Each morning I wake up at 4am, pour myself a strong cup of tea then take a seat at my desk. My wife is still asleep along with the rest of the world and for two hours I will be alone and undisturbed. This precious writing time has been set aside with the aim of adding a couple of thousand words to my next novel. But wait, I haven’t checked my social media accounts! There may be messages and unread posts waiting. Opening Facebook, I diligently post my replies and comments.
What’s this? A new Cyberpunk novel? Sounds amazing! I immediately open Amazon to purchase a copy. The recommendations at the bottom catch my eye and tab after tab is now open as I browse through, deciding what to add to my reading list. Second by second the clock counts down until my alarm sounds. Time to get ready for work. Already? I think grumpily as I look at my manuscript. Today’s word count, zero. Frustration and self-loathing take over as I lament my lost time, vowing to make up for it tomorrow.
Sound familiar? Then you too may have fallen victim to that killer of dreams, procrastination.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact throughout history there have been many notable figures famous for all manner of incredible achievements, who suffered from the same affliction. Great authors such as Victor Hugo and Franz Kafka, as well as genius Leonardo da Vinci were all well known procrastinators.
The good news is that all of these people managed to achieve great things by either overcoming procrastination or making changes to how they approached their work. Simple changes helped them to remain productive and the same can work for you!
Before we can put any changes in place, we must first understand the cause. While there are undoubtedly a range of external and internal factors which lead to procrastination, here are five of the big ones and how to combat them:
Procrastination and ‘Writer’s Block’
Whether ‘writer’s block’ exists is a commonly debated question, but whether you believe in it or not, reaching a point where you’ve run out of ideas, are unsure how your story will continue or feel that your muse has abandoned you, often leads to procrastination. Instead of turning to an easier or more pleasurable activity, it is more productive to figure out and address the problem halting your progress. This could be anything from inadequate plotting to lack of interest in your current project. By addressing this issue, you eliminate your reason to procrastinate.
Procrastination and Taking on Too Much
At one time or another we have all taken on too much, being overly ambitious without considering our available time or the magnitude of each undertaking. At these times it becomes easy to feel overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin. Breaking down tasks into manageable chunks can make things less intimidating, more efficient and help to prevent procrastination.
Procrastination and Distractions
Are your pets or kids running around noisily as you try to create that perfect sentence? Maybe your friend called to invite you to your favourite coffee shop after reaching just 100 words. I am a firm believer that every writer should have a dedicated space used only for work, where distractions are minimal (No Entry, author at work!) and where interruptions should not occur (turn that phone off!). Distractions naturally detract from the task at hand and can quickly lead us into a forest of temptation and a gingerbread house of procrastination! Always take preventative measures to minimise these interruptions.
Procrastination and Fear of Failure
Good writing often draws on the author’s personal experiences and emotions. By the end it can feel like a part of you has been put into your work and publishing means putting yourself out there for scrutiny and criticism. The fear of potentially negative reviews and feedback can be overwhelming and many find it easier to delay the inevitable through procrastination. Remember that as a writer you are creating something for other people and as with everything in life, you can’t please everyone. Even if your writing is outstanding, you will receive both positive and negative responses. There is no avoiding it – it’s part of the job! Remind yourself why you originally decided to write your story and focus on creating something that you feel proud of
Sometimes writers do not realise that they are actually procrastinating with the justification that the activity is beneficial. Examples may include organising your work space to be more efficient or reading posts and articles related to writing. These activities may indeed be beneficial, but they aren’t the activity you allocated time to. Save them for later and concentrate on writing. Only stop to perform tasks directly related to what you are working on.
When procrastination strikes, there is an almost endless number of ways to escape from working, but remember, in the end the sole requirement of being a writer, is to write and no one can do that for you! So what are you waiting for?
Written by Bobby Fisher