Everybody who has ever worked on a long piece of writing knows how enticing procrastination can become when staring at a blank page until our eyes glaze over; writing and re-writing the same sentence seemingly forever; or drowning in self-loathing because we clearly aren’t meant to be writers. It’s easier to just avoid writing in the first place.
Then again, many of us do eventually sit down and write those riveting novels and intriguing non-fiction books. Even if you feel your situation is dire, there are lots of behavioral, motivational and environmental tricks that can help you overcome procrastination and finish that opus.
1. First of all, let go of the guilt and the self-loathing.
Not only are they a waste of energy – unless they produce immediate results – they also become a procrastination ploy. As long as we feel bad, we feel righteous and therefore don’t need to address the real issue: not writing.
2. Create a supportive writing environment.
Determine where you write best – your desk, your sofa, the local coffee shop or the library. Also, make sure you have all the necessary materials and information at your fingertips to avoid distractions and disruptions.
3. Set aside your most creative time of the day to compose.
Each person has different peak periods for writing. In order to take advantage, clear this time as much as possible for writing. Also, don’t be surprised if it is early in the morning or at night. A study recently found that a little tiredness can increase creativity.
4. Plan the content of your book as much as possible.
While inspiration is a crucial part of the creative process, having a clear sense of what we want to write about helps when procrastination sets in. For example, I have decided on the basic chapters for my next book. During my writing time, I can skip from one where I am stuck to another part that comes easier. Of course, I will have to go back to the difficult part. But by that time, I usually have come up with a solution.
5. Prioritize writing when you are unexpectedly free.
We may plan our time as much as we want, at times things change and we are free to do whatever we want to. Sometimes just relaxing is the best way to take advantage of those openings. However, if you have some energy always make working on your book your first choice. Unplanned writing periods can be extremely productive.
6. Always write when inspired.
When the gods whisper into our ears, we absolutely have to listen and record those ideas. I recommend to always carry pen and paper or a digital recording device such as a mobile phone. Some of the best thinking happens when we are least guarded such as in the shower or at night. Take advantage.
7. Print out even early drafts.
Okay, you are an environmentalist and don’t want to waste paper. However, if you can print double-sided or on recycled paper, it might be worth a try. Seeing those pages add up in real time and three dimensions can be incredibly encouraging. You’ve made it this far, you can go all the way!
And remember that, on occasion, procrastination itself can be a creative tool. Your subconscious is working hard on moving you forward. When you feel you can’t write because some new ideas or old problems are brewing in the background, consciously choose to do something that you find relaxing and energizing. When the fermentation is complete, the results will become conscious and ready to commit to the page. Sometimes it takes a break to finish a book.
Renate Reimann, PhD, is founder of FreshLife Coaching, helping clients overcome procrastination issues and achieve greater confidence and productivity. Her recently released book, Beyond Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life (FreshLife Coaching 2015), offers concrete steps to move individuals past problematic behaviors to achievement and success. Learn more at www.freshlifecoaching.com.