Happy New Year! Time to start fresh and get a head start on marathoning those seasons on Netflix while actively avoiding your to-do list.
Procrastination is the #1 reason that people don’t complete their New Years’ Resolutions (now that I think about it, that is kind of like saying that the #1 reason you ditched your diet was because of the extra-large pizza you put in your pie hole).
For writers, that can mean another year without getting that book done.
Carpe diem. Write now. Write if you only have ten minutes to do it. Write if you’re on the bus and can only get a few sentences out due to all the jostling. Write even when your kids are trying to convince you they need to be fed (“Just one more paragraph, o apples of mine eye!”).
If me shouting “Write, you fools!” isn’t enough motivation, here are three practical tricks for writers (and other humans) to get your goals done.
Okay, you’re well past the terrible twos, and candy or the latest action figure have failed to be sufficient motivators (for me they still are, but that’s another story). But try exercising some self-restraint. Fill in the blanks and put it on a sticky note.
When I complete [1000 words, researching agents, reading someone’s novel for critique group] then I will allow myself to [catch up on Game of Thrones, put my hand in the cookie jar, quit my cubicle job and run away from home and never look back!].
I know what you’re thinking: “But I have no restraint! That’s why I procrastinate! I can’t control my urges!”
What are you, an animal? We’re an evolved species for a reason: We have a choice in how we act and react. When we feel an instinctual urge, we can stop, think about it, and resist that extra slice of cake or Hulu marathon. Yes, it’s hard. But you’re completely capable.
Twenty years from now, do you want to say “I read every tweet on my Twitter feed in 2014!”? Or would you rather say, “I finished a solid draft in 2014. It wasn’t perfect, but eventually it became my first bestseller!”
Big dreams take hard work.
Skip the Hard Parts
This could seem to contract my previous statement, but we’re still creatures of least resistance. The right path might be the hard path, but there are ways to skirt around this fact.
Namely, by tricking yourself.
I did this all the time in college. Ever heard the phrase “Once begun is half done?” Usually, you’re supposed to do research and then write the paper, right? For me, the research was the worst part. Slogging through journals and books for hours and still not finding what you need? Shoot me now.
So I would write a draft of the essay first (I was probably the only nerd who LOVED writing essays). I tricked myself into thinking I knew what I was talking about. Once the draft was done, all that was left was just plugging in some quotes from authoritative sources.
If you can get the easy part of a book draft, a difficult email to your agent, or a blog post done first, it makes it so much easier to follow up. Even better, even if you don’t finish that blog post today, you’ll still feel like you accomplished something.
Write a S*** First Draft
I always hate hearing this. If I’m going to write a first draft, I want it to be something usable. Something that doesn’t scream “Hahaha, silly author, look at all the wasted hours you could have been watching TV! And instead you wrote this crap?!”
But I let myself buy into the concept, because all the great authors seemed to believe in it. And do you know what happened? I got a first draft done.
Serial perfectionists put so much pressure on themselves that they can be frozen into thinking without doing anything.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful and thoughtful when you hammer out those first 100,000 words. But you have to relax a little, too. If it doesn’t come out perfect, it’s okay. The important thing is you got it done. In the immortal words of author-helper-outer-guru, Kristen Lamb, “The world doesn’t reward perfection; it rewards finishers.”
How do you avoid procrastinating? Share your tips and tricks below!
With a B.A. in B.S. (translation: English Major), Rebecca Ann Jordan is a speculative fiction author in San Diego. She has published short pieces in Fiction Vortex, Yemassee Magazine, Bravura Literary Journal, and more, and currently acts as Junior Assistant Editor at Bartleby Snopes. Her fetishes include controversial grammar, mythological happenings and yarn-swapping.
Got a question? Tweet me @beccaquibbles with the hashtag #askbecca, email me at becca [at] rebeccaannjordan [dot] com, or just leave a comment below! You could see your question answered right here!