Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Procrastination Station

When it comes to writing, getting started is always the hardest part for me. And I'm not talking about writing that killer opening sentence/chapter--though that is definitely a huge hurdle and a whole other blog topic for later. No, I mean: getting started. Sitting down, opening the Word Doc, and actually starting to produce words.

Every morning I tell myself: I am going to turn on my laptop and get started right away this time--no procrastinating and no excuses!

And every time the reality is more like this:

- turn on laptop
- decide pillow arrangement on bed is uncomfortable for my back
- spend 10 minutes readjusting pillows only to decide they were better the first way
- realize I forgot to get a glass of water before I sat down
- become so thirsty just thinking about it I cannot possibly write a word until I get a drink
- run downstairs for a glass of water
- grab a Pepsi instead (caffeine always wins)
- search pantry for a writing snack to go with my sugar and calories
- find nothing except sad, empty shelves
- go back upstairs to tweet/ FB about the pathetic food situation at my house
- realize an hour has gone by and no writing has occurred
- open Word
- open email while Word loads
- reply to recent, urgent emails
- reply to recent non-urgent emails
- realize another hour has passed by
- return to Word
- reread previous day's writing to find my place
- start revising previous day's writing
- realize another hour has passed by
- scroll to the end of document and type a few new sentences
- reread sentences and delete
- decide I need more inspiration
- search iTunes to make a new writing playlist
- google random things hoping to find images to help me "visualize"
- another hour passes
- return to document and type a few more sentences
- reread and delete
- realize I haven't written my blog post for the next day
- open blogger
- another hour passes
- glance at clock, realize the Hubs will be home from work soon and I have yet to add a single word to my daily word count
- FINALLY add some pages to my draft so I don't have to explain to the Hubs what a big lazy bum I've been

Sadly, that's really not much of an exaggeration. Some days are better than others, of course. But I wage a CONSTANT battle with myself to stop stalling and actually get started.

And I know some friends have told me that it's easier to stay focused when you only have a tiny allotment of writing time between work and kids and whatnot--and they're probably right. But even when my life is crazy and my deadlines are crazy and I'm in that: how will I ever get this all done PANIC zone, I STILL waste at least an hour every time I sit down to write. And I think I've figured out why.

When I first sit down and stare at my draft, it feels like WORK. I've got a target word count goal in my head and a huge chunk of blank space taunting me like: you must fill me or you've failed as a writer today. It's me sitting down to do my job--but without a scary boss to yell at me to get my butt in gear and get started. So naturally, I find every possible way to procrastinate and waste time.

But once I get past the whole "getting started" thing and am actually just writing, it stops being work. Then its just FUN--just me losing myself in the words and the characters and the world unfolding before me.

So maybe that's the secret. Maybe I need to stop sitting down with a goal/task/deadline in mind. Maybe I need to get myself excited about the scene I'm going to write before I turn on my laptop, and focus on that as I open that Word Doc. Maybe then that blank space won't feel so daunting and send me spiraling into Procrastination Station.

I have a feeling it won't 100% cure the problem. But maybe it'll help. I'm sure going to try!

What about you guys? Any secret tricks for getting started without too much procrastination? Please--do tell! :)


  1. I'm a total procrastinator right now. I feel so overwhelmed with the start of high school and the high school swim team for my daughter and all my volunteer that I'm giving myself permission to just procrastinate for a few weeks to get the hang of it all.

    Then I'm going to try to write at least a page a day after I outline and do my character worksheets (thanks to your post on that). Maybe a timer for how long I have to sit and write will help too. Good luck.

  2. I tend to write scene-by-scene so that I don't overwhelm my brain with chapter after chapter. I also really love the advice Chris Baty gave NaNo participants: just write 500 words. Then another 500. Then another and another and another until you just can't anymore. It's helped me get through not just my own stories, but term papers and even my thesis!

    Good luck with your writing Shannon!

  3. I've found avoiding MS Word is the best way to write. There is just something about that blank white screen that stagnates my creative process.
    Paper and pen work for me. I don't have to worry about spacing and there are no Internet related distractions. With paper and pen it's just me and the words with no restrictions. I can write in whatever color ink I want, even spill into the margins. Then when I have about ten to fifteen pages or so, I will transfer over to MS Word. I usually wait a day before doing this though so I can think about what I've written and where I want to go. That blank screen can't taunt me because I have something to fill it with. And usually there is a bit of revising going on when I go from paper to MS Word, so by the time it gets on the computer it is kind of a second draft.

  4. the worst is when I'm first starting a new manuscript. It takes me WEEKS to get the first chapter done. After that it's usually smooth sailing but still. The first paragraph takes me forever too. lol.

  5. Oh wow. I'm nowhere near that bad. I usually can't wait to dive in, but I do tend to be easily distracted.

  6. I love writing the beginning! It's when I'm first getting to know the character, the setting, and the way things sometimes unfold is so cool. Now, I always change the opening later. Because my openings tend to be, well, slow. If you just tell yourself that you're taking a walk with your character through a magical forest (or whatever your setting) it may not feel like work then either. Talk to your character. Drink some tea with them. No, I am not crazy. I have a letter to prove it. =)

    *quickly writes letter to prove I am not crazy.*

  7. No big secret. I just sit down, log off the internet, and write. Usually with a yummy cup of flavored coffee in my hand.

  8. My big problem is forcing myself to sit at the computer and work. Once I get here with the goal of working in mind, I'm fine, but some days it's like pushing a boulder uphill.

  9. It might help if you got out of bed and moved to your desk. I absolutely cannot imagine getting any writing done sitting in bed.

  10. I used to have a lot of issues like that, but then I discovered Freedom, the program that lets you )gasp) shut off your internet for anywhere from 15mins to 8hours. I use it for an hour, then let myself do something else for an hour or so (read, watch Veronica Mars, whatever) then Freedom again. My productivity skyrocketed.

  11. I am the same way Shannon--with writing and about everything. I like to use the cold swimming pool entry technique--I can torture myself by sticking my leg in the water or close my eyes, jump in, and get it over with. Once in, I can start enjoying it.

  12. I'm the same way. Email is my worst offense. That and facebook.

  13. Yeah, I know that routine very well. Too well.

    What helps me is to sit down with my notebook and start writing. It gets me into the scene, keeps me from going back and revising. Plus, typing from my notebook makes me feel so productive, I just keep going.

    And I don't turn on Tweetdeck. Or else I'll spend the next three hours doing nothing. ;)

  14. I reside in Procrastination Station. My writing day looks about like yours, except I sometimes whine and stomp my feet because, well, you know, that always puts words on the page. Good luck with everything!

  15. I will be perusing the comments hoping to find those secrets. I am a queen procrastinator myself--I'm terrible! Must be a Shannon thing. LOL. :-)

  16. This has been a huge thing for me the past week - I try to get excited about writing, but procrastination just pretty much conquers my life. And I'm with you on that caffeine thing, soda always helps. :)
    Also, did you know the national procrastination society's newsletter is called, "Last Month's Newsletter"? How awesome is that!

  17. I have absolutely no tricks or solutions for pracratination! Seriously. Once the p word bites me - it doesn't let go and I have to use super duper extra strengtht shake it off! Then I have some chocolate! Yay! Take care

  18. I just met Heather Brewer at a book signing, and she said that she writes until just before that scene that she's dying to write, and then stops. That way, she has something pulling her back to the computer the next day. (I LOVE her, by the way - she totally rocks as a person. If you ever get a chance to meet her, do it.)

  19. The computer I write on isn't connected to the internet. Of course, that doesn't keep me off of the laptop that is connected. Hmm.

  20. I used to procrastinate getting to the page much more than I do now. Like Myrna, I stay OFFLINE until writing time is over. I think this is key as email and social media are a black hole for time.

    I renovated a storage shed into a writing office and my Internet doesn't work out there. No phones come in with me either! It's my little zen cone of silence.

  21. I'm starting to think we were separated at birth. Your "getting started" ritual is eerily similar to mine. My "cure"? I tell myself to suck it up and get to work. It even works sometimes.

  22. I put a link to the Word Doc of whatever my current WIP is on the screen that comes up when you turn it on, so I don't have an excuse to wait for Word or click something else.

  23. Yah, that's about how my days go too. I've tried using freedom or turning off the internet completely. It doesn't help the writing, but I do end up with a really really clean house before I finally start.


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