I need to sit down and write, I say to myself, or aloud to force commitment into the declaration. It’s something every writer says to themselves at some point, some more than others. Some like me need to state it with conviction to stave off the distractions….the dreaded procrastination.
It crops up with ease and the brain accepts its reasoning so readily. I need to run to the store… the bank. Oh, it’s lunchtime already? Productive, creative ideas come to mind and all that’s needed is to crack open the laptop and start typing away but excuses herd those thoughts away. Other things need to be done first or they will linger, preoccupying the mind. Better to get them done before I delve into another story, another article, another chapter. Soon the day fades away, the first tinges of late evening tiredness intrude. Then it’s time for dinner. It’s quite apparent whatever is typed out will amount to lazy drivel. I’ll write tomorrow…definitely!
And the cycle begins again…..
So how to break from the rut?
Pick a time of day when you’re awake, when the mental juices are churning, when those reasons that delay are at their least pressing. Eliminate the distractions.
It takes finding that method which works in your favor. Lock yourself away in the office for a couple of hours with your head stuffed into a set of headphones playing music that inspires, that stimulates your creative mind.
I remember reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing and before the fame, most of his writing took place in the family garage, working away at his manual typewriter. This progressed well until his children realized they were adept at dragging daddy away from work. But this threatened the family income so he scouted out a typing room in the basement of the University of California library. For the 1950’s rate of a dime per half hour he pounded away. Time was indeed money.
Now for many of us going that far may not be necessary but removing oneself from a regular routine could crack open the rut just enough to break free. Heading to a coffee shop may be cliché these days but if it works do it. There may be a traditional, tried and true method you live by to get the motor going but hasn’t worked so well lately. That just may need a changed up too. I used to do my best writing later in the evening, listening to Latino rock or Celtic music while nursing a beer. Then it switched to mid-morning with the TV going in the background. But now it’s either emulating Hemingway writing standing up, at the kitchen counter or isolated in the office at my desk, headphones on blocking out extraneous noises.
But in the end, what has always been my cure for…well no, more like my treatment for procrastination is a deadline. I’ll procrastinate about procrastinating, I’ll procrastinate until days or even hours before the deadline when the task is overwhelming, but it gets done. It may get done at 3am the morning it’s due but… Afterwards, I’m drained and full of promises to myself that I won’t subject my psyche to that next time. Next time.
Where’s the fix? Balzac figured, “The solution of the problem can be found only through incessant and sustained work…True artists, true poets generate and give birth today, tomorrow, ever.”
Where’s the take away from this? Produce something everyday. Set a daily goal for yourself, mini-deadlines if you will, resulting in a sustained flow of work, bringing each project to fruition.
Is that it?
Does it come down to just a couple of, relatively, simple strategies to sidestep the impetus of procrastination? Simple in conception but challenging in practice. The trick is small steps that will lead to meeting broader goals.
First, break with routine, remove the temptation of distractions. Second, develop discipline by setting daily, realistic targets to meet weekly deadlines. Stumbling more than likely will occur, some distractions too pressing. When it happens, start over. Eventually behaviors will change, diluting procrastination’s lure.
And if you’re finding it difficult taking those first steps, do what I did…deceive the gremlin by writing a piece about besting it.