You know you’ve got to finish your novel. It’s a big priority in your life, it’s all you can talk about, but…
Do tweets count toward your book’s word count?
Okay, in all seriousness, for some reason, you have been struggling with procrastination. There are a few reasons why you may be among the too-large club of writers who procrastinate.
Are You Blocked?
Many writers procrastinate because their brains have hit a wall, and their mind wants to be on everything except overcoming that wall.
So, in theory, the key to quit procrastinating is by getting unblocked. (If only it were as simple as it sounds.)
I’m no scientist, but I think writer’s block manifests not because the writer is out of “creative juice” but for two different reasons:
- Something’s wrong with the idea; it’s not leaving the writer with enough avenues to work with.
- The writer has over-exercised the same creative muscle and must approach the problem in a different way.
Or maybe both.
Possibility #1 means it’s time to tweak or go back to the drawing board.
But let’s entertain Possibility #2 for the purposes of this blog post.
How to Quit Procrastinating and Beat That Block
If writer’s block is manifesting because you’re not exercising your creativity enough (or in the same way over and over), it’s time to approach the process in a different way.
- Try a writing prompt to “limber up” before diving into your project.
- Switch writing methodologies temporarily. Be a plotter if you’re not normally one, or switch to pantsing if you’ve been relying on an outline.
- Take a break from writing to visit a place you’ve never been to or do an activity you’ve never done.
- Talk to the most creative person you know about your project. (Or theirs! Brainstorming on something else might jog something in your own project.)
- Find writing exercises online that you’ve never tried before.
- Look up YouTube videos on writing and creativity.
- Listen to your favorite song and reflect on its meaning.
When all else fails, READ!
Instead of procrastinating and waiting for ideas to come to you (they usually won’t), harness creativity on your terms by engaging in inspiring activities.
But maybe you’re not blocked. Maybe you have a great idea and tons of inspiration but can’t seem to execute them and get it all down on paper.
How to Overcome Writing Procrastination
If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to get at the source of your issue:
1. Consider Your Mental Health
Procrastination can be a symptom of anxiety. It’s possible that your procrastination has nothing to do with the writing process itself. If you’re manifesting negative feelings—feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome—it’s important to find the root cause of those and address it.
2. Adjust Your Workspace
Your environment may be inhibiting your creativity. Some people need silence while writing; some need to listen to music. Some need to be in a specific place; some need to vary things up. Some write at a desk; others, a coffee shop. Some thrive on creative clutter; others need their workspace to be tidy.
Find out what works for you.
3. Don’t Succumb to Temptation
It’s unbelievably easy to sit down to “write” and end up browsing social media, opening up Netflix, or doing something else that’s equally unproductive. Then, 45 minutes (or even hours) pass without you having written a word.
In order to avoid procrastinating, you’ll need to develop your will power to focus only on tasks that are productive for your project. Only open a browser when you need to research something for your story and avoid taking “breaks” on Facebook that stretch into unproductive spaces of time. If you’re unable to overcome the temptation, there are a number of apps that can help you focus on your writing.
4. Block Out Time to Get the Writing Done
One of the best pieces of time management advice that I’ve ever heard is to make room for the biggest priorities in your life. I heard it in the form of an analogy:
Imagine that your day is a jar. If you fill the jar with small, unimportant grains of sand, you won’t be able to put any substantial rocks in the jar. However, if you fill the jar with the rocks first, the unimportant sand can fill the spaces between the rocks.
Read more about this analogy here.
If writing truly is a priority for you, make it a rock. Block out the time to do it, and don’t allow any of the things that are less of a priority bump it out of the jar that is your day.
5. Set Goals
If it’s your dream to finish a novel, the first thing that you need to do is change it from a dream to a goal. A true, real goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely). So what does that mean?
It means that you need to specify realistic actions you want to take to reach your goal (writing a novel), identify how you want to measure your progress, and set a time frame in which you want to complete those actions.
“Write a novel” is not a goal but a dream. However, “complete a character profile for my main character by Wednesday” or “write 1,000 words by April 1st” are true goals. Breaking up the novel writing by these kinds of tasks and tracking your progress can make your dream a reality in a way that’s less daunting.
The key is that your actions are relevant (productive) for your overall goal and that the time frames you set are realistically achievable. Setting a goal that is impossible is only setting yourself up for failure, so make sure that you’re kind to yourself.
6. Hold Yourself Accountable
If you do set a goal that’s unrealistic, it’s absolutely okay to adjust. However, it’s just as important to hold yourself accountable when you set a realistic goal but failed to meet it.
Be honest. Did you make every effort to achieve your writing goal? If not, brainstorm will you do to either:
- Make up for your lack of effort
- Meet the goal next time
Holding yourself accountable is so important because this is an endeavor for yourself. YOU have a story to tell, and no one can tell it for you. The good news is that you absolutely can stop procrastinating if writing a novel is truly important to you.