Enemy of the Writing State – Procrastination

by nulliparaora on January 28, 2013

“You know, I’ve had an idea for a story for years. I need to start working on that.”

There are many among us who have aspirations in multiple areas. No matter what the industry, progress can be halted by the most powerful weapon in our lives. Our minds.

I’ve listed a few reasons why a potential writer may procrastinate. There is no such thing as an exhaustive list on this subject. Individual writers have their own unique reasons for putting things off. I’ve tried to highlight the ones I feel are more common in the hope of breaking through the mind blocks, and encouraging those who are uncertain to start writing.

Anticipation

“When I get home, I’m going to sit down and just write. Wait, my favorite show comes on tonight. I’ll start tomorrow. Hmm, there’s a game on tomorrow. I’ll do it the day after that. Actually, I’ll start next month.”

You plan to start writing, you look forward to it, and suddenly, something else captures your attention and you put it off. Like a hummingbird, you flit from one thing to another, allowing your attention to be diverted.

Anticipation can morph in to procrastination at the speed of a bullet train. So how do you stop it?

Prioritize

“I’ll get around to writing my ideas down, after I move through the second quarter at work.”

You want to write, you’ve been thinking about it for days, months, even years, planning it out, setting up your ideas in your head, but you haven’t actually focused on the writing.

How important is the goal of writing? I’m not talking about publishing, but just the writing itself. Are you willing to set aside time to write? Are you willing to spend less time on one activity to allow more time for writing? Are there ways to combine writing with other activities?

You can accomplish your goal at anytime. You have to decide if writing is something you’ll think wistfully about after you read something moving, or if it’s something you’ll actually do. Are you actually going to make room for writing in your life?

Want a quick way to gain at least an hour of writing time? Log out of Twitter and Facebook.

Self Sabotage

“I’m not good enough.”

How do you know? Have you tried? Have you taken opportunities to broaden your horizons? Who are you comparing yourself to? Why?

Writing is a craft like any other. You hone it through practice and learning. How can you even determine your skill level if you won’t begin? Or if you’ve started something, how can you improve if you don’t practice for years at a stretch? Would Yo Yo Ma be one of the world’s greatest cellists if he only thought about picking up his instrument? If he only played it once every five years?

“I could never write something like this.”

Do you want to? Or do you want to write something similar? Writing, like most forms of artistic expression, allows room for your own unique voice to shine through. It’s one thing to admire another style, but don’t lose your voice trying to emulate another. Tell your tale your way. Write your poem through your lens.

Realistic Expectations

“Why isn’t this flowing?”

Writing and editing require effort, also known as work. Sometimes the words will fly from your fingers, filling page after page. Sometimes you’ll type 50 words in five days, and on other occasions, you’ll end up reordering scenes, or excising large swaths of text.

Those last bits don’t sound like a lot of fun do they? But they’re a part of the process of writing. There will be highs and lows. Try to remember why you love writing during the low points, especially when your muse is having a massive hissy fit.

Isolation

“Where is everyone?”

Writing can be extremely lonely. After all, it’s just you and your computer, or pen and paper. You’re inside your head, drawing out ideas and creating imaginary places and people.

Don’t seal yourself off from the world. Interact with other writers for support, and growth opportunities. There are thousands of online groups for writers at every level. Your town may have local writers’ clubs where you can meet with others in person as well.

Having support can help keep you focused and productive.

So the big question is, how have you been procrastinating? Now what are you going to do about it?

 

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

marina January 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

*looks for the surveillance cameras*

did you ninja your way into my house and watch me? because everything you said is the truth and the light. hummingbird is my nickname because of how i go from one thing to another. i’m trying to work on that, but when you have me pegged, i need to keep my eye out for you…

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marina January 28, 2013 at 10:20 am

now what to do about it…well, i thought about it and nothing came yet. maybe i can put myself on a schedule or usurp the free time i have to get in creative time. i’ll have to finalize it

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Nulli Para Ora January 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

Heh. I’m an innocent ninja!

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CCDreamz January 28, 2013 at 11:32 am

With me it is pure laziness. My muse let’s me have my lazy time and then she kicks me in the butt but running dialogue while I’m trying to sleep. lol Consequently, I do as I’m told when I’m told.

But I have to wonder, do you think sometimes the procrastination can mean that perhaps this isn’t the right time for them to write their story? Personally, I almost feel compelled most days to write. procrastination is not an option for me when it comes to writing. If I’m not typing up the story, then I’m working out the scenes. I’m always doing something in relation to the story or stories I’m working on. I’m never idle when it comes to my stories. So I have to wonder that if a person is procrastinating maybe it just isn’t their time to tell the story yet.

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Nulli Para Ora January 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

Thanks for stopping by, CCDreamz!

There could be many factors contributing to why a person procrastinates. Maybe they’re too focused on this one idea to the detriment of others. They could be so set on this one thing, they feel they can’t move forward until it’s complete. That brings us back to the idea: “I’m not good enough.” mixed with lots of other self sabotage. “If I can’t get this right, how can I do anything else?”

It’s interesting to look at the various motivators for certain behaviors.

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WildAboutBones January 28, 2013 at 11:46 am

Good job Nulli. Procrastination is just disguised fear. Fear you can’t do it, fear no one will like your work, fear you won’t have anything to do once the task is finished, fear of what will happen when the task is finished, fear of a deadline (real or imagined), fear you will be let down at the end of the task because it was too easy or you didn’t like it even though you’ve wanted it for so long, etc.

I think if you write with the intention of writing just for yourself, some of the fear will go away because you don’t have to worry about what anyone else will think of it. You don’t have to worry if it will be good enough. Once you have finished your story, you can worry about all the other stuff. Just get started, even if you only spend 15 or 30 minutes on it every day in the beginning. It is like a habit. You must do something for 14 days before it becomes a habit; something you do automatically. And for goodness’ sake, have fun with it. Yes, it is work, but work can be fun.

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Nulli Para Ora January 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

Those are really good insights, Wild About Bones. Fear can warp our perceptions of everything.

Writing for yourself is also a good point. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

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Nae January 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I like to paint instead of write, but all of that can still be applied to me. At the moment I just can’t get past that the issue that I don’t have a painting space or even a desk. I feel obsessed over the need to be ‘set up properly’.

Great ninja skills Nulli!

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Nulli Para Ora January 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Nae!

I think any creative endeavor can cause us to obsess a bit. You’re in good company. :)

*ninja vanish*

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Eva Lefoy January 29, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Yes! I’ve been procrastinating… doing smaller tasks instead of the larger ones I should be working on. But I have to get my arse in gear Feb. 1st. Yep. That’s when the fun starts!

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Nulli Para Ora January 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Go, go, go! :)

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EvilSnoman January 30, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I have to agree with everything said. I’ve got 4 stories nearly finished and languishing on my hard drive.

The points I identify with are my perfectionist tenancies which are sprinkled with an unhealthy dose of self doubt. They kinda team up and sabotage any project I start. Old habits die hard but the key I’ve found is to surround yourself with people who will check up on you like a jack rustle terrier on speed.

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Nulli Para Ora January 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm

*points at Jaz Cullen* I think that describes her after she’s had her morning witch’s brew!

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