The Writer’s 7 Powerful Ways to Beat Procrastination and Writer’s Block

You see, I too, deal with the dragons of procrastination and writer’s block. “The Writer’s 7 Powerful Ways to Beat Procrastination and Writer’s Block” is an article I began working on, when I couldn’t think of what to write.  It was inspired by that very deep-seated fear which freezes us in our tracks whenever we try to move forward and accomplish something. – ‘What if I’m not good enough?  What if I fail?  What if I look foolish and everyone laughs at me?’  I assure you, after you read this article and implement some changes in your life according to what you read, you will see a transformation in how you view and conquer the often-feared writer’s block, and even procrastination in general…

Below in italics, is a sample of what I typed out in order to get myself writing again:

I don’t know what to write.  Whenever I do, I feel that it is not enough.  Not clear enough.  Not concise enough.  Not illustrative enough.  I just want to write something that is long enough to get people engrossed, but short enough that they won’t feel that they are staying away from something they need to do.  I want to get good at being able to discern the length of things and what to say in a compact way.

The hardest thing to do is to keep going when you aren’t seeing any results.  You want to give up.  I pace around the room and grumble a bit.  I imagine myself as being somehow inferior to all those other great authors out there.  I beat myself up mercilessly.

[Notice how my mind began following another train of thought which led to a partial solution of my problem.  Writing this way (stream of consciousness) often does this for us – making clear what was foggy in our minds just moments ago.]

The trick, though, seems to lie in tiny actions, altered over time.  And in order to do this, we need to promise ourselves that we will stick with it through the good times and the bad.  [From here, I smoothly seemed to transition into my article.]

This reminds me of the time when I was first hired at Hollywood Video.  The boss liked me because he would give me a simple assignment and I would finish it and then come over to him and ask him what was next.  Those assignments got longer and harder, there, the longer I stayed around.  At one point, he put me on the computers, dealing with the customers who wanted to rent or buy some movies.

Man, was I slow!  My line would inevitably be the longest one; and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to complain, “This is taking too long.  Can’t you go any faster?”  As anyone who has ever attempted to learn something new can attest, though, there is this concept called, ‘the learning curve’.  The learning curve is a very basic thing that we seem to forget, especially when dinner might be cooking at home, or we have a date; and this video clerk seems to be wasting our time.  I was all too painfully aware of this and wished that I could be anywhere but right there on the other side of the checkout line at that very moment.  This became a pattern.  I would hear grumbles and complaints, and some of the customers were downright rude.  I began to hate coming to work.

But I made a promise to myself:  I began talking to myself as if I was my own parent. “Ok, things are pretty bad right now, but they won’t always be.  I know that you wanna quit.  You’d have every right to, but let’s see if anything changes in six months.  In six months if nothing improves to the point where you like coming to work; THEN you can quit.  Until then, just stick it out and try to learn something new everyday and work on a system to make things faster.”

And guess what? – I did improve.  Not only did I improve; but I became the fastest check out guy in that store.  In fact, I normally had the longest line when I signed on to the computer; but by the time 10 minutes had gone by, I had whittled it down to the shortest line, WHILE taking care of guests.  Perhaps a woman would come up and ask, “Can you suggest a comedy for us, tonight?”  I would ask her a few questions, finish the transaction, get an employee to cover my line for a second, and run off to the exact spot in the store where I knew a perfect movie for this particular lady would be.  I would place the movie in her hand, dash back to the computer, signaling the employee covering for me, to check the returns box, and I’d continue processing transactions.
This kind of resolve got me promoted….twice.  On top of that, the Regional Manager came into the store one day, and had a few words with my manager before coming to look for me, while I was putting movies back on the shelves.

“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes sir…You’re the Regional Manager – what can I do for you?”
“I want you to know that I’ve spoken with your manager and I asked him if there was anyone in this store who he thought might be Shift-Lead material.  He gave me your name.  Do you think that you could handle being a Shift-Lead with the right kind of training?”

Ok, fast-forward ten or so years, and here I am at my lap top, not wanting to write; but knowing that I need to.  If I don’t, I’ll never get into the habit of writing every day and one day becoming that great writer that I’ve always imagined myself to be.  Writers have a saying:  “The key to writing is to write.”Meaning, the key to becoming a great writer is to write often and write for a long time, possibly years, before you ever get to the point where you might consider yourself to be really good.

So how would YOU suggest that I accomplish this goal, if I don’t FEEL like writing at the time?  I’ll give you a few seconds………………………………..

Did you figure it out?  Here are the 7 tips for overcoming writer’s block and procrastination, in general:

1) In order to write every single day, the first thing I need to do is to make myself a promise:  I need to commit myself to writing every day.  This appears to go without saying……….

But, (and this is the most important part), I must have some way of honoring that promise.  I must figure out a way to motivate – drag out the muse and get her to inspire me – if I am to keep that promise.  Often, that is not an easy thing to do.  Just ask most any writer and they will tell you about that feared condition known as, “Writer’s Block”.

2) Clear all distractions.  Clear a space to work in.  Put away papers and pens and anything else that may be resting in disorder on your desk.  Unplug the phone or put your cell on vibrate.  Lock the door.  Put up a sign that declares, “Creator at Work…come back later, please…Thank you”  Let people know when they CAN reach you and when it is best to leave you alone.  Giving them a time when they can be expected to get a hold of you, gets rid of their fear that you’re going to disappear off the face of the planet.  Even for a writer, staying in touch with those around you is important to a well-balanced life.

3) Get your materials ready before you start.  Ever read those children’s science books which teach you how to set up an experiment?  What is the very first thing that they say, before going into how to do it?  That’s right – they ask you to go get all of your materials.  They type out a list of all the things that you’ll need – a materials list.  You need to do the same thing, and then you need to set up your workspace, following that list.  One thing that might be on that list is for you to load your favorite word processing document.  One might be for you to have created folders, ahead of time, for your writing to go into.  Another one could be for you to make sure that you have your jump/flash drive or a disk ready, to save your stuff to.  One of mine is to have set up a signature stamp – (a pre-determined name, date, and time with, maybe, a quote that I like).  All this goes a long way to getting you to write as quickly as possible, without having to get up in the middle of it all, because you just remembered something and need to get it before you continue.  Do that (getting up) four or five times, and you’ll probably throw up your hands, thinking that writing is more trouble than it’s worth.  So, make it easy for yourself, and do the setting up, all at once, before hand.

4) Save and Save often!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the library, maybe, emailing someone, and the computer suddenly shuts down.  If you are like me, you probably just typed up the longest and best email of your life — and now….it’s all gone.  Don’t let that happen to you ever again.  Save your stuff.  I go even a step further and have thought about where I’m going to save the file to, and what I’m going to call it.  Another reason to save often, is that you can be a few paragraphs into what you are doing and may have just altered a few sentences or trimmed a few words, here and there, and then you get up, go to the bathroom and while there…oooops! –  the lights go off!  Ever had a power outage?  I have.  I have to go around resetting my alarm clocks and even the kitchen stove and microwave.  You might have gotten everything just right, after you re-read it and did some adjusting; and all that (your fine work) is completely undone, because you didn’t take one second to flip your mouse up to the little save icon at the top, and click “save”.  This is where the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, truly makes a difference.

5) Write about how and why you don’t want to write.  It seems silly.  It’s probably not even your topic, but writing about how you don’t want to write does several things:  First, it has you writing about something that has a lot of emotion for you.  You’ve avoided beginning your writing for a reason; and writing about THAT will come a lot easier than trying to be creative, or to narrow your focus to what you are SUPPOSED to be writing about.  Secondly, writing about why you absolutely, positively, do not want to write at this moment, gets you moving.  It’s well documented that the hardest part of working on a project is starting it.  It becomes much easier, once you are in the middle of the process, to keep going. You have momentum on your side.

Try this:  Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and promise yourself that you will work on something (anything), like the dishes, for instance, for those full 10 or 15 minutes. You will be surprised at how you feel AFTER you have gotten into the motion of doing that simple thing.  This is a quick and easy way to beat procrastination.  Don’t worry about doing it well.  Don’t even be concerned about finishing it.  The whole point is simply to get you to take action for a limited time.  Do this over and over again and you will be able to start on anything, no matter how big or ugly, or messy it may seem.  I promise you this!

6) Take frequent breaks.  The brain can only take so much concentration at a time; and only for so long.  Get up, stretch your legs, pop a few grapes into your mouth and wash it down with some water.  By the way – water is really good for the brain.  I know that the body is supposed to be like, what, 75-80% water? – but your brain needs it, as well.  In order for your brain to be flexible enough to move the neurons around and grow connections between them, you need to have water.  Ever see jello before you add water? –  it’s a bunch of powder.  You add water and it becomes this bouncy, soft stuff.  – Super pliable.  That’s how your brain needs to be.  Enough said.

Rest your eyes.

Get some oxygen into your lungs and into your brain.  Get your body moving so that you get energy sloshing around inside of you and making things happen. – I’ve found that if I’m thinking about a problem, and I get up and move around, the thoughts seem to flow that much easier.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  Try it and see.  Try remembering a name or some particular fact that you’ve forgotten while sitting down; and then get up and walk around a bit.  I bet that you’ll come up with the answer, or at the very least, come exceptionally close to it.

7) Have your Muse prepared.  What do I mean by this?  Simply, in your spare time, when you keep coming up with thoughts about what to write…type it up in a document, labeled, “My Muse”, or “My Writing Ideas.”  You can refer to this later, when you are having a hard time coming up with a good story or poem, or direction for your article.

I’ll go into more detail about how you can do this in one of my later blogs.

Well, that’s about it for this article on “The Writer’s 7 Powerful Ways to Beat Procrastination and Writer’s Block”

Do those 7 things and your writing will become more like a joy, than a chore!

See you next time on Synergy!
Post a comment, a story, or share some insight….we’d love to hear from you!

David Lee Madison, Jr.
~Nate – street name
~KnavetheMage on Twitter
~ZenNinja
~Nate Love
~Dreamweaver
WordPress – Synergy, KnavetheMage, suprememasterjedi
Copied from my WORD documents in Boulder, CO
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 – 18:06

“A Letter to Dad”

(The names have been changed to protect my friends’ rights to privacy.  Additionally, I have avoided giving too much detail, which might identify my friends, in case someone they know reads this blog.)

This was an email I sent my dad tonight, who has Multiple Sclerosis.  He’s been bed-ridden for a year or more; and his last email says that the disease has progressed to the point where he is now waiting for a nursing home to open up and take him.  When I was just a boy, he was my best friend.  As I grew older, our relationship grew more and more strained, until we stopped communicating all together for a very long time.  Just recently, after speaking with my close friend about his extremely caustic relationship with his mother – I began giving him advice.  Of course, if you are willing to give advice, you should be willing to take it…if it applies.  It did.  I needed to attempt to heal the relationship between my father and I, somehow.

He is going to pass away at some point, and I didn’t want that to happen before I had a chance to say how I really felt about him and what impact he had on my life.  In the past I had focused so much on my own pain and misery, that I could not really see what was going on.  I spewed hatred and bitterness everywhere I went.  I hated myself.  I hated my father.  I hated my mother.  I hated the world; and I didn’t trust anyone.  The miracle is – how did I ever manage to become removed from all of that and begin my healing?

Something greater than me has stepped in.  I am sure of it.  And so, in the spirit of generosity and appreciation, I say with a very warm heart, Thank you, whoever or whatever has watched over me all of these years.  I know that you were there; even if I couldn’t feel you at times.  You have guided me, protected me and brought me to this place and time of forgiveness for myself and for those who I felt did me harm when I was younger.  If there is a God; then this bit of song which I love to sing applies, here, I think:
~Our God is an Awesome God- He Reins… from the Heavens Above, with Wisdom, Power and Love – Our God is an Awesome God!~

To Dad:
Remember when I was at one of the foster homes; and you recorded two cassette tapes of songs on my birthday?  You would spend a few seconds to introduce the next song coming up.
I really appreciated that.

I think I wore those tapes out, playing them over and over and over again.  Each time I did, I thought about coming home again.  It got me through some really tough times.  Thank you.

My friend Sam went through some very traumatic stuff with his mom when he was just a kid.  She nearly killed him several times, driving drunk.  He literally, had to, as a kid, grab the steering wheel out of her hand, so they wouldn’t drive into a concrete divider on the highway; and shake her awake.

When he tells me this stuff, I let him talk for a bit, because he needs to speak about it.  He needs to acknowledge it.  But after a time, I begin to steer him toward what he wants to get out of his relationship with his mom, now.  Now is all we really have.  And I hate to see him waste his, now, on bitterness, so I have repeatedly asked him to focus on the things that were good between him and his mother.  Over the course of a few weeks, he has increasingly been able to do so; and what started out as hate, and anger and all the why’s of why she did this to him as a little kid; and why can’t she just admit some of it…..he’s starting to feel the love he felt and has wanted to feel for so long, for her.

As a man, I have had to make really tough choices:

One of those choices led me to walk away from a girlfriend/friend who kept drinking and drugging, because it was keeping me from being able to stop, myself.  I still like her and think about her.  I care about her; but I had to do that in order to get my own life straight.

It’s these kinds of choices, I feel, which make the difference between a boy, and a man; or a girl and a woman.  When you told me, that I had the makings of being a leader, I couldn’t see it, all those years ago.  All I could see was that I was unpopular, felt confused and no girl seemed to want to be with me.  I tried to change all the outward stuff, hoping that that would somehow change me and that people would want to be close to me.  In time, I saw that changing my outward appearance, was a very SMALL part of changing the conditions in my life; but where I would need to focus most of my attention, would have to be on my character.

I came to this conclusion very slowly and very painfully, when I started looking for a way to avoid being poor; and instead, studied the ways of the wealthy.  I gave up, for the most part, reading fantasy and science fiction; and began a steady diet of self-help books.  It was a painful process, because the last thing I wanted to really do, was to change myself – that takes courage, conviction, commitment, consistency and discipline – all of which, I was sorely lacking, at the time.

Some of these books would have exercises to do.  I wouldn’t do them.  The most I would do, was imagine doing the exercise.  Yet, I kept coming across these books that told me that if I really wanted to change, then reading the book would not be enough.  I would have to take action.  Because I had created a habit of reading these kinds of books; I kept coming across this message, until one day, I picked up a pen and piece of paper and tentatively began an exercise in the book I was reading.  But as my courage grew and my yearning to change grew stronger, I did more and more of these exercises. – And the course that this has set me upon has been so powerful that it literally changed my life.

So, yes, I am becoming a leader; but I am certain that I could never have done so, had I not been in pain.  It was the pain that forced me to take a look at myself, that caused me to have such a burning desire for change and transformation, that I would become intimately acquainted with fear, and what it takes to overcome it – or pain, and what it takes to push through it.  How could I ever have hoped to lead people, if I had not gone through my own hell?  How could I ever have related?  Even if I tried, what advice or real-life problem-solving action could I have taken?  If I had tried to rely on some text-book knowledge that I had read out of a field guide for leaders – the most I would have accomplished, was regurgitating what someone else wrote – with no thoughts of my own that had been congealed over time and experience.

Facing failure after failure and learning that that is not the end; has given me the ability to not see myself as a FAILURE, but more as a scientist, who will eventually find what he seeks.  I may have gotten people to follow, but as soon as REAL problems arose, my lack of character would have shown through and people would have lost faith in me; and maybe, even, themselves.  If I am in a crisis situation in the future…I cannot afford for this to happen.  Lives might be at stake; or something greater.

So, looking back on my life, even though the lessons have, at times, been very difficult – I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to have gone through them.  Most people would never say that – And that is precisely why I will be a leader among leaders.

Most of that has to do with how you brought me up:  Your advice.  Your quotes like, “If man thinks he can; or a man thinks he can’t – he is generally right”; and “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”.  Your love of knowledge and being more than just average.  Your love of the mind and logic.  Your multiple interests.  Your curiosity and playing with science.  Your anger and passion for life.  Your jokes and lighter side.  Your wanting to teach other people what you had discovered…Your need to think for yourself —- I watched that, and began to incorporate it into my being at an early age.  I didn’t know what was happening, but I was being transformed.  My little body and mind and heart were going through an alchemical transformation; yet, I was unaware.

So, I want to thank you.  I want to thank you for the time when we were watching a football game; and you smelled something burning and grabbed a hot frying pan with your bare hand; had to go to the sliding glass door, slam it open and dump it outside on the deck.  You acted without worrying about your fears; got a second or third degree burn for your bravery and selflessness.

Later, while I was in the Marines.  My corporal had dove into the water and the other corporal froze when she realized that he was in trouble.  I acted without thinking, endangering my own life, getting my glasses knocked off; and having the water pull me down in between the big stones of coral…ripping my my back to shreds and my hands and my feet, after bracing with all my might, so I wouldn’t be sucked under.  Even after all that – after having failed to help him and nearly dying, myself, I still went and crawled back over to him and pulled him out of the water.  I calmed my mind and noticed that if I used the tide, it would buoy up his body weight and would be able to pull him up onto the rocks, safely.

These are things I did not share with you; or if I did – not the whole story.

I just want you to know, that I am the kind of man I am, mostly, because of you.  Words cannot express all that I feel for you, though in this email, I have tried.

Dave

David Lee Madison, Jr.
~Nate – street name
~KnavetheMage on Twitter
~ZenNinja
~Nate Love
~Dreamweaver
Wordpress – Synergy, KnavetheMage, suprememasterjedi
Copied from my WORD documents in Boulder, CO
Monday, December 16, 2013 – 01:27

A Focused Mind

As a kid, I was always curious – always getting into some kind of a trouble, or rather, should I say, adventure?  The classroom left me needing more.  I wanted to explore the world around me, but the rigidness of school frightened me.  I escaped by creating a world, set apart, all my own, in my imagination.  This world had certain rules.  One of them was:  I was always the hero.  The other was, I had to fight against something.  The last, unbending one was…I always got the girl.

With such an imagination, I was bound to see the world in a much different light than the rest of my classmates, and even my teachers, might.  I’m remembering back to one particular day, when I must have been either in, second or third grade, in Chesterfield, Virginia.  I had heard that you could take a magnifying glass, and by focusing it just right, you could light things on fire.

Well, as you can imagine, this made my little, pyromaniac-heart, go pitter-patter with gusto.  I set out to find whether this was true or not.  My first few attempts were utter failure.  I had spotted an empty, white cigarette pack, and awkwardly tried to angle my wrist so that the light from the sun would shine on it.

At first, I couldn’t even tell where the light was, how far away the lens needed to be – whether I was too close, or too far away.  But I kept at it, and eventually discovered that sweet spot, where you hover delicately – your hand inching in and out just slightly to focus light into a spot.  Only my spot looked more like the shape of a fan, or imagine a dot with rays shooting out from one side.  And even when I finally managed to get that spot pretty circular – the paper, cardboard of the cigarette pack, still wouldn’t burn – no matter how long I held my hand in place!  What a bummer…

As the minutes turned into a half hour or more, I began to see a pattern forming, for, I had given up on the pack for the moment, and wanted to try out my new-found spot producing lens on stuff like leaves and wood and stuff.

I picked up a green leaf and focused the sunlight.  Nothing seemed to happen.  Next, a piece of grass – still, no change.  Finally, I saw a dried up ol’ leaf and experimented on that.  Suddenly, something miraculous began to happen before my very eyes:  Where the spot of light was focused, I could have sworn that there was a dark circle forming on the leaf!  Staring at the spot of light for so long took a toll on my eyes, and so I rubbed them and moved the light away to check.  Sure enough, where the sunlight had been, now, was a charred spot a bit smaller than the spot of light that I had used.

Such a small victory; but such a sweet one!  I played around more and more, until I came upon this old brown log.  Almost immediately, I saw the effects:  Yet, this time, something even more amazing happened:  After focusing the light for, maybe, oh, 10-15 seconds, I heard this quick little muffled, “poof!”, and a red flame popped into existence, seemingly, right up out of the wood, itself.

Well, I could tell you that I was surprised and delighted, but that wouldn’t even BEGIN to describe how I felt right at that critical moment of discovery.

As a child, I learned a very powerful lesson that day:  That energy, focused, can effect things, where normally, no appreciable difference could be detected.

I carry this lesson with me to this very day.  As an adult, I still tend to believe as a child.  So you could say that I live in a fantasy world; or you could say that I simply have a strong mind and know how to utilize my imagination to the fullest.  Either way, what I’ve found to be true, is that a focused mind acts on thoughts nearly the same way that that magnifying glass worked on sunlight.  I’ve done a lot of private research on this.  Among the sources have been books on the practices of Yogis, martial artists, people who have mastered something of themselves, or a certain craft.  I have read a whole fwoplusal (my word, coined for exactly what I was trying to express) of material on the, “Law of Attraction”, numerology, the Tarot, hard sciences, meta-sciences, philosophy and such.  But what struck me as the most powerful evidence that any of this be true, was the massive number of wildly successful people who claimed that it was so.

To a focused mind; and all that jazz!