Writers usually fall foul of procrastination more than most people because writing is such a solitary pursuit. Much as we’d like to think we’re responsible adults who can work independently and stick to a self-imposed schedule, it’s a lot easier not to, especially if no-one’s watching. We can call it a ‘creative brain break’ all we like but a 3 hour nap isn’t going to get that daily word count done.
I’m sure Chaucer, Shakespeare and their ilk were often distracted by passing wenches or the lure of a bawdy tavern, but imagine how distracted they would have been if they’d had the internet. The 24 Canterbury Tales might consist of a single 10-minute sketch and Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets… well, after a couple about why cats fall off stuff, the Bard would probably have started binge-watching a TV series instead.
The technological age has given us writers a world of research at our fingertips but made it even easier to find something other than writing to fill our time.
What was that noise?
In an ideal world this blog post would be written by a wise, organised and focussed writer. Instead it’s being written by a woman whose writing days are filled with ‘what was that noise?... do I need the toilet?... what time is it?... I can wiggle my thumbs really fast… what was that noise?’ and so on.
If you type ‘how not to procrastinate’ into any search engine... well, you´ll already have lost the battle, but you’ll also get millions of tips from people much more #adult than me. But here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:
Get a big carrot.
Or some chocolate, or a movie, or whatever your idea of a reward is. Have it lined up and ready to go after you’ve written for X amount of time or done X amount of words.
Lock yourself away in a quiet room, get to work early or take a notebook with you to the café at lunchtime. Maybe chat into a Dictaphone while walking the dog – whatever works. Bribe or blackmail your nearest and dearest to leave you in peace even if it’s just for half an hour. Every little bit helps.
Be your best friend and worst enemy.
Set yourself a deadline that’s achievable, so you don’t get discouraged, but ensure it makes you work as hard as you know you can.
Live in Africa.
Admittedly a bit extreme. Any country will do, as long your electrical supply is inconsistent. This means your internet distraction is taken away and the chance of you actually writing something increases.
And happen it will. Well, most of the time anyway. You’ll find ways that work for you about 50% of the time and for the other 50% you’ll be procrastinating along with the rest of us. We’re only human after all – even writers.
Hold on, what was that noise? I’ll have a quick look, back in a minute…