination.
However plausible the xxx appears to be, there are times when all writers fall under the spell of procrastination.
Procrastination simply means that we put off taking action on something we want or need to do, and convince ourselves that tomorrow will be a better day to make a start. We allow ourselves to become side-tracked and find endless ways to justify why it makes more sense to do something else first.
On occasions, taking some time out to allow more space for ideas to develop is absolutely the right decision. However, we need to balance this with the reality that “tomorrow” may never come and sometimes the delay results in lost opportunities.
For some people who want to write, procrastination is a chronic condition which unfortunately means that their writing just doesn’t get done – ever! Or it may take so long that by the time the words meets the page the energy and enthusiasm have all but drained away.
In such situations, there are usually other factors at work including lack of self-belief, fear and a whole host of other resistance-related issues which need to be addressed separately.
For most writers, procrastination pops up in milder forms. It holds us back when we have a challenging topic to write about, when we’re not entirely sure what we want to say or when we don’t feel confident about undertaking activities relating to building our platform.
Yet, as anyone who writes regularly knows, overcoming procrastination is part of the process of becoming an author and living the truth of that each and every day.
So here are 7 tips to help you to overcome procrastination:

1. Reduce the time between decision and action: once you have decided to write an article or work on the next section of your book, schedule it into your diary and when the moment comes, write!
2. Do your preparation the day before: this is especially important if you are still exploring a topic so sketch out a few preliminary ideas, identify 5 key points you want to make, come up with a working title and then let your unconscious mind work on it for you overnight.
3. Do your writing first! Having completed whatever preparation you need to do in advance, sit down to write before you make any phone calls, answer emails or open up your social networking accounts.
4. Practise overcoming procrastination with short, easy projects: you don’t have to start by writing a book. Begin to build up your writing muscles with short blog posts and subjects that you know well and enjoy.
5. Reward yourself with a break at the end of your first draft: have a drink or something to eat, take a walk, have a conversation with a friend or dive in to see what’s happening on Facebook or Twitter.
6. Break challenging topics or tasks into manageable chunks: if you do have a piece to write that feels like a stretch, make a plan of how you can address it in several short sessions of preparation and writing so that it feels do-able.
7. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or try to write a perfect piece! There really is no perfect moment to write and no such thing as a perfect piece of writing. Simply choose what seems to you to be an optimum time for you to be focused, creative and in the flow … and just do it!
What are your favorite ways for overcoming procrastination? Post your comments below

Guest spot by 
© Julia McCutchen 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Julia McCutchen is the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW) where writers discover their authentic voice – on the page and in the world. A former managing director & publisher (Element, Random House), Julia is a successful and intuitive writer’s coach, mentor and professional publishing consultant. She has over 20 years’ experience of publishing and a track record that includes UK no 1 and international bestsellers. Julia is the author of The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication and the creator of the How to Write the Ultimate Book Proposal Online Masterclass Course. For a FREE Special Report, Discover Your Authentic Voice – on the page and in the world, visit www.iaccw.com, and for a range of FREE articles, audios and videos for writers visit www.juliamccutchen.com.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Great advice. Now to put it into practice - that's the hard part. ;-)

One of the tricks I'm learning to use is: ask for what you need. No one here has perfected that mind reading thing yet unfortunately, so I must say that I need some time alone in the house.

I also need to recharge my creative batteries regularly so that when I do sit down to write I have some juice to draw on.

The Book Team said...

Thanks Sarah, those are both good points!