Tag Archives | procrastination

Portrait of a Procrastinating Morning (And How You Can Avoid One)

object_graphic_design_261471_lJust about every morning, I wake (naturally–it’s just when my body is ready to get up) around 5:30, stumble downstairs, drink some water, then grab my coffee and head to my computer, after being careful not to trip over the cat in the predawn darkness.  And then I get right to work and don’t move until I’ve finished my daily word count look at email, maybe check on what happened in the world (though less so lately as its too painful).

Finally, I get to work.  I plug in brain.fm, which helps me ignore the cats and husbands wandering around the house,, and go to it.  And I’m pretty good at sticking with it (with lots of breaks for more coffee and water) until I’ve reached my word count.  Which, over the past month, since I did Nanowrimo, was 2,000 words a day. (And yes, I did finish! I hit 50,047 words on November 30.)

But, yeah, that’s the perfect world. Which doesn’t always happen, alas. Here’s what happened one morning last week: I woke earlier than normal because of a stomach ache, and went back to doze on the couch for a few minutes.  Then I smelled coffee, went and grabbed some, and stumbled to the computer.  Which, when I woke it up, was open to a page I really wanted to read.  So I did. Despite knowing better.  Which set the tone for reading even more when I went over to my inboxes. And then one thing led to another..and pretty soon, well you can guess what happened.

Yep, I’d waste my entire morning writing session.  Because I had to read about the fires in Gatlinburg (which are so tragic.  The resort I’ve stayed at there several times burned to the ground.  Scroll down on that link to see photos of the Westgate.)  And check on the latest political news.  And then I decided, smugly, that today just wasn’t a good writing day and what I really should do is make notes for some business visioning I’ve been doing. But by that time, all I ended up doing was confusing myself.  And I gave up and went to eat breakfast.

But, here’s the deal: this bout of procrastination set the tone for the whole day, and I struggled to pull myself back to my focus. Also, I felt like crap (mentally and emotionally).  I felt edgy and out of sorts, and besides that I wasted a lot of energy beating myself up.

And the truth is, I could have avoided the whole mess, just by being aware of my own creative rhythms. Because truth be told, I needed a break.  I had been writing hard all of November and doing a lot of other work, too. (Okay, so planning the next France retreat over wine at Noble Rot is maybe not hazardous duty, but still.)  When I first started my procrastination spiral, I might have been able to figure this out and rather than click through internet stories and ads for sales, I could have done something intentional. Something that would have fed my creativity instead of making me feel bad about myself.  Like taking a walk. Or stepping away from the computer and reading a book.  Or spending some time organizing my office. Or repair to the living room and knit.

But I didn’t.   But next time this happens, I’ll try to catch myself mid-stream and nip the spiral in the bud.  (Let’s see, did I mix enough metaphors there?)

Being conscious and mindful of your creative rhythms can be oh so helpful.  And then allow yourself to do what you need to do to sustain a writing practice over the long haul.  And if that means stepping away from the computer, for the love of God, let yourself do it.

Do you procrastinate? (Is that question akin to asking, do you breathe?) How do you prevent it or deal with it afterwards? Please do share in the comments.

Photo by levi_suz.

2

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part Two

So, this week & last, we are on the topic of self care for writers.  I know, wahk (that's the sound of a Buddha_buddhism_religion_581602_hbuzzer). But this is an important subject for you to pay attention to, so that you don't burn out.  So listen up. But first, go read Part One. Because in that ditty, I wrote about how you can tell you're in overwhelm and need to take a break.

But, really?  You need to give yourself a break every day.  You're putting crazy energy out into the world as you write.  Be aware of that and cultivate some time to yourself to get some of that energy back.  And–if you are like me, at first you will have to force yourself to do this. If you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  

You need to take a freaking break already!

And the one thing I've learned over years of doing this is that if you do these things, create, gasp, a routine of them, your writing will flourish.  So here are some suggestions for incorporating self-care into your life:

1.  Stretch.  I'm working on getting up from the computer every 20 (okay, it is usually more like 40) minutes and doing a couple of simple stretches.  This makes an enormous difference in how I feel at the end of the day.

2.  Artist's Date.  Julia Cameron advocates this in her book, The Artist's Way.  It is something you do alone, and can be as simple as taking your journal to the coffee shop.  Or going to an art gallery. Whatever makes you happy and fills the well. I'm lousy at doing this.  Really lousy.  But when I do, it is mind expanding.

3. Color.  Like in a coloring book, the way you did as a kid.  I'm not kidding, it is really relaxing. There's a whole series of Mandala coloring books you can get if that makes you feel more adult.  Or scribble shapes on a pad of paper and color in the blanks.  Here is a really cool link I found where you can print separate pages out.

4.  Read.  As I've mentioned a time or two before, if you're a writer, you need to read.  Words in, words out.  If I'm putting a lot of words out on the page, I need to pull a lot of them in as well.  And, it is relaxing.

5. Walk.  Get thyself out of the house and into the fresh air.  Carry index cards or your phone to take notes on (I highly recommend Evernote) because you will get ideas that you will want to write down.

6.  Enjoy a hobby. Cook, bake, garden (come to my house and pull some weeds if you like). Knit, crochet, sew.  I used to think that doing creative projects other than writing pulled me away from my writing–but really, it just enhances it.

7.  Get a mani-pedi.  Or just a pedi. Guys, you too.  Hit a salon that has a massage chair and you'll have a relaxing time, while your feet get spiffed up, too.

8.  Get a massage.  I've had the enormous luxury of getting a chiropractic massage weekly (thank you, health insurance) this year.  This is because my body is a bit out of whack.  The massages are helping me physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally.  Well worth it.

9.  Sit under a tree.  When my kids were little, upon occasion we would visit the nearby park and I would let them play while I sat a picnic table and wrote or simply pondered life's issues.  Getting out into nature is soothing in a way nothing else is.

10.  Get outta town.   Okay, so I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, where the ocean is an hour in one direction and the mountains an hour in the other.  But do I avail myself of these delights?  Rarely.  Don't be like me.  Take a day trip.

11.  Meditate.  Or, keep it simple and not so scary and just pause and take some huge deep breaths every so often throughout the day.

12.  Do nothing.  Closely related to #11.  Just sit and do nothing.  Or stand and do nothing.  Or lie down and do nothing.  Wait, better skip that last one, because if you're like me you'll fall asleep. Which actually isn't a bad idea–napping is good, also.  Honestly, think about it–when is the last time you let yourself really do nothing?  I know, ages ago.  Me, too.

What else?  Well, what relaxes you?  What makes you happy?  Make a list–and then indulge yourself once in awhile.  Blame it on me if you must, but do it.  

Do you build time into your day or week for self care?  What's your favorite thing to do?

4

A Guide to the Care and Tending of Writers, Part One

Let's talk about self care.  Yeah, I know, you'd rather be writing than fussing about some dumb old self care crap.  But here's the point: taking care of yourself will enable you to write more and better. Truly.

An example, taken from my own life: Boracay-beach-paradise-1561148-h

Yesterday, I completed two big projects.  Both are under wraps for the moment, and only one is related to writing, really, but it was an application that necessitated a bunch of thought and filling out.

Today, I'm in full-on fart around mode.  I have a list a mile long to complete–and I'm not doing any of it.  Instead, I'm cruising around the internet, looking at sites I've not checked in on in ages, reading stupid stories about celebrities, wasting time.  

And now, as the day begins to wane, I'm feeling a bit creaky and antsy and unsettled.  How much better it would have been if I'd just said, f$%# it, I took two huge steps yesterday, I'm going to read and knit all day.  In other words, indulge in things I truly enjoy.  Relax after the full-out effort I put in yesterday. In other words, practice self care. 

I don't know why it is so hard to force allow yourself to do this.  Because if you're like me, you'll resist.  You'll sit at the computer, certain that the words will come at any minute, sure that the fog of indecision will lift.  But it won't.  And my day today is a case in point.

(The truth of the matter is, I've had this blog post–which is going to be two parts, by the way–in the works for a couple of weeks.  And it is sheer coincidence synchronicity that my behavior today so aptly proved my own point.)

So, here's the deal: you need to take a freaking break already!

Spoken by the same woman who constantly exhorts you to write every day.  So let's go at this from a slightly different angle, with a handy-dandy list of Possible Signs You Are Burned Out and Need to Replenish:

1.  You have a hard time focusing.  You can't seem to concentrate on the words in front of your face, or you land or a website and wonder why you clicked on it. Then you click on another one and remember why you were on the first one and so you go back there, read for awhile, then head over to the second website.  While your writing file sits open and ignored.  Yeah, that.

2.  You can't connect with the story of your WIP (work in progress).  You remember vaguely that its about…a woman…who does something.  But you can't recall what in the hell it is she does, or the name of any of the other characters or why you wanted to write it in the first place.

3.  Your eyelids get heavy when you open your WIP file, and you don't feel like writing, you feel like sleeping.

4.  The People magazine website is suddenly the most interesting thing you've ever seen.  And you are compelled to read mindless puff articles about people you've never heard of before.

5.  A glass of wine is the thing that you need right now, at this moment, because it is five o'clock somewhere.  And once you take the first sip, it is all downhill from there…

The first three of this list are the most important to heed because they are the most insidious.  You won't ever realize you are doing them until you look back at the end of the day and see that you've accomplished nothing.  Nada.  But even worse, you likely won't identify the root cause of your behavior as needing self care.  No, you will beat yourself up and tell yourself what a lazy ass you are.

How do I know this? Because I do it all the time my friend told me about it.

So, start paying attention.  Take a break.  Figure out some ways that you can do self care that isn't goopy.  How, you ask?  That is the subject of part two of this post, coming right up whenever I can quit procrastinating.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

Photo by The Wandering Angel.

5

A Wednesday List

Punkins

Punkins, ready for the big night

So, I've had this idea lately. 

What might that idea be, you ask?

I shall tell you.  It's that maybe, once in awhile, more often than a blue moon, maybe even weekly, I'm not sure yet, it likely depends on you all react, I shall write a post that is more personal in nature.  In case you hadn't noticed, I just about always find a way to relate my posts to writing. 

Like, always.

Mostly because it is my firm belief that when you are a writer, everything does relate back to writing. But, still.  There are other aspects of my life that might be fun to comment on once in awhile.  

Thus beginneth the idea of the Wednesday List, with today's post being the first one.  Consider it a glimpse into my world beyond writing. Are you ready? Here we go.

1.  I'm cooking a lot.  Ha, news flash!  To some of you, this might not seem like much, but I am a Lazy Ass Cook Extraordinaire.  As in, buying something to throw on the grill and a prepared salad at Whole Foods.  Or even better, convincing my husband we need to go out.  (This generally does not take much work.)  But in France, I appreciated sun eggs (that's what they called them) so fresh they didn't need to be refrigerated, and tomatoes that tasted like they used to, back in the dark ages.  And so I vowed to cook more when I returned, and I have.  Mostly soups and quick breads so far, but still. And I have purchased two pieces of cooking equipment–a gigantic crock pot and a Madeleine pan. Haven't actually baked any Madeleines yet, but I will.  Maybe this weekend.  I shall report.

2. A story about how knitting saved my writing.  I am a knitter from way back, like birth, even. And yet I don't have much to show for myself, because I, um, tend not to finish things.  It's the idea of the finished object I like, apparently, and the process.  I am trying to change this, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of how beneficial a knitting project can be.  Because I am trying diligently to finish my projects, I had my most recent one, a sweater made from lovely heathery blue/purple yarn sitting out within easy reach.  Thinking I was procrastinating, I sat down to knit.  I was procrastinating because I was stuck in the writing of my novel, trying to figure out how to fit in a couple of new scenes.  I shall think, I told myself, in order to justify the procrastination.  And guess what?  It worked! Within minutes, I had it all set in my mind.  So then, of course, I didn't get much done on the sweater.  Julia Cameron advocates repetitive activity as a creativity booster in the Artist's Way but I hadn't experienced its benefits in quite some time.

3.  My crazy Tub Wad cats.  They are two tabby brothers we rescued from the Humane Society

TubWad

Lieutenant, the fattest Tub Wad, in his favorite position

several years ago and they are fat.  I mean fat. (See photo for proof.) I used to tell people they were just big-boned, and they are, but I have to admit that even factoring that in, they are fat. And they love to eat.  Their evening feeding time is 5 PM, and long about 2, they start complaining that they are hungry.  But the other day, they were both happily asleep on the couch at that hour and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Then I remembered the strange noises coming from the room we grandiosely call the library (if you could see it now you would laugh because it is serving as a storage and junk room) where their food was stored in a gigantic plasticized bag.  (We have to buy special food from the vet for them.)  I had secured the top of the bag with a clip, but Captain and Lieutenant made quick work of that.  Turns out they were helping themselves to food at all hours of the day and night. I'm pretty sure it was Captain who figured it out.  He's the smart one.  I always say he's studying to be a human in his next incarnation because he's constantly observing, with his ears perked up so you know he's listening to every word.

4.  Halloween.  I love it.  And its this Friday.  Yay.  But I'm not even sure why I like it so much.  I don't eat the candy, preferring dark chocolate or something more dessert-ish.  And I loathe dressing up in costume.  I think it is the fall color that I like, and the feeling of the crisp air, and all that (though this year our color here in Portland is the worst I've seen in years).  I even like–wait for it–the time change, so that it gets dark early.  Blame it on my Danish heritage, but the dark days of late fall are my favorite time of year.  This year, as always, I'll make my famous chili with the secret ingredient that makes it the best chili you've ever eaten, and my family will come over and the grandbabies will go out trick or treating (maybe–they are still a bit young) and there will also be wine, and beer for the men.  And fat Tub Wad cats lying in the middle of everything.

5.  Overwhelm.  I've been in it since I returned from France.  And I realize I do not handle it well. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate.  Since I'm having problems getting things done, why not make it worse by not doing anything?  Yeah, it works real well, let me tell you.  I'm starting to climb out of it, with only two manuscripts left to read this week (and don't get me wrong, I love reading my client's work) and some forward progress on the rewrite of my novel.  Part of the reason I get overwhelmed is that I have a busy social life, with obligations to family and friends.  Obligations, ha! It's pure pleasure and I know it.  But every once in awhile I have to call enough and quit saying yes to things.

Owlies6.  I got a tattoo.  You can see by the accompanying photo that is it the best thing ever.  Owls are the family symbol because my Mom collected them for years, long before they enjoyed their current moment.  My daughter got a huge, complicated tattoo on her upper arm featuring an owl, and my sister is getting one in December (she had to get an old tattoo removed first). My tattoo is in honor of my grandchildren, with the symbols of their astrological signs in the body of each owl.  And guess what?  It didn't hurt much at all.  I was lying on the table squeezing my eyes shut, telling the tattoo artist to be sure and warn me when he was going to start, certain I was going to flinch and ruin it all. And then when he began I said, "Is that all there is to it?"  Now I'm ready to get another one.

Okay, so a whole novel later, that's what's going on in my life at the moment.  What's up with you, writing or otherwise?  Please leave a comment!

 

2

Procrastination for Writers

Pencil-tapping-distractor-213269-hMy newsletter comes out every two weeks without fail and usually I get the material for it to my friend who compiles it for me well ahead of time.

Not this week.  

Yes, life got in the way–I won't bore you with the particulars.  But I also procrastinated.  Because if I had really wanted to, I could have fit some work on it in the nooks and crannies of time.  I'm used to doing that.  I do it all the time.

Not this week.

I knew I needed to get the newsletter done in plenty of time for it to be scheduled, but I didn't do it. And then last night, as I was falling asleep, I realized why: because I didn't have the topic yet.  Bear in mind, I write posts for this blog a lot.  (Over seven years, I've managed to rack up over 1,000 of them.) So coming up with ideas and writing them is not often a problem.  But in this case, I didn't.

Until I realized I wanted to write about what was happening to me in the moment: procrastination. And here's the deal, the epiphany that occurred to me, the idea that made it all worthwhile:

Sometimes procrastination is a good thing.

Yes, I said that.  So let me explain why, and when you can use procrastination as a tool, and when it is just a plain old bad thing.  Okay?

When Procrastination is a Good Thing.

Sometimes, a story or a scene or an essay simply hasn't formed itself enough to be gotten down on paper.  Period.  You can try to force the issue as much as you want and it simply won't budge.   Stories are like that. And then you've got to let it come out in its own time.  (Which can look like procrastination to uninformed spouses but really isn't.) Some ideas that might help the process:

1. Take notes.  Gently, without trying to force anything.

2. Actively think about it.  Like, when you're vacuuming.  Or reading CNN.  Or doing whatever it is you do when you procrastinate.

3. Quit worrying about it.  Remind yourself that peaks and valleys are part of the creative process.

4.  Don't think about it.  I know, contradictory to #2, but that's how creativity works.  Put it out of your mind and do something else.  Sometimes this is what's needed for an idea to bubble up.

5.  Decide you're going to give up writing forever.  Kidding!  Sort of.  Because, in truth, sometimes these sorts of dramatic vows are what it takes to lift yourself up out of the procrastination morass. Because you realize that you really do want to be a writer and since that is the case, you better get to it.

When Procrastination is a Bad Thing.

While we all want to put a good face on the way we run our lives, sometimes procrastination is just that: procrastination.  And more likely than not, it is fear-based.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of putting yourself out in the world, fear that you don't know what to write.

I'm here to tell you that the best and only way to deal with fear is to walk through it.  And the best way to walk through it is to throw words at the page.  Bad words, crappy sentences, ridiculous paragraphs.  Or, if you can muster it, fantastic combinations of words.  But don't worry about that. Just write.  Anything.  Trust me.  The act of writing itself will lead you back to where you need to go–which is where you are at the moment:

Writing.

 

We All Suffer From It.

Well, maybe you don't.  But I do.  And most other writers do, too, if they will admit to it. (Procrastination is sort of like drinking too much or reading trashy novels in that nobody wants to claim it as a habit.)

But, if you find yourself procrastinating, just remember to use it to your writing advantage.  And then you call it something else that sounds much more industrious.  

Like composting.

Or, fertlizing.

Or, marinating.

Or, stewing.

(Almost all my metaphors have to do with the garden or food.  I think its time for me to get planting and cooking. Nah, never mind. I've got too much writing to do.)

Here are some other posts I've written about procrastination:

How to Procrastinate

Procrastinating on Your Writing? Try This

One Technique for Overcoming Writer's Block

Okay, come on, it's time to 'fess up: what's your favorite way to procrastinate?  Please make us all feel better and share.

Photo by Rennett Stowe. 

PS: A couple of you have not yet claimed your prizes on the birthday blog giveaway.  Come on over and find out if you've won.

12

What is the Why of Procrastination?

Cartoon-clock-work-2676556-lThe subject line on the email read:  Lead by example and not theory!

That's easy, I thought smugly.  I set a good example by getting up at 5 or 5:30 every day to write. Why, I was up early at that very moment reading the email.

Yeah, reading the email.  Not writing.  Reading.

Caught in the act.

I was procrastinating, no two ways about it.

I stopped and asked myself why?  The answer–because I didn't know where to go next.  I'm working on a new novel, and I wasn't sure where to take my heroine in the next scene.  I like to know where I'm going in a scene.  It prevents me from drifting.  (When I drift, I can get way off course.) 

But sometimes I know more than I think I do, and if I just quit resisting and start writing, my hands tell me where to go.

So I told myself to just do it–put words on the page.  Begin.  Commit to doing it three minutes. 

And so I did. And once I was in the middle of it, I remembered: this.  This is what I love doing. This is what I want to do all day.  This.

This always happens.  Once I'm in the middle of my writing, I remember how much I love doing it.  So why is it sometimes so damned hard to get to the writing in the first place?  These are some of the reasons I came up with:

Overwhelm.  At times your brain is just too full up to think anymore.

Fear you're not good enough, or more to the point, your writing isn't. 

Anxiety.  External worries about  money, career, or relationship can be awful distractions.

Not knowing what to write, as mentioned above.

And I would be remiss if I didn't offer antidotes, now wouldn't I?  Try these:

1.  Do a brain dump.  Earlier this weekI realized my mind was going in a million different directions with projects I wanted to start, and ideas for works in progess.  I had slips of paper all over my desk with notes, ideas and reminders on them.  Worse, I couldn't seem to focus on anything for longer than a minute or two.  Then Milli Thornton told me about Todoist, which is a simple website on which to create to-do lists.   And I used this to do a brain dump of everything I wanted to work on.  Once everything was on the page, I could think again.  Note: this also works for when you're struggling with anxiety.

2.  Massage the inner critic.  The fear pops up when your Inner Critic rages.  At the Karen Drucker women's retreat a few weeks ago, she shared what she says to her Inner Critic:  I know you're there, I acknowledge you, but that's not what I choose to believe today.   

3.  Know where you're going. Do your best to always have a place to go in your writing.  Ernest Hemingway famously quit a writing session in the middle of a sentence.  You might not want to do that, but it can help to rewrite your notes before you go to bed the night before, or review in your mind what you're going to do next.  This is probably the most useful tip against procrastination that I can give you.

What are your favorite procrastination busters?  Please leave a comment.

And by the way–stay tuned, because I'm cooking up a Christmas give-away for next week!

Photo by dan4th.

10

Procrastinating on Your Writing? Try This

Metal_mechanics_type_221267_lI'm all over Steve Chandler these days.  I have no idea where I first heard of him, but I've been reading his book on time management, Time Warrior, and I've learned a lot.  Since I subscribed to his newsletter, I also got a free PDF (which I sent to my Ipad to be read on the Kindle app) of his book Wealth Warrior. Chandler talks a lot about mind set–but I guarantee you his stuff his different from the same-old, same-old you're used to reading.

Usually I dislike male business types making pronouncements about how I should do things, because they are just so, well, male, in their orientation.  (No offense to my beloved male readers, it's just that I prefer a more holistic female approach to self management, which is less rule-oriented and more dispersed.)  But Chandler's approach really resonates with me.

He talks a lot about action (and let me also make clear that he follows his own advice, having written 30 books).   What I really like about his advice is twofold:

1.  He emphasizes the benefit of taking the emotion out of your choices.  How many times have you whined about a task (writing, even), "I just don't feel like doing it."  Chandler says that "warriors" don't wait until they feel like doing something, they just freaking do it.  

2.  He talks a lot about the present moment, and taking the future out of your day.  In other words, we spend half our time thinking about how awful its going to be when we're engaged in whatever chore we don't want to do.  Thus, we're focused on the future, not the present moment.  But if I you just quit projecting yourself into the future and do the chore without emotion, you'll accomplish a lot.

And here's the tip mentioned in the headline:

Whatever it is you gotta do, commit to doing it for three minutes.  Three measly minutes.  This will accomplish one of two things:

–You'll at least have connected with the project for a bit.  Don't downplay the importance of this, because it creates momentum, and momentum is what gets books written.

–You'll most likely get wrapped up in what you're doing and work far longer than three minutes.  But, by telling yourself that you only have to work for three minutes, you've enticed yourself to the page.

I've used a variant of this, telling myself I only have to work 15 minutes, for years.  But I like the three minute idea even better.  Because, really, anyone can commit three minutes to something–even you. Right?

I encouraged a friend who was struggling with a paper for a class to commit to three minutes on it and she texted me an hour later saying the paper was done and sent in.  This little trick of the mind works, people.  I now use it on myself all the time.

Do you procrastinate?  How do you get yourself out of it?

Photo by clix.

8

How to Procrastinate

1.  Keep all your email inboxes and social media sites open all the time.
Pencil-tapping-distractor-213269-h

2.  Check your email often.  Like, every five minutes.  You might just have a Very Important Email to which you need to respond.  Or, equally urgent, you might have notification of a Very Important Blog Post that you must read immediately.  Or a message about a Very Important Sale that you need to check into.

3.  Surf the internet often.  At least every ten minutes.  Who knows what our pesky government is up to now?  Or what the star of your favorite TV show said last night?  Or where Miley Cyrus most recently appeared nude?  It is crucial that we know all these things ten seconds after they have happened.

4. Click onto the Huff Post site.  There's always something to distract yourself with there.

5.  Pretend to meditate.  Falling asleep at your computer nets you bonus points.

6.  Better yet, close your eyes, pretending you are going to think deep thoughts about your WIP (work in progress).  Falling asleep here also is good for more points. Lots of them.

7. Text a friend.  Choose one who you know will answer your texts instantly.  Carry on a lengthy conversation via text.  There's nothing like the ding of a text coming in to distract you from your writing.

8. Do some research.  Yes, it is imperative that you learn the date of the beginning of the Civil War right this very moment.  Even though you're not writing anything remotely historical.  You still need to know.

9. Never, ever, read over your work the night before you get up early to write.  Your characters and plot will be in your head, driving you to open that computer file.   Do not allow this to happen.

10.  Tweet about how distracted you are, then wait for the retweets and responses to come in so you can talk about how awful it is.

11.  Do the crossword puzzle.  Taking time to google for possible answers is good for, you guessed it, bonus points.

12.  Go out for lunch.  Perhaps that friend you were texting with is available?  An added benefit is that if you eat a lot, you'll be too sleepy to work when you return home.

So, those are my top twelve ways to procrastinate.  What are yours?  Please leave a comment!

Photo by Rennett Stowe.

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How Words Get on the Page

It's Sunday afternoon, and it's hot here in Portland.  My nephew is visiting on his way from an internship in Washington D.C., back to law school in California.  And he, my husband, and my son, are all at my daughter's learning how to make beer on this glorious afternoon.

And where am I?
Cloud_single_blue_246338_l

Writing this at my computer, obviously.

But the bigger question would be why I'm working on this beautiful afternoon.  Um, that would be because I procrastinated just the wee-est bit on a ghostwriting project and found myself up against a deadline.  I really needed to get my client a chapter by Tuesday at the latest, and I had no other time but today to do it.

Here's the truth: I procrastinated because I didn't know exactly how to do the chapter.  It had to present the themes of the book in the context of the "author's" biography and I was clueless as to how to proceed.

So I procrastinated.

Until I was up against it.

And then came the time when there was no other choice but to start in.  Guess what happened?  Yeah, you're right.  As soon as I actually began engaging with the chapter, the words came.  And I got the chapter (at least a rough draft of it) done and sent off to the client with time to write this blog post, too.  (I'm heading over to my daughter's for wine and a barbecue once as I'm done writing this).

This experience was a good reminder to me that the magic happens when we engage with the words.  That writing gets done when we write.  I know, duh.  But I forget this far too often as I wring my hands and obsess about my WIP.  And I'm certain that it happens to you, too.

So next time, you're stuck, try writing instead of staring out the window.  Trust me, it actually does work.

What do you do when you are blocked or procrastinating?  Do you have anything that helps you get through these states?  We'd all love to hear about it.

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One Technique for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Gray_brick_block_220245_lAh, our old friend writer's block.  It can take so many shapes and sizes, just like fear, which it is, of course, based on.  And just as writer's block can take a gazillion different forms, so, too, can its cure.  Which is why you should try a variety of strategies if you are hit with writer's block, whether you're procrastinating writing the next scene in your novel or haven't been able to work on your memoir in years.  Here's one possible approach.

A friend told me this tip in regards to getting over procrastination and getting things done (clearing out clutter, anyone?) in non-writing arenas of life.  But it will work just as well for you (yes, you) with your writing block.

Here's the crux of it: micro action.

All you have to do is commit to one small (tiny, even) action each day.  Do that and call it good.  Really.  Consider it done.  You've accomplished your goal.

Here's a non-writing example.  I've got an upstairs that has somehow accumulated quite a bit of clutter that I'd like to clean up.  But I'm busy.  I've got a book launch coming up and I'm doing publicity for that while maintaining this blog and continuing to do client work and teach.  And plus, I hate clearing clutter.  I get confused and overwhelmed really fast.  Like five minutes fast.  So here's my micro action: deal with one piece of paper or item per day.  That's it.  That's all I have to do.  The other day I picked up a piece of paper and put it in the recycling bag.  And I had met my goal.

 I'm not sure what the experts say about why this works, but here's why I think it does: because it gets you used to doing whatever it is you're avoiding.  And then you realize it's not the big scary monster you think it is.  When you don't do something, it tends to loom large and take on proportions way bigger than reality.  The other thing that happens is that you trick yourself into it.  That one piece of paper uncovers another that I deal with in the moment and then another and another and before you know it, the shelf is cleaned off.

So let's apply this to writing.

If you're seriously blocked (and really, any block is a serious block because we writers are born to write and when we're not writing life is not good) set yourself a micro action goal of writing one sentence.  If you're seriously seriously blocked, maybe your goal will be one word.  That's your accomplishment.  Write your word or sentence and you are done for the day.  Or maybe you'll set the goal to write for one minute.  Or five minutes.   I'd be willing to bet serious money that eventually–way sooner than you think at this moment–that one sentence will turn into a paragraph, which will then turn into a scene. And you'll be writing again.  Because here's the deal: you've established yourself a habit.  And once something is habitual, it's not scary anymore.  (Unless you're smoking.  Or drinking too much.  Then it gets frightening.)

Here's a tip–don't become an overachiever, at least when you first start this process.  For instance, I'm using this process to re-commit to a regular walking routine after injuring my knee. If I so much as walk out the door I've accomplished my goal.  But for me, getting outside (step away from the computer…) is the hardest thing to do, so usually, once I'm walking, I'm quite happy.  I noticed last week on a walk that my knee was starting to get a bit tired.  And my reaction was to start coercing myself to do more.  Telling myself I hadn't gone far enough.  Berating myself for being lazy.  But then I remembered–I'd already accomplished my goal.  And I headed for home.   Because of this attitude and my micro goal,  I now look forward to walking.

So if you're struggling to make forward motion on a big project, try this micro action technique.  And then report back after your novel is on the best-seller list.

Have you ever tried something like this to get yourself going again?  What were the results?

 **By the way, speaking of book launches, wouldn't you like to celebrate mine with me?  Click here for the details.

Photo by Rotorhead.

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