How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating Forever

Carol Tice

do it - procrastination conceptHave you been trying to get serious about writing, but can’t seem to develop a regular writing habit?

Do you find you keep putting off writing in favor of something else — snacking, chatting on Facebook, reorganizing your closets…pretty much anything except sitting your butt in the chair and grinding out the paragraphs?

“I manage to do everything except the actual writing!” one would-be writer emailed me recently. “Can you help?”

Another writer recently related that she quit her job to become a freelance writer about two years ago, and then never wrote a word. Ever. Until her money ran out and she had to go back and get a day job again.

Yet another commented on Facebook:

I need motivation-Facebook comment

When writers don’t write

So here’s the thing about being a writer who doesn’t write. And who is looking to the outside world for a way to acquire the burning drive to do so.

I can’t help you with that.

You might tell yourself or your spouse or your writer friends, “Well, I’m procrastinating about writing right now.”

But really, you’re not.

Let me explain what I mean.

The truth about procrastination

The reality is, you are never procrastinating.

I know! It feels like you are. But you’re not.

What all human beings really do, in their every waking moment, is make choices.

Every minute of every day, you are making decisions about what you will do, based on what matters most to you.

You are not procrastinating. You are deciding.

Today, or this month or this year, you may be deciding not to write anything.

Yes, maybe today you really were dying to write but you had to take the kids to soccer. Maybe this week the relatives were in town.

But over the course of a month, a year, a decade, you ultimately make time for the things you want to do.

And you don’t make time for the things you don’t.

Be aware of your choices

Often, we make these choices on how to use our time a bit unconsciously. We become creatures of habit. “Yes, I never miss an episode of [your favorite TV show here].”

If that’s you, then it’s time to bring these choices up to the level of your consciousness and start thinking about how you spend your time. Keep a time-use diary for a few weeks if you need to.

It may help you confront a basic reality of life: We all make time for whatever really matters to us.

It’s been said that you don’t become a writer or aspire to be a writer…you either are a writer, or you aren’t.

You are one of those people who is scribbling song lyrics in the margins of their grocery lists, or lying awake at night composing poems in your head, or pitching editors dozens of article ideas. Or you are someone who doesn’t feel that drive to get words down and put them out in the world.

“I’m dying to become a published author!” you say. But contrary to what the greeting cards tell you, it’s not the thought that counts — it’s the action.

If you’re never making time to write, it’s because deep down, you don’t really want to write.

Or at least, you don’t want to write bad enough to face your demons, overcome your laziness, and sit. down. and. do. it. On a regular basis.

That may be harsh, and tough to confront. But that’s the reality.

Stop putting it off…

Runners get out every day and run. Writers make regular time to write, because it’s impossible to go on living without getting those ideas out of your head. And because we know it’s another muscle that has to be exercised a lot to get working well.

The corollary, I’d say, is if you are a freelance writer who never can find time to market your writing, you don’t really want to do this for a living.

Maybe you want to dabble with your memoir or your fiction or write a personal-journal type blog, but you don’t have the drive to make writing your source of reliable income.

The next time you find yourself wanting to complain that you are putting off writing (or marketing), remember that it’s not procrastination. It’s a deliberate choice.

Stop waiting for the kids to leave home or the move cross-country or to feel better-rested or whatever it is you blame for why you’re not writing now.

Be a writer, not a waiter

There will never be a better time to write. For all you know, you may not have another day of life to live beyond today.

If it matters, you’ll make time to write.

Because you are doing exactly what you really want to do with your life.

How do you fight procrastination? Leave a comment and share your tips.

Freelance Writers Den

100 Comments

  1. tess

    I feel like the author knows nothing about procrastination. I do think theres something more psychological at play. Its like asking an addict to “just quit.”
    Procrastinators tend to do this in all parts of their lives.

    • Carol Tice

      Yes, I’ve never put off anything I was supposed to be doing, Tess. 😉

      I’m not asking people to ‘just quit’ putting off their writing. I’m asking readers to reframe their thinking about what it is they’re doing.

      If you feel you really want to write for a living but you’re never doing it, it’s time to ask yourself why that is — and if you really do want to do it. Because every day, you’re making a decision not to do it. If you ask yourself why, it may lead to new thought patterns that allow you to break out of your habit of procrastination.

    • tess

      I think i know why I procrastinate. I think I am afraid to fail, if I dont try, I dont have to be a failure. But that is incorrect, because not even trying is a failure in itself.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Tess.

  2. Jean Robert Bourdage

    Hi there. Very interesting topic.

    I’d like to add my own thoughts about why I procrastinate.

    First of all, writing is my second job. I’m an actor. I write when the phone doesn’t ring, because I want to remain creative without having to wait on anybody else involvement (a play, a movie, tv script all require some level of approval and don’t really “exist” until they are produced. So writing fiction is a way for me to keep busy)
    But it is also a passion.

    When you’re involved in rehearsing a play, there is this idea you have about your character, what it should aim for, and the whole process of rehearsals is to adjust what you want vs what the director wants, and adapt accordingly. And then come the dreaded moment in rehearsals: the first run through. There is no one in the audience, there is no set, costumes, you use rehearsing accessories, so it should be easy, no? No. it’s painful, because in your mind you are still lightyears away from what you want, and you’re not in a discovery process because for the first time you have to add all the little bits you rehearsed together, so it’s basically remembering and noticing how much work there is left to do.

    I think the first draft of writing is exactly the same. It’s going to be light years away from what you want it to be so you postpone that deception as far as you can.

    The good news? from my personal experience, and I don’t have that much (I have published 2 short stories, 1 novella and 1 novel) is it gets so much easier when the first draft is done. Your mind is free.

    I think this post applies more to plotters than pantsers, but I could be wrong.
    (forgive the poor grammar, I don’t work in English)

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