I’m in avoidance mode.
There. I said it. And it’s true.
Here I am, under freelance contract for two books (both due in the next few months), needing to prep for a retreat at which I’m speaking this weekend, and under deadline for my day job (one big writing project and another smaller one, both due in the next week).
And what am I doing? Blogging.
At least blogging is a step in the right direction; I could be shopping or watching TV or walking my dogs or cleaning or chatting on the phone or doing any one of a dozen other things I find myself doing when I don’t want to write.
Avoidance is something we all experience as writers. It’s just part of the trade. Call it “writer’s block” or “procrastination” or “sleepy muse” or whatever you like, but it all boils down to us avoiding putting words to paper (or monitor screen) when we know we should be writing.
Here are the things I’ve found most helpful to get me rolling when I’d rather not start:
1. Get rid of external distractions: turn off the TV; unplug the phone; put the cell phone on “silent” mode; close the door to the office (if you have one); close the window blinds if you have to. Do whatever it takes to reduce external interruptions.
2. Make a list of the tasks cluttering your mind that you’re afraid you’ll forget. I find thinking about all the other tasks I need to do (home and work) to be distracting. If I write them down, they’re no longer interrupting my thought process.
3. Set a timer, then force yourself to work for that amount of time. Start with 15 minutes if you must. I usually find that once I begin, I gain momentum.
4. Write. Just write. Anything. Blog first, if that will get your writing juices flowing (that’s what I’m doing now).
5. If you’re avoiding because you’re overwhelmed by a project, break the project into manageable bites. You can start by outlining the dates by which you think you can realistically complete certain tasks. For example, I might begin by outlining my next book project this way: a topic list of what I’ll cover in the book will be done by X date; the chapter outline will be done by another date; I’ll commit to researching on these dates; I’ll write the draft of the first chapter by this other date; I’ll plan to have three chapters done by the next date, etc.
6. Set a simple, realistic goal for today. By the end of business hours today, I will have completed a date outline for this project. Or Two hours from now, I’ll have my topic list made up. Or By 3:00 this afternoon I will have completed my introductory paragraph. Sometimes, just identifying what I want to work on helps me get started.
7. Recruit a writing accountability partner (this can be an on-line friend or writing group member). Then send weekly goals to that person (or monthly, or whatever you work out). Let them know what you plan to accomplish in what amount of time, the send an e-mail listing those goals and dates to that person and copy yourself on the e-mail. Print your copy, and post it where you can see it to keep you on task.
8. Write your tasks and goal dates right on your calendar where you’ll see them. It will help you stay on target.
9. When you finally get rolling on your writing, finish one thing, start a second, but then quit in the middle of the second (don’t actually complete it today). That will give you a natural starting place for tomorrow.
10. If you have to, put on motivating music, or exercise, or do whatever it is that usually invigorates you.
These are just ten things that help me get started. I’ll list others another time.
Just listing these here has me rolling now, so I’d better get to work while the motivation is still there!
Til next time,