Writing Tips #2 - Procrastination

We're all procrastinators at some point in our writing process. Some of it can be useful. A lot of it is dysfunctional. Here are some tips that work for me if I really cannot get myself to write. Try them and pick out whichever work for you.

1. Rethink the structure

Sometimes a reluctance to start or continue writing is a sign of a problem in the structure. (In fiction you'd say the plot isn't working.) Try a new opening or name your paragraphs by subject to see if their order makes sense; go back to the basics. Think about your motivation - the message you want to get across. If you find it hard to get a clear overview, switch to pen and paper, turn your sheet so you're not using the lines, and trot down your ideas. Maybe you'll find new connections, or see which subjects to split up or put together.

2. List tasks to tick off

Chop it up in small bits and only expect to do the next small step. For example, when you've decided on a basic structure:

  • Find and save sources,
  • A) find useful info from one source, B) from the next source, etc,
  • order the information,
  • connect the bits of information logically,
  • reread and amend structure,
  • cut down where possible,
  • mark where info is missing,
  • fill up / do more research where needed,
  • read for completion,
  • line edit,
  • reread,
  • ask someone else to reread and comment,
  • process comments,
  • final reread.

    Sit down and complete one step on your list.

3. Write 100 words today

You don’t even have to know what point you want to make, but a hundred words will bring you closer to your end product. Just sit down and type until you hit a hundred, and you’ll have a good chance of gaining an insight and or ending up with more than a hundred words that day. Feel free to cut down on it after you've hit your target, just make sure to leave something to build on next time you sit down.

4. Set rewards

For example: after writing 500 words, you get a coffee, after cutting down 10% on a chapter, you get a piece of chocolate. Be creative with your cravings.

5. Butt-in-chair hours

Perhaps most importantly, make your BIC hours. Remove distractions, mute your phone, and sit down at your work station. Don't get up for the next half hour. Then go drink water and do it again.
This is a way to train your brain that no matter what, you're gonna be sitting there. You can just stare at the cursor, write useless crap, or just move words around. Once you've done this a couple of times in a row (for example, every morning from 09:00 to 10:00 for a week), you'll find it'll get easier to actually be productive. There will still be days when it's hard to focus, but your brain will accept this as work-time, and remind you less often that you need to check if that chihuahua updated its Instagram yet.

6. Stop reading blogs about procrastination

Don't get caught in an endless search for the magic trick. Get started. Certainly don't listen for hours to discussions about productivity.