One of the largest challenges I had to overcome as a writer is focusing my energies on accomplishing my goals. It’s just too easy to waste time when I don’t have a deadline staring me in the face; sometimes even when I do.
Procrastination stunts your growth as a writer and kills your creativity. Let’s look at some reasons writers procrastinate and how you can defeat it and be more productive.
If you’re anything like me, you’re juggling multiple writing projects, trying to prioritize what to work on first, and still have time to catch up on industry news.
I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it.
And, therein lies the problem—writers have minds that never stop. If we aren’t thinking about our three or four ongoing projects, we’re hatching ideas for new stories and articles, or we’re despairing over the fact that three months of unread trade journals sit in a pile of paperwork on our desks.
Sit down and take a deep breath. Now, write a to-do list.
Seeing your goals on paper will make it easier to prioritize what needs to come first. Finishing the article due next week will come before you write another chapter in your romance novel that isn’t under contract yet.
And, those trade journals, you will never read them if you put them in a pile for later. When the deadline for the contest you really wanted to enter has passed, you’ll be kicking yourself. So … skim through trade journals as soon as they come in. Cut out articles of interest and tuck them into a manila folder to take with you everywhere you go.
Okay, so now you know how to keep from feeling overwhelmed, but what about those writing goals? Are they specific enough?
Focusing Your Goals
Having too many goals can keep you from accomplishing any of them. It’s too much information to digest and, rather than think about it, our minds say, there is no way I can do all that.
So, we put things off. We miss one goal, which leads to missing the next one, and the next. We spend more time revising our goals than obtaining them.
You have the power to solve this problem. Remember that to-do list you wrote? Break it down into monthly goals and then into weekly goals. This way your to-do list becomes more manageable.
You aren’t concentrating on every single goal you want to accomplish all at once. By breaking your tasks into smaller chunks, you can tackle each goal a bit at a time and experience that feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing an item off your list.
You have now set specific goals, but there is still one last opportunity for procrastination to strangle the life out of your creativity—when you sit down to write.
Even when I am totally engrossed in a project, I surf the Internet and answer emails instead of focusing on what needs to get done. When I hit a rough spot, like when words don’t flow well, I wander away to do something easier.
Writers are anxious people. They spend some of their time thinking they’re great and the rest of the time believing they stink. Anxiety forces writers to revise their work over and again to make it the best it can be. That’s a good thing. But, when writers get too anxious, they can’t create anything. They ignore their writing goals. They substitute busy work for writing time. They cease to be productive.
In her book titled Page after Page, author Heather Sellers says, “The best way to manage anxiety is to shine a little light on it. Resisting it makes it worse. What is light in this case? Putting words down on paper. It’s the work that makes demons vanish.”
Knowing this will help you defeat procrastination for good sounds wonderful, but it isn’t always easy to put into practice.
So, what do you do? Work in segments.
Start with writing for only five minutes. During those five minutes you must focus 100% of your energy on writing. Once that time is up, you can do anything else you want, but have a plan for when you will go back to writing for another five minutes. Slowly increase the segments until you are spending half an hour of uninterrupted time on your work.
Perfectionism is anxiety’s partner in crime. It keeps you from accomplishing goals because none of your writing is ever good enough. After a while, you avoid writing, because there’s no point if you can’t achieve perfection.
Here are ways you can free yourself from the confines of perfectionism:
- Allow yourself to accept a crappy first draft. That’s why they call it a first draft—it’s the unrevised flow of ideas that are rambling around in your head.
- Accept that done is better than perfect. There is a point where you have to say, “It’s good enough.”
- Ask for feedback. An objective set of eyes can see mistakes clearer than you can. By putting your article or story in the hands of someone else, you are free to tackle your next project.
You have the power and the ability to conquer procrastination. In a few simple steps, you’ll be on your way to becoming a more productive writer.
Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com