Would-be authors claim they want to write a book, but in fact they want to have already written a book. Writing is hard! Author Joseph Heller once said, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
And he’s not the only one who has alluded to the difficulty of writing. Stephen King’s quote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work,” makes the same point.
Writing is hard work. It just is.
Even if you’re a good writer with a flair for the art, the act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is almost always met with some internal resistance.
In fact, Steven Pressfield, wrote an entire book on it called ‘The War of Art’.
And it really is a war.
The anticipation of writing has struck fear in many a budding writer’s heart and caused them to procrastinate into eternity.
The road to publishing success is littered with the dusty skeletons of many wannabe writers who abandoned their writing halfway… and even more who never got started.
All due to procrastination.
Many fledgling writers often feel that they lack self-discipline and are inveterate procrastinators. While this may be true to some extent, it’s important to note that even the pros face similar challenges at times. You are not alone.
The key to overcoming procrastination and getting your writing done will come down to you applying a few simple techniques.
Have a daily routine
The importance of a daily routine cannot be overemphasized. You have to make writing a habit. A daily habit.
What does that mean?
It means you have to spend some time writing every single day. Ideally, you should make it the same time daily. For example, sitting down at the same desk at the same place, every single day at 9 AM to write. However, that is not always possible, so we won’t fuss over that point. As long as you write every day you are doing great.
By establishing a routine, you’ll make it easier on yourself when it comes to compliance. Your mind will be less resistant to the activity since it’s a habit. Put writing on your calendar as an appointment and keep the appointment. It is just as important as any other appointment on your schedule.
Should you write on weekends?
Only you can answer this question. If you face immense resistance within yourself before you can write, that means the procrastination force is strong with you – and that is not good.
It would be wise to write on weekends too, even if for less time that you do on “work days.”
It’s the habit you’re focusing on. An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest – and procrastinates while at rest.
Tip: See how long you can keep your daily writing streak going. Get a calendar and mark off every day you spend time writing. You won’t want to break the streak, so you will find a way to write something every day!
Write in blocks
How much you can write and how long you can write will depend on your typing/writing speed and your writing stamina. But this isn’t about endurance. You may find that you are less effective when you write for long stretches.
Writing sprints are a great way to get some writing time in. Depending on your writing stamina, you may wish to go with 30-minute writing sprints, followed by a 15-minute break and then another 30 minutes and so on. You could use a Pomodoro timer to help you. Or you may find that you want to write in one-hour sprints, or whatever works for you.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. As long as you are writing, you’re on the write track. (See what I did there? Pun fully intended.)
Batch your tasks
Planning, researching, outlining, writing and editing are 5 DIFFERENT tasks. Never try to do them all at the same time. This will not only tire you out, but is also very time-consuming and unproductive.
Batching your tasks means getting similar tasks done at once. This not only simplifies the process, but helps to accelerate it while increasing your output. It’s a win-win-win situation.
For example, if your goal is to write 10 articles on gardening, your first task will be to decide what topics you’ll cover.
Then you’ll do your research for all10 articles.
Once the research is completed, you can outline each article with brief points that you have compiled from your research.
When all that’s done, you are finally ready to start writing… and keep writing without editing.
Always remember the quote, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” I think that’s how it goes… the point is that writing and editing use different parts of your brain. Do your writing all at once, then do your editing. Do not edit while you write. Just keep going. Edit later.
Once you’ve written all 10 articles, you can edit them individually. By batching your tasks in this way, you’ll save time and your writing process will not be a disjointed and discombobulated one.
Focus on quality
Avoid perfectionism at all cost. It’s not natural, and nothing is ever perfect. The goal is to aim for excellence. Write quality content that you can be proud of.
Do not focus on the quantity of the content. This is an unreliable metric.
You may notice that on some days all you can barely manage to write 5 pages in 2 hours. Yet, your writing for these 5 pages may be far superior to the 15 pages you wrote another day.
The point here is that your goal should be to just start writing and stay focused during your writing block. The amount of content you create shouldn’t matter, and setting a goal of ‘writing 20 pages a day’ is counter-productive and will stress you out.
Good writing takes time. Quality and quantity are two different metrics.
Your goal is to write content that informs or entertains and moves your readers – and you want to do so in as few words as possible. That’s real skill and a sign of good writing.
Focus on quality and forget about quantity. You’re not planting rice here.
The Two-Minute Rule
I love this one. This rule was first mentioned by author, David Allen, and it’s a very powerful technique of overcoming procrastination. It works with most activities that people tend to procrastinate such as exercise, writing, studying, etc.
The rule is simple. When you’re facing a task that you don’t wish to do (like writing), you should give yourself just two minutes to work on it.
It’s as simple as that. Two short minutes. You can do anything for two minutes, right?
This time is short enough for it not to be overwhelming… BUT it’s also long enough to break the wall of inertia and get you moving.
If you don’t feel the words coming, just type, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write,” over and over until you get bored and start writing for real.
Very often, you’ll notice that once you start writing for two minutes, you’ll carry on long after the two minutes are over. You just might write for the next two hours.
You’ll then wonder what made you hesitate for so long. It wasn’t that bad, was it?
Of course not.
You’ve just discovered a mysterious anomaly when it comes to writing… getting yourself to sit down and start is usually far more difficult than the actual act of writing.
But now, you have the key to beat Captain Procrastination of the writing universe a.k.a. you – all it takes is two minutes.
In conclusion, it’s important to understand that thinking about writing is much worse than sitting your butt in the chair and actually writing something. In fact, you might actually enjoy the process and find that it unleashes your creativity.
Apply the five pointers in this article and you’ll put an end to procrastination and be able to write – without first checking your emails 382 times as you try to delay the inevitable.
It’s easy once you start.