Do you know how easy it would be to succumb to the temptation of relaxing on the beach?Especially here in South Florida, for heaven’s sake! Just five minutes away from the ocean. Yet, here I sit in my study – at least ten hours a day (5 hours a day on the weekend). Believe it or not, I have been battling procrastination all of my life. But the clock is ticking. Time is breathing down my neck, egging me on. That’s why I’m so über-organized. I need Structure: outlines, lists, schedules, index cards, storyboards —whatever it takes. Without it, I might as well put a “Gone Fishing” sign on my door.
Why, oh why do writers continuously “suffer the slings and arrows” (certainly not of “outrageous fortune!”) of Procrastination? We like to call it “writer’s block.” That’s a more palatable term for the “condition.” Call it whatever you want.
According to psychologists, one of the root causes of procrastination is fear — fear of failure or success. The price of success is responsibility and recognition. Procrastinators who fear success are essentially afraid of the fallout. Which brings us to the subject of perfectionism. Procrastinators tend to be perfectionists (although perfectionists are not necessarily always procrastinators) – anxious for everything to be perfect. And since it’s virtually impossible to be perfect, why bother trying?
Okay, let’s presume that we understand the reasons why we do what we do. The more salient question would be “how do we overcome procrastination?” Here are some of the steps that have worked for me:
- Set a timeframe for yourself, with a beginning and an end.
- Visualize the end result you want.
- Set realistic goals and tackle them, one at a time.
- Pace yourself. This is not a marathon. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that “haste makes waste?”
- Break up your writing time into segments, so that you allocate time to do non-sedentary activities like walking, gardening, swimming , or whatever you enjoy doing.
- Talk about your writing with friends, family and colleagues. Brainstorming always helps.
- Yes, write outlines, lists, index cards – whatever structure works for you. Like it or not, structure helps. A lot.
- Make a public commitment. This is not for everybody. As you may have noticed (see the lower right side of this blog site), I have committed – publicly – to completing my non-fiction book (When the Child Becomes the Parent) and my novel (Finding Grace) by 2013 and December 2012, respectively. I did this purposely because I know that – come hell or high water – I will do it.
- Make commitments to others. In addition to my own work, I have committed to ghostwriting two client book projects (one is in progress, due for completion just before Thanksgiving) and the other is tentatively set to commence in January.
- Laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the ride. Presumably, we write because we enjoy it. When you love what you do, nine times out of ten – you’re good at what you do. So, chillax.
- Breathe. Not the type of breathing they teach in Lamaze class. I’m talking about Zen breathing techniques. They work.
- Eat light, healthy snacks. They give you energy.
- Hydrate yourself. Whatever libation works for you. Despite my many tongue-in-cheek jokes about single malt scotch and fine red wine, I actually drink tons of Earl Grey tea while writing for hours on end. Getting up to put the kettle on is a great way to stretch your legs.
Hope this helps!
Best of luck,
Image via Itsasmartdecision.com.