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We’re all guilty of procrastination at some point—usually for tasks that rank low on our happy list, like scheduling a root canal or cleaning the garbage disposal. Writers are especially familiar with procrastination, a close cousin of writer’s block.
Whether you’re feeling guilty that your writing “interferes” with your day job and family obligations, your novel has stalled midway, or you simply can’t face the submission process (and the rejection that comes with it), fear not! Even if you’ve detoured into I’ll-Do-It-Tomorrow Land, here are some tips to help get your writing heading in the right direction again!
8 Ways To Conquer Procrastination And Get Your Writing Back On Track
- Reassess your goals. Are they realistic? If your goals are too lofty or unattainable, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Change broad statements like “Get an agent in February” to more manageable (and realistic) tasks, like “Research science fiction literary agents” and “Revise query letter.” A series of small successes can get the ball rolling!
- Do the worst task first. The longer we put off a task, the larger it looms in our minds. Many writers find that getting their least favorite writing chore out of the way first helps them move more quickly to the more fun, creative endeavors.
- Or do your favorite task first. Some authors start off with a task that primes the pump, like dashing off some poetry or working on a short story, before tackling something more difficult, like revisions or query letters.
- Change things up. When you’re stalled, changing things up can jump-start the muse. If you can’t jet off to a tropical island for the winter, try rearranging your office, exploring a new park/restaurant/writing group across town, or simply setting up a new computer system for keeping track of submissions.
- Find inspiration by reading. Delve into some old classics, or explore some brand-new, buzzworthy novels!
- Use freewriting or visualization. Stream-of-consciousness writing can generate new ideas or develop a vague concept into something concrete. Creating a vision board can also help authors visualize and focus their writing goals.
- Share your work. If you’re stuck on a particular piece, have someone you trust (or members of your writers group) review your writing. They may have a new perspective or advice that helps you get moving again.
- Above all, be flexible and self-forgiving. Sometimes, LIFE just gets in the way of writing, no matter how hard we try to stay on track—and that’s okay.
Well Begun Is Half Done. —Aristotle
Professor Tim Pychyl, an expert on procrastination, urges people to just get started. “First, once we get started…we perceive the task as much less aversive than we do when we’re avoiding it. Second, even if we don’t finish the task, we have done something, and the next day our attributions about [ourselves] are not nearly as negative. We feel more in control and more optimistic. You might even say we have a little momentum.”
Need more help staying track? You’ve got Writer’s Relief in your corner! Our submission strategists take on those tasks that writers love to put off—we identify the right literary agents for your book manuscript, find the best literary journals for your poetry, short stories, and essays, create your query or cover letters, and manage your submissions. That leaves you with only one task: WRITING!
QUESTION: How do you deal with procrastination? Tell us!