Until I started writing fiction again for the first time in about 20 years, I had never understood the art of procrastination. I am now an expert at it. Even writing this blog is a form of procrastination. In the past, I never had much sympathy or tolerance for people who procrastinate because I have always been incredibly self-disciplined even when my deadlines were self-imposed.
When my kids were little, I wrote a piece for a magazine about my typical day. The magazine paid me for it but never used it, and I can understand why. My day ran like clockwork with kids, housework, family time, social life and writing all slotted perfectly into their allotted spaces. I couldn’t recreate that time even if I tried – on balance, I think that’s a good thing.
Procrastination is different from writer’s block, which is when you’re stuck. I’m not stuck; I am just finding writing difficult and so put it off.
In case you’re experiencing this same discomfort, here are a few things that are helping me.
Tips to overcome procrastination and start writing again
Acknowledge your own writing schedule
When I first starting writing this time around, I listened to what experts said. Many advised me to write:
- Every day, including weekends
- A set number of words every day
- A set period of time each day
- At a set time every day (Some amazing people get up at 4am – I could never do that. I wouldn’t function for the rest of the day.)
I no longer follow any of that advice. I have discovered that I feel OK about my progress if I write three or four times a week. I don’t care what time of day I write or how many words I write. I just concentrate on writing when I have found or made the time. I try not to count words, but am conscious of how many words I’ve written.
Basically, I’m saying ‘be kind’ to yourself and be pleased when you do write.
Join a writers’ group?
When I wrote fiction when my children were young, I belonged to a small writing group that met regularly. I wish I could teleport those people into my current life. Given I live in a different country now and have lost touch with two of them, we’re not even going to create an online group. The one person I still have contact with isn’t writing anymore.
I did find a local writers’ group and went once and didn’t enjoy it. I thought about persevering, but given that my mantra around writing is ‘be kind to yourself’, I decided not to. As Neil Gaiman says:
‘Writers groups can be good and they can be bad. Depends on the people in them, and what they’re in them for.
‘On the whole, anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing. Anything that stops you writing is a bad thing. If you find your writers group stopping you from writing, then drop it.’
Stop reading and watching stuff about writing
When I saw that masterclass.com was featuring Neil Gaiman, I was very tempted to stop writing and listen to him for a few hours. So far I have resisted. Maybe when I’ve finished my second draft!
Set yourself a deadline?
I’ve set myself a deadline. I think it’s realistic, so here’s hoping…
Email me to share your thoughts.
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