Writing is a tough job. Hear me out.
It may seem cushy since you get to live in your imagination, creating stories and worlds and characters that hopefully connect to an audience. AND you get to make your own hours.
BUT you get to make your own hours.
For mood writers, like myself, it can be hard to get up every day and find time to write if you just don’t feel like it. I don’t know how Toni Morrison woke up every morning at 5 AM to write when she had kids and a day job. When I was teaching there was no room for writing fiction, but I digress. Kudos to Toni Morrison.
I have this tendency to work on something full throttle for months, and then burn out and not touch it for more months than I was working on it. I even took a course over the summer geared toward finishing a novel. Spoiler alert, I did not, in fact, finish my novel over the summer.
However, I did finish my novel, and it wasn’t because I was in the mood. Here’s what I did to combat my writer’s procrastination.
1. Open Your Lap Top
Or whichever device you’re using to write (notebook, notes app on your phone, word processor, etc.)
The first step to going to the gym is to put on your workout clothes, right?
I figured opening my lap top was the first step to actually writing something. I’d update my GoodReads, check my email, and then see the little tab for my novel open at the bottom of my screen and think, “Hmmm…I can add a few words to this…” Which gets me to…
2. Don’t Give Yourself a Word Goal to Start
Word goals are great, but if you’re trying to beat procrastination, they can be intimidating. If you don’t meet your word goal for the day, it may even deter you from showing up to your writing the next day. So, whether you write 100 words or 1000 for that day, words on the page are a win and any amount gets you to your ultimate goal of finishing your project.
Eventually, with consistency and time, you can work up to a word goal. But to start, give yourself space just to write without parameters.
3. Start With a Very Small Time Limit
Success starts with small wins amassed over time that lead to bigger goals being achieved later on. We need small wins in order to build the confidence necessary to keep showing up.
It’s like building a muscle. You’re not going to start with the heaviest weights. (I don’t know what it is with me and gym analogies today.) So, start small.
When I first reopened my projects to work on them, I started with 10 minutes, then built to 20, then 30 until I felt comfortable creating a word goal that I’d be able to hit in under an hour.
When it comes to giving yourself a time limit, consider things like your attention span, your schedule for the day and how much time you can allot to your project, and what you’re able to creatively give to something before you run out of steam.
4. Create a Sustainable Schedule.
Consistency is great. I am all for consistency. But if you are saying to yourself that you have to write 10000 words a day 7 days a week, you’re going to burn out. Especially if you start off with such lofty ambitions.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you’re trying to combat writing procrastination, not turn yourself off from your work. Start small and be honest with yourself.
What is a schedule you can set for yourself that you can actually show up to? Is it five days a week? Are you going to take it day by day and see what feels right?
Creating a sustainable schedule for yourself is key because sustainability breeds consistency. If you feel like you can do what you set out to do, you will. So, set yourself up for success, whether that’s one day a week of five.
5. Leave your phone in another room.
For my fellow scrollers, I know how tempting it can be to say, “Oh let me just take a quick break and scroll around on TikTok.” An hour later you’re watching fan page edits of celebrity before and after’s and videos of slow living enthusiasts showing off their 5-9 before their 9-5. Or is that just me?
Even if you’re not a scroller, the phone has all kinds of distractions. Text messages. Phone calls. Email. Instagram. The list goes on and on.
So, I suggest, if possible (I understand there are certain circumstances that require one’s phone for emergencies) leave your phone in another room. Not only will it keep you from being distracted, but when you are finished writing, going to get your phone will give you a reason to stretch your legs and move a bit. It might sound silly, but I’ve found that leaving my phone in my bedroom while I write downstairs, then gives me a good transition to the rest of my day when I go back upstairs to get it.
If writer’s procrastination or writer’s block has you questioning your worth as a writer or even has you questioning if you’re cut out to be a writer, well, let me tell you: MOST, IF NOT ALL, WRITERS GRAPPLE WITH THESE QUESTIONS AT SOME POINT IN THEIR WRITING LIFE.
You are absolutely not alone, and you are most definitely cut out to be a writer.
Personally, I’ve gotten myself to a place where my sweet spot seems to be Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 10 AM, and I’ve worked up to 1000 words in a sitting. However, if I don’t meet the 1000 words for the day, no harm. I just pick up the next day. It is this schedule that has helped me finish my second novel and begin the next novel in the series I’m writing. I’m currently at 11,000 words. Something I feel is worth celebrating.
Shout out to Pooja G. of Lifesfinewhine for writing her piece about struggling with writing procrastination that inspired this blog post.
I’d love to hear about your writing journey and tips for beating writing procrastination in the comments.
That’s it for now, friends. Wishing you a week filled with happiness and creativity. Until next Saturday!