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
WordPress – Synergy, KnavetheMage, suprememasterjedi
Copied from my WORD documents in Boulder, CO
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 – 18:06