Getting ready to write is quite a lengthy process for me.
First of all I have to make sure my desk is absolutely pristine. Super tidy. That is not negotiable. Not at all. So that takes some time because my desk is usually not tidy.
Secondly, I have to sharpen all my pencils. Actually I don’t use pencils when I write but it’s always nice to have a box of sharp pencils. It makes you feel snappy and on point.
Then I have to tell everyone what I’m doing. A lot of friends are really interested in what I am up to and I need to write a post just to show I’m working. And then everyone can tell me what a great idea it is.
So as you may have gathered what I’m doing here is not getting ready to write. It’s procrastinating. It’s putting off the moment when I actually have to commit myself. The saying that procrastination is the thief of time is an old one, but along with hours, procrastination also robs you of energy, creates inertia and, in the words of poet Don Marquis, is the art of ' keeping up with yesterday'.
Yes, I am up with that.
So here are some ways I have used to get over it, under it and around it rather than allowing the whole day to be shot to pieces. Cause if that happens I don’t like the way I feel. Disillusioned to say the least. Mistrustful and let down at the worst.
1. Notice it
You may have a complex and highly reasoned story about why you are putting something off, but train yourself to observe what is really going on and name it. I am procrastinating. Then, rather than giving yourself a hard time over it, the next question to ask is 'How is this taking care of me? ' You may be shielding yourself from fear of failure or having an offer rejected or being called to account or just not meeting your own expectations in some way. Seeing this more clearly can help to move on to doing something about it.
2. Set fewer goals not more
Sometimes the sheer number of words to be written overwhelms us and we write nothing. It may sound counter-intuitive to set less tasks but even getting three things completed in a day can be an enormously enjoyable feeling, and if you get them done early you can add a few more. Brain studies show us that small, repeated steps that we can earn satisfaction from each day are the way to build habits.
3. A writing colleague who holds you accountable
This is the one that works for me. Last year Beth and I committed to writing for just 15 minutes per day and after a few false starts where we let each other off lightly we hit upon emailing what we had written to each other by midnight every day. I found that it made me write, knowing she was expecting it, and then if I did it first up in a morning I got on a roll and kept going. And you can write a fair bit in 15 minutes. Have a go! Plus I got to read her beautiful words, which evoked laughter and tears, sometimes both at once.
Right. So now it’s time to stop reading this and get on with it.