Most of us aren’t gifted with a lifestyle allowing us to pursue every whim. Most of us have jobs, families, school, and a host of other responsibilities. Most of us have . . . well, lives. But then, we also have this funny whim called writing. Or, for some, it’s a compulsion, maybe even an addiction. Or, if you prefer, rather than addiction, we could refer to it as a medicine – a balm we use to soothe, or shield, or heal ourselves. Unfortunately, as much as it feels like it, you don’t need writing like you need air. And there are often demands from those pesky real lives that take a higher priority. (Usually, heh.) It’s easy for this “hobby” to get shuffled to the back burner when real life demands our utmost attention. But when does handling your life become procrastinating at your passion?
“There are 8,760 hours in a year. Surely you can allocate some of them to
– Dan Poynter
For me, it’s easier and easier to make excuses not to write the longer I stay away from it. Do any of these sound familiar?
If so, you are practicing the art of procrastination. And don’t think for a second that I’m not right there with you. I am a procrastinator of epic proportions. So, the question becomes: How do we get around this nasty habit of putting road blocks between us and our creative pursuits?
Answer: By clearing away the excuses and MAKING them a priority.
Not as easy as it sounds, I know. There are PLENTY of things to use to procrastinate. TV. Internet. Work. Books. Social gatherings. Chores. You name it. And ultimately, yes, you can legitimize everything you put before your creative pursuits. After all – they’re creative pursuits – they’re just gravy, right? It’s not like you have to write. No one is going to give you a bad grade, or charge you interest if you don’t. No one but . . . well, you, that is. In my observation, many of us writers have a tendency to punish ourselves for not letting our inner writer out to play, to varying degrees. And beating ourselves up just fuels the procrastination.
So, some simple steps to kick that procrastinator in the rear and get up to the plate (or keyboard) again. Try one, try them all, or . . . well, do what you like. But please take this to heart – the most important person counting on you is you. If it makes you happy to write, if it brings you joy, a sense of wellness, peace, vitality – whatever the reason you love it – give yourself permission to make it a PRIORITY in your life. It’s important to YOU. That’s enough.
1. Make the time. Write it on your calendar, put it in your Palm Pilot, notify your friends and family. You have an APPOINTMENT with your WIP. At a time when you’re not feeling frantic and over-worked, think about how much time you can realistically cut out of your life for writing. Then do it. If it’s an hour a day, four hours on the weekend, whatever. Just make sure you set that block of time aside and that you use it. No excuses. No interruptions. Life will be waiting for you when you’re done. I promise.
2. Eliminate distractions. Set the book aside. Hand the kids over to parental unit #2. Turn the TV off. Unplug the internet. Leave your phone in the other room. Shut the office door. Simply don’t give yourself any excuse to dilly-dally, put-off, or avoid your appointment.
3. Even if you don’t feel like it, do it. If you’ve set aside an hour to write and you spend that hour staring at a blank screen, so be it. You’re not procrastinating anymore. That’s a start. The words will come. In fact, they might not be what you expected at all. That’s okay too . . .
4. Let go of your expectations and judgements. Don’t ever let yourself think your writing time is a waste of time, or that you could be getting XYZ done. Remember, this is important to you. The very first step to writing is ‘applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair’ (Mary Heaton Vorse). What you write doesn’t matter. That you are making writing a priority in your life and setting time aside to do it is the main focus here.
So . . . there you go – a simple list of steps that I’ve put to use time and again, and often need to remind myself of. I hope you can take advantage of them too.