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

The REAL Purpose of Meditation – To Be Able to Call Upon an Almost Mythical Calm and Poise in the Midst of Raging Storm All Around You. My own personal story recounted from tonight.

You know that you are becoming more centered when the following happens to you and you quickly gather your things up and go on your way as if nothing crazy occurred:

I was riding home tonight on my bicycle, listening to my MP3 player, nice gloves on, and a leather jacket; my usual satchel slung across one shoulder and riding along my right hip.  I had a grocery bag of stuff (a black t-shirt, a pair of white socks, a bagel with cream cheese in a plastic baggie, and a 24-oz bottle of spring water *un-opened*).  It was swinging from my right handlebar, as I was singing to one of the songs on my MP3 player…maybe Chicago’s “Look Away”, when a very strange and sudden series of events pulled me out of my goofy bliss.

The front tire locked up, and I rose up in the air, powerless to stop from being smashed down to the pavement of the parking lot of this liquor store, nor from sliding across the gravel on my palms and the meat of the underside of my forearms.  Luckily, I had several layers of jackets covering those arms, and thick gloves.  As all this was happening, I could feel that the front wheel was torquing around to the side and becoming inverted, which was causing the bike to kick out to the side, pulling my feet one way, and my head, the other.  Part of me was calmly observing this, and commenting, “Oh, that’s interesting…but I wonder why the front tire stopped in the first place? – Did I hit a rock?  I didn’t FEEL a rock.  Couldn’t have been a rock, then…”…this inane, insanely calm voice in my head just kept going on and on, as if it were merely watching a fascinating movie.  The other part of me was far less collected -“Oh shit, Oh SHIT, what do I do?  Slam on the brakes?  Cover my face?  My hands are still on the handlebars!  What if I break my neck? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!….”

How it’s possible for a person to have two conversations going on in their head, simultaneously in such circumstances, is beyond me; but there I was, and then there I was, plastered on the ground, probably all of three seconds later.

What’s amazing, is how after about 5-10 seconds, after initially thinking the worst, my mind immediately bounced back, surveyed the damage – no broken bones, some scrapes, but nothing too severe, and the bike seemed ok.  When I got up, the MP3 player had slipped from my pocket and was lit up while dangling near the ground, being supported just by the strength of the ear buds still crammed in my ears and the slender cables attached to them.  I carefully put that MP3 player back in my pocket – a different song was playing now, “Big Baller, Shot Caller”, and I was jamming out to the lyrics and dancing a bit as I gathered my stuff together.

The plastic bag was completely torn to shreds and I immediately spotted the culprit….those pair of socks had somehow wedged themselves on either side of the brakes on my front tire.  The bag must have swung forward, got sucked in and then the socks must have gotten grabbed by the forward-moving tire, and then the two together, become like brakes, themselves, when those socks pinched down between the top of the fork and the tire.

I noticed that it only took me about 7 seconds to come up with a solution as to how to carry the rest of my stuff back home:  I snatched the t-shirt, stuffed the rest of those things in between the layers of fabric, (front and back of shirt) like a pocket; then tied the short sleeves twice…in an overhand knot; then an underhand one, in order to tie them securely.  I wrapped the bottom of the shirt around my hand and let it dangle down off of my right handlebar – this time, though, making sure that it didn’t swing into the path of the tire.

What’s really amazing here, is that this is real-world evidence that my mediation practice has practical benefits when it comes to staying calm and centered in the middle of an unexpected crisis.  Now different people may have varying notions as to what a crisis means to them; but for me, it was a sudden, very dangerous problem that created another issue immediately afterward; and I feel that I handled it with a tremendous amount of grace and clear thinking, all things considered.

To me…this is the TRUE power of meditation…giving you space to stay calm and in control of your emotions and thoughts, even when faced with the unexpected and the frightening, and possibly traumatic.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD from both childhood stuff, and from a stint in the United States Marines, as well as, about 5 years living on the streets through each winter.  This single event – (the abrupt being thrown from my bike right after I had been nestled warmly in thoughts of easy safety and security) – should have triggered my PTSD; and possibly even should have turned me into a basket case; yet it did not.

Often times when people meditate, they cannot detect the transformation occurring within themselves.  They may think that nothing is happening and that this meditation business is a complete waste of time.  But if they would stick with it – then, in time they would learn that it might be one of the single most effective methods of reversing lifelong behavior patterns and harmful ways of reacting, and all the extra emotional baggage that comes with going through an ordeal.

My first exposure to meditation was when Master Lenchus, in our Shotokan Karate class, had us kneel, and bow our heads down until our foreheads touched the floor, and close our eyes while he prayed something in reverence to the four elements, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  This seemed a very odd thing to do, but it’s what I remember.  When I was younger, I couldn’t figure out why he would make such a fuss about this particular practice.  I mean, I was here to learn how to fight, right?  How the heck was closing my eyes and breathing in and out and not moving a muscle gonna keep me from getting my ass kicked in high school?  I just didn’t get it.  And I wouldn’t….for years to come.  But what Master Lenchus taught us by example in that dojo, planted a seed in my young heart, and a question in my young mind….”What’s all this meditation stuff really about?”

Over a period of years and years, I kept coming back to that one question over and over again, until, one day, I decided to try it.  And even though, in the beginning, I started and stopped and started, and kept up that pattern for years – I eventually gained the self-discipline to stick with the practice and, today, it is an integral part of almost every day for me.

Today, I have a very deep and meaningful meditation, which helps relax my body and mind, re-energize my spirit and heart, and bring great focus and clarity to my goals in life.  But the most miraculous thing I can say that this meditation practice has given me, is a re-wiring of the neural pathways in my brain and my body, and a short-circuit of the past fight-or-flight reactionary impulses which have consistently led to doing the wrong thing and bringing strife and misery into my life over and over again.

I feel that I have gained great understanding, wisdom, discernment, empathy and a sense of detached non-judgment of others.

And so it is with great gratitude, I say this:

“Thank you, Master Lenchus, for taking the time each and every day that we went to that dojo – and instructing us to slow down, be silent, and be still, in order to show us how to meditate.  You showed by example and by consistency, that this was very important to you, and should be for us.  I don’t know where I would be, or what kind of man I might have become, had I not met 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
Sunday, December 22, 2013 – 22:38

 

“Do You Have a ‘Relationship Language’ Solidly In Place?”

What I’ve found, is that we need to learn to speak the same language and use the same definitions when dealing with another person.

What that requires is a Relationship Language.  A what?!  A Relationship Language – a language or a set of definitions that both parties agree on beforehand – before they get into their first argument. 

What I mean by that, is that any single person has their own definitions of words and combinations of words, and gestures, and what that means to them, based on their past experience, culture, family and what they’ve gone on to learn.  But whenever two or more people gather together, issues can arise from the simple fact that each person has their own unique definitions drawn from unique experiences, and often people assume that they know what those definitions are, when they really don’t.

An example of this is when somebody replies defensively, “Hey.  It’s simply logic.  It’s common sense.  Anyone would know that.”; or “What do you mean you don’t understand?! – I’ve been telling you for the past half hour what I mean!  How can you honestly stand there and act like you are this dumb!?”

Ouch….Looks like these people need some “Non-Violent Communication” (NVC); or at least a common way to communicate, so that both parties can be relatively sure that they understand one another.

The thing is, people tend to assume that the other person can read their mind.  That’s too bad, because a lot of heartache could be avoided, if they would just take the time, sit down, and explain what they really mean by the words that they use.

Take, for example, my friend and I having an argument over the issue of the word, “work”.  It’s a simple word, not that long; and when you say, “I’m going to work”, most people know what you mean.  But when you refer to work as something other than your job; then things can take on a different meaning.  I’ve argued that by labeling something you might like to do, as ‘work’, simply because you’re getting paid for it,  it could cause you to have negative feelings associated with what you like to do!

To some, “work” means struggle, effort – ‘blood, sweat and tears’ – ‘by the sweat of your brow shall you toil’, (according to the Genesis, in the Bible).  But work could also simply mean the result after you put energy and action into something.  What if you really like to dance…stripper, hip hop, whatever; but you get paid to do it.  Is it still considered, ‘work’?  For some, it would be.  For others, it would not.  Some people might say it was a hobby that they got paid for.  If you are an escort or a Gigolo and you love to have sex…but you get paid for it – Does that constitute, ‘work’? –  Well, it wouldn’t for me.  But that’s just me.  And that’s just my point…everyone has a different definition and a string of definitions for every single word or symbol.  Figure out what that is; and you’ll be communicating like you never did before.  They’ll say something like, “It’s like you’ve known me my whole life!”, or “I was just going to say that!”, or “Wow, those are some pretty powerful psychic abilities you have there.  You read my mind!”

Let’s take another example. – A rather simple one that we’ve all heard:  A young salesman comes up to a lady, and says, “Can I help you, MAM?” – Boy! – Did he just stick his foot in his mouth?  In her mind, she’s going, “Oh, I look old enough to be called, ‘MAM’, now, do I?” – When this guy may have been raised in the South where it’s well known that boys are taught manners at a very early age; and this is simply a word of respect for him.

One last example here:  Remember high school math?  Maybe you’re still there learning about the ‘Order of Operations’.  Sound familiar?  If not, I’ll jog your memory for a moment:  The ‘Order of Operations’ can be remembered using an acronym of PEMDAS…Parenthesis, Exponets, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract. – And the reason why students are taught this is because there are times when a person is doing a math problem and they might come up with a different answer, having added, before they multiplied, possibly.  There has to be a standard, shared language across the board, so that when people say I did such and such and came up with this result; other people can follow them exactly to get the same result.  Imagine the chaos different car industries might go through if they tried to use the results from someone who didn’t know their ‘system’.

The small amount of time that you spend learning what your potential spouse’s Relationship Language – your friends’ or even someone you just met – will pay you back many times over and save you countless arguments and all that time trying to explain yourself while you are both angry or frustrated and not in your ‘right mind’.

I’ve discovered that the worst time to try and be logical with someone is when you are in the thick of a heated argument.  Rationality seems to go right out the window; and people get incensed over the stupidest things, when they should be trying to make their relationship stronger.  I mean, that’s the whole point, right?  – To remain in the relationship and to grow together; not split up because someone felt butt-hurt over a technicality, right?

So, do the right thing and think about the words you use and what they mean to you; and when things are going all cozy, start this conversation with your friend, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other…whatever. You’ll be glad you did; I promise!

David Lee Madison, Jr.
~Nate – street name
~KnavetheMage on Twitter
~ZenNinja
~Nate Love
~Dreamweaver
WordPressSynergy, Twitter: KnavetheMage, suprememasterjedi
Copied from my WORD documents in Boulder, CO
Saturday, December 14, 2013 – 16:27