Friday, January 30, 2015

Putting Off What You Can Do Today Until Tomorrow—or Never

How many times have you stared at your computer screen or perhaps looked out over it through the window to the outside? There you are, staring into space instead of writing. Why can’t you focus? Oh well, you decide to go for a walk instead—or perhaps clean out your clothes closet or rake the yard or check your news feed on Facebook for the third time today. I think you get the idea. Procrastination, that ugly habit of putting off what should be done today until tomorrow. All writers experience it. So why should you be any different?

Why does procrastination take such a stranglehold on writers? It happens to other people, too, but with writers it seems especially prevalent. Maybe it’s because writing is a mental thing. It takes more effort to get your mind going than your body. Thinking is hard work. And some days you just don’t want to think.

You have ideas—lots of ideas. Which one should you choose to write? That can be a challenge and that in itself can lead to you to procrastinate. This problem is particularly severe when writing a book. If you write non-fiction, you have the facts of a story to fall back on, but if you write fiction, all you have is your imagination, and perhaps some research. That’s not much to go on.

If you’re planning on spending the next year or two writing a book, it better be a good idea. What if you spent all that time, and it turned out to be a bomb? So you decide to take your time. But this can lead to a draw. As your ideas compete with each other for your attention, it draws you away from the one that is most likely the best.

Let’s face it, ideas are always better in your mind than on paper. It never fails. Once you start developing an idea, it seems to lose its punch. Again, if you write non-fiction, you can always dig up more facts. But adding extraneous material to your fiction can often water down a good idea. This can lead you to hesitate getting started for fear that once you start writing, your great idea will fizzle. That just may be because you didn’t thoroughly think out that great idea in the first place.

For a few writers, telling others about what they’re planning to write helps them think out the idea. But for the majority of others, telling friends and family about an idea can often take the motivation out of writing about it.

Feedback is important, but if you get feedback on your idea too soon, it can stymie your need to write it. Plus, the feedback you get from friends and family may not be the type you need. To make sure your great idea gets rolling, only you know what should go into it. Any of this premature feedback is only opinion. And those opinions may be wrong.

One way to avoid procrastination is to plan out a project. While you don’t need to jot down every detail, you do need to block it out so that you have a good overall idea of how it will take shape. Without some sort of a plan—even a loose one written on a scrap of paper— you’ll most likely stall before you make any headway.

Knowing where you’re going in an article, story, or book enables you to begin, stop or switch to something else, and then come back to pick up where you left off. If you think writing is all about sitting in front of a computer screen and waiting for the words to pour out, you’ll be sitting there waiting until tomorrow—or maybe never.

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