Procrastination is a failure of the watch, so to speak. It’s a uniquely tailored enemy that’s different for all of us. It attacks when it senses weakness and thrives on each subsequent indulgence. We crave it though, feeding the beast with distractions, excuses and entertainment. It’s a particular nuisance in the digital age, where the entirety of human understanding can be accessed at the click of a mouse; any person can be reached by a single text; any object (or food) ordered without leaving the house.
Writers are especially prone to procrastination, for we tend to spend many hours at home. I find how I start the day impacts my output greatly. If the first thing I do in the morning is check reddit, well, it sets the tone until nightfall. Thoughts tend to wander that much more; my eyes flick about searching for visual stimuli; my hands wring and grope for texture instead of remaining on the keys.
Everyone’s different, but here are a few things that work for some: try keeping your visual sight lines simple, the phone off or out of reach, noise reduced to nothing but the low hum of a computer (or nothing at all. Oh and do we still use words like “computer”?). Some writers even disconnect from the net and shut themselves in a dark dungeon of a room, with perhaps nothing adorning the walls except for a miserable floral embroidery.
You know what really works for me? I write in the bath. Yup, I actually sit in the bath and write, the laptop perched on a small table beside the tub like an electric vulture (insert electrocution joke here). You know what’s hard to do while writing in the bath? Get distracted. Silly, I know, but it works. Now I can’t stay in the bath too long (six hours is all right, isn’t it?), so inevitably I slither out like Voldemort in snake form to settle at the dining table.
When on dry land, however, sometimes I get up and pace. Invariably my eyes stumble upon all these pretty objects that somehow need attention right then. A little mental battle ensues (I think of it more like a paper joust). Usually the driven side of me wins and I return to writing, but other times I suddenly realize I’ve been playing sudoku for the last hour, an hour that can never reclaim its rightful productivity.
But procrastination is a clever adversary. You draw a blank while writing a particularly demanding scene and your mind uses that moment of hesitation to rudely butt in with its crack-dealer voice: “Hey, remember that thing you were supposed to do last week? You know, that thing. Why not do that now? Wouldn’t that be great? You deserve a break anyway.”
Those are the times we must be brave, friends, and plow through the insufferable whining of our needy selves. Yes, we are our own worst enemies. Just do it; just keep going. Sheer determination and discipline (some call it ambition) melts procrastination like a cheap plastic dummy subjected to the torments of a pyromaniac child.
And there are tricks I tell you! But don’t be fooled – our greatest strength, and still the greatest enemy of procrastination, is simple discipline. The “just do it” mentality. You can trick yourself only so far, but your determination / drive / diligence etc. is what will get you through, day in and day out, week after week and month after month — for the really big projects, the glorious ones, take a long, long time to conclude, especially if you’re interested in quality.
All right, let me share my tricks (the ones that actually work, mind you):
– Getting up and turning on the laptop first thing, prepping it for writing
– Making a liter of tea. After lunch, another one (two bags a day keeps me focused, I find)
– Eating a strong but light breakfast (mental note: stop skipping so many breakfasts)
– Drawing a bath (snicker all you like, it works!)
– Leaving all email / reddit / surfing / forum / marketing tasks for after the writing
– Rubbing my hands together in excitement. This trick is particularly effective for down times. I’ve used neurolinguistic programming (thanks, Tony), to map this gesture to adrenaline. It gets me going quickly and resets my thinking when my mind wanders.
– As a last resort, I read something that inspires me. Sometimes it’s a how-to book, sometimes a novel.
These tricks served me through three record albums and now three books. Maybe they might help you too :)
So, that said, do you have any tricks to share?