5 (Somewhat Helpful) Ways To Beat Procrastination

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Beat The Distraction Before It Beats You

Stop me when this sounds familiar: you’ve just sat down at your keyboard to write when you suddenly remember the dishes need to be done and you should probably take a shower and then a chocolate bar jumps out of the drawer and throws itself in your mouth. No? Congratulations. You are among a select elite who have never been tempted to procrastinate. Your numbers are few.

Most of the rest of us struggle with procrastination at some point in our writing career. This article is for you. Since we all know putting things off is bad, let’s think of some ways to get ourselves out of hole when the temptation to procrastinate (nearly) overpowers us.

Awesome vacay in progress. The Revenant (2015) Photo courtesy: New Regency Pictures

Awesome vacay in progress. The Revenant (2015) Photo courtesy: New Regency Pictures

No 1 – Try Cutting Yourself Off From Civilization

Getting away from it all totally worked out for Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in The Revenant (2015). But seriously: you do need to get away from it all, metaphorically, in order to write. So try turning off the internet for thirty minute batches.

This won’t send you over the deep end — it’s only thirty minutes — but you’ll likely end up getting more done by sustaining your focus rather than stopping every few minutes to check this or that.

Words to live by: "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup." Elf (2003) Photo courtesy: New Line

Words to live by: “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup.” Elf (2003) Photo courtesy: New Line

No 2 – Put Down The Snacks

Most of us enjoy a snack here or there as we bang out our next story. Who doesn’t love a crisp apple and/or a half dozen donuts now and again? But you can go overboard in the prep.

It’s probably too much, say, to cook rosemary confit-crusted salmon with crispy polenta diamonds and testa dumplings in a saffron espelette sauce. Nothing needs to be made from scratch while you’re writing. Save that for another time.

Instead, just grab whatever you need, and then write, write, write.

Write long and prosper, or something like that. Star Trek (The Original Series) Photo courtesy: CBS Studios

Write long and prosper, or something like that. Star Trek (The Original Series) Photo courtesy: CBS Studios

No 3 – Be Rational

It’s entirely rational to devise a schedule for your writing and then attempt to stick to it. A schedule can help you stay on track and avoid putting off your writing.

Of course, it’s always difficult to predict exactly how long it will take you to complete a project, but giving yourself some goals can help keep you moving forward.

And moving forward is the true goal, right?

He's actually super nice once you get to know him. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

He’s actually super nice once you get to know him. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No 4 – Have A Nice Friend Keep You In Line

In the event that a schedule is not enough incentive, have a nice friend to help stay on track with your writing.

Tell the person your goals and ask him or her to check in on you at a set date. The notion of someone knowing how much you’ve been procrastinating can be enormously helpful, particularly for those who are extremely susceptible to shame.

If that sounds like you, then give this a try.

SPOILER: Joy is full of joy. Inside Out (2015) Photo courtesy: Pixar

SPOILER: Joy is full of joy. Inside Out (2015) Photo courtesy: Pixar

No 5 – Find Your Joy

Above all, find your joy. This means whatever you want it to mean. For many writers, though, it means that you need to remember that every minute you get to spend writing is a gift.

Too many of us are grappling with overloaded schedules and intense demands on our attention. Your writing time is you time. Treat yourself well by respecting the effort it took to scrape together a few hours here or there.

There’s a reason you started writing. You have something to say — something deep and true that only you can say. Get. To. It.

author-avatar

Jennie Evenson is the author of “Shakespeare for Screenwriters” (Michael Wiese, 2013) and the forthcoming “Storytelling Secrets of the Masters.” As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

3 Replies to "5 (Somewhat Helpful) Ways To Beat Procrastination"

  • comment-avatar
    Bob August 1, 2016 (9:27 am)

    I’m reply later

  • comment-avatar
    Don Tsuchiyama August 1, 2016 (10:45 am)

    6. Don’t get distracted by articles about avoiding procrastination.

    Sorry. Too easy. Couldn’t resist.

    Thank you for your suggestions.

  • comment-avatar
    TK Blackburn August 1, 2016 (2:25 pm)

    Agreed on most points. As for snacks, I find the opposite to be true. I procrastinate when I crave something. So I stock up on all the bad stuff I could ever want. If I want it, it’s there, but usually just the comfort of knowing I CAN have it is enough to take away the distraction. If I get on a roll I’m not likely to take a drink or bite of anything for hours, but when I do, I can reach for the thing I crave without losing a typing beat.

    Ironically? Since I’ve adapted this process, I’ve lost weight. No joke. (& that’s a big deal in my life history)

    Also – aim for contests. Deadlines are good, but so is something concrete to aim at.

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