5 Tips to Work Through Procrastination

Have you caught yourself doing anything other than sitting down to write? Procrastination and writer's block happen to every writer. Let author Clare Whitfield give you tips on how to overcome and get back to writing.
Author:
Publish date:

The only reason my oven has EVER been cleaned is when there is a looming writing deadline hurtling towards me like a ten-tonne truck. Rather than make things easier for myself by sitting down and getting with it, I clean out my sock drawer or rediscover a box of old photographs. 

(How to Conquer Self Doubt And Just Write)

Last year, when I was struggling with my second novel, promoting the first and starting a new full-time day job in a matter of days, I decided that was a great time to trace my family tree. Three days later, I had discovered the man I thought was my grandfather, wasn’t. The real one was a Canadian soldier stationed in England during WW2. It caused a rather large ripple effect across three continents and didn’t help with novels 1 or 2 at all, but at least I’m in contact with my cousin in Canada now, silver linings and all.

Firstly, allow me to state the obvious. Procrastination is good old-fashioned fear; fear of failing, of not being good enough, of being judged. I’m not going to be able to fix you. All I can do is share some of the wool I try and pull over my own eyes in the hope it gets a few fellow procrastinators out of the starting blocks.

5 Tips to Work Through Procrastination

5 Tips to Work Through Procrastination

1. Skirt around the issue. The act of sitting in front of a blank word page is daunting and a cliche. Pattern interrupt! Use anything—Excel, PowerPoint, MS Project. Don’t write, work up chapter plans or draw a storyline map. Make a graph with the drama/tension path of the story and make notes at milestones where important things need to happen. You can fill in the gaps later and let’s face it, you can plan all you like—you are going to change things once you are actually writing.

2. Play a game. Grab a six-year-old—not literally, but ask anyone in the vicinity to name an object as random as they like. Six-year-olds will most likely say dolphin or unicorn. Now you have to work that suggestion into your chapter. It takes the pressure off because now being the angsty writer you are, you are now worrying about how on earth you are going to get a unicorn in your medieval murder mystery. You can edit it out later, it may even help you add another dynamic to your story. Games can help you not to take it all too seriously. Remember to have fun.

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

3. Tough love. It’s just a job. Do you think journalists or copywriters want to write every day? I used to be a copywriter and I can tell you: they don’t. It’s just a job. Now pull yourself together and get on with it. If you are good at compartmentalising in other areas of your life—tasking yourself with the professional route may work for you. It certainly takes the emotion (or ego) out of the way.

4. Get out. Go on a research trip. Give yourself sensory overload. Take pictures. Go home, review the pictures and write descriptions using the five senses as inspiration. Watch and feel—lead in with that. It will probably be way too much flowery detail but you can edit it out later.

5. Character assassination. This is my favorite which perhaps says more about me but it works. Bring someone you know into the scene. I like to use people who have annoyed me. Maybe the character is a receptionist (but really your superior mother-in-law). Let them demonstrate how irritating they are to the world while allowing your planned characters to engage in spontaneous dialogue around the event.

I once asked a very successful author at a writer’s festival if she ever struggled with something as amateurish as procrastination. She laughed and said she had to start every blank page with the words this is going to be awful. All right, maybe not those exact words. It’s not the most positive encouragement you can give yourself, but she said it took the pressure off for her. If all fails, it's worth a go. 

Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

Click to continue.

Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Pair vs. Pare vs. Pear (Grammar Rules)

Prepare yourself for comparing the differences of pair, pare, and pear on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

6 Lessons of Writing for Novelists

As the author of 16 novels, Wendy Wax shares her top 6 tips for novelists to help their writing journey go as smoothly as possible.

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

Elyssa Friedland: On Letting Setting Guide You

When author Elyssa Friedland settled on the setting for her latest novel, Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, the characters and plot came to her. Here, she discusses the importance of setting.

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Alyson Gerber: On Writing Difficult Topics for Young Readers

Critically acclaimed author Alyson Gerber discusses how she tackled the topic of disordered eating in her latest middle-grade novel, Taking Up Space.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Annual Writing Competition, Submission Guidelines, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce the extended Annual Writing Competition deadline for 2021, details on how to submit your writing to Writer’s Digest, and more!

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Amorak Huey: On Stalling Out After Publication

Poet Amorak Huey hit a creative roadblock after publishing his latest poetry collection Dad Jokes From Late in the Patriarchy. He shares his cure (and more!) in this article.

From Script

New Original Podcasts, Videos, and Understanding Data as a Screenwriter (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script releases brand new audible and visual content!

Summer Writing Activities for Writers

8 Summer Writing Activities for Writers

Summer is upon us, so here are 8 summer writing activities for writers to consider as the temperature rises.

Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021

71 Books and Authors to Check Out in 2021!

Need a book to read in 2021? Want to find a new author to check out? Then, explore this list of 71 books and authors featured in our author spotlight series in a variety of genres.