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January 29, 2013
What’s wrong with me? you wonder. Why doesn’t this writing advice work?
A third worrisome thought nibbles at the back of your brain: Maybe I’m not a writer after all.
Not to worry.
I’ve identified three of the most common reasons why writers don’t get their writing done. And I’ve put together an overall solution for you.
Reason #1: No Overall Strategy
You dream of being a novelist. You’ve taken a writing course. You read writing blogs.
And you write. Daily!
But you’re no closer to writing that novel than you were a year ago. Why?
It’s true that you write every day, using exercises and prompts. And you faithfully journal.
But there’s no overall plan or strategy for writing the novel, no measurable goals and sub-goals.
Reason #2: Forcing Square Pegs into Round Holes
Maybe you diligently follow writing advice found in magazines or tips you hear from published writers.
You set your alarm to write at 5 a.m. but fall asleep on your keyboard because you’re a night owl.
You join a weekly critique group, but their need to socialize irritates you because you came there to work.
You set up your laptop to work in a coffee shop with a writing friend. She gets to work and churns out ten pages! You can’t focus, even with ear plugs in.
The problem? You don’t match writing advice to your personality.
Reason #3: Writing Habits That Don’t Help
You have less than two hours of time alone while your child is in preschool. You use that time to do a low-energy job instead of writing on your novel (a high energy job).
You’re on a roll, half way to making your writing quota for the day. Your sister calls. You could let the answering machine or voice mail get it…but you answer instead. When she asks, “Are you busy?” you say, “Not really.”
You have alerts turned on so when you’re on the computer or near your phone, you hear beeps and buzzes every five minutes. New email! A new text! A new “have to see this” YouTube video!
The problem? Sometimes we develop writing habits that are detrimental to our ability to concentrate and thus to our productivity.
Help is Here for Your Writing Life: Free E-Book
As I said above, I’ve put together an e-book dealing with these very issues.
It’s called “Rx for Writers: Managing Your Writing Space and Writing Time.”
I’ll be giving it away this Friday as a kick-off to some changes that are coming.
See you back here on Friday. And if you know any writers with these issues, please pass the word. I’d love to have them check in here on Friday for their free e-book.
September 18, 2012
First we talked about the anxiety stirred up when it’s time to start a writing project. Then we talked about four causes of this “weakened mind anxiety,” a term coined by Eric Maisel in Fearless Creating.
The next obvious question is: what do we do about it?
As it turns out, we do many things in order to make ourselves create. Some are appropriate and helpful. Others, however, are not. Let’s mention those first.
Things we do that get us writing, but do NOT help in the long run, may include:
- Beat yourself into submission with “shoulds.” Call yourself names and force yourself into your office.
- Find fortitude (or relaxation) in heavy doses of chocolate, caffeine, or other drugs to dampen the anxiety enough to work.
- Narrowly focus on something do-able, perhaps something you’ve done before that can be “tweaked” or modified, instead of creating something new.
- Rationalizing an interest in shallow commercial work that seems to sell better in today’s culture instead of producing what is true and deep and sincere.
I think we’d all agree that those solutions are temporary, at best. You also rarely enjoy the writing process when you choose such a “getting started” method.
Helpful Solutions for Writing Anxiety
There are 22 techniques in Mastering Creative Anxiety (Maisel), but I will only list a handful of things you can try. If anxiety over getting started is a big problem for you, I’d recommend getting both of his books. The sample solutions I list may not apply to your particular problem.
1. It’s here to stay.
“Embrace the idea that sitting there and doing the actual work of creating provokes anxiety. Accept it.” (Mastering Creative Anxiety) This may sound like bad news, but it was rather a relief to me. I could stop thinking there was something wrong with me for feeling anxious. “Do not hope for the process to be different,” Maisel says. Instead, learn anxiety-management tools. In other words, the feeling won’t kill us–we can learn tools to overcome it and write anyway.
2. Power Thoughts
Physical relaxation coupled with power thougths can drastically lower your anxiety level and help you slip right into writing. (Don’t discount this till you try it. My first reaction was, “Oh this is hokey.” But after it worked for me, I was impressed!) First, learn to breathe deeply, five counts when breathing in and five counts when breathing out. Then write out some power thoughts to contradict the neagative thoughts you’ve been telling yourself. Say the first half of the sentence to yourself when breathing in, and the second half when beathing out.
Sentences like this along with the slow, deep breathing can work wonders:
- (I am equal) (to this challenge.)
- (I am called) (to write.)
- (I can do) (hard things.)
- (Anxiety can’t) (hurt me.)
- (I write) (with ease.)
Begin using these daily as part of your anxiety-management program.
3. Get Physical!
Discharge your built-up anxiety with physical activity. Stretch, run around the block, or jog in place. (Of if you have a treadmill desk like mine, rev it up faster for a few minutes.) Don’t sit and brood and grow more anxious.
4. Develop an “artist’s discipline.”
Do you want to develop discipline as a writer? Understand that an artist’s discipline is a different kind of discipline. We think of discipline like doing an exercise program daily or disciplining ourselves to show up for our day job on time. However, for a writer “there is only one discipline, the discipline of creating regularly even while anxious,” says Maisel. Learn the tools!
So…Where’s the Hitch?
Can you master creative anxiety instead of it mastering you? Maisel says yes–but there’s a condition.
“Anxiety mastery requires that you actually do the work of managing and reducing your anxiety. It is not enough to have a refined sense of why and when you become anxious: you must then do something.”
Because I don’t want to plagiarize his books, I won’t list more of Maisel’s solutions. But they include lifestyle changes, behavioral changes, changing the way you think, various relaxation and guided imagery techniques, “detachment” training and identifying those things that trigger writer’s anxiety in you.
As Anna Held Audette said,
“There are probably as many ways to get started as there are ways of chasing the blues. Use anything that works even if it seems ridiculous or not what an artist does.”
If getting started writing troubles you to a significant degree, take steps to change as much of the anxiety as you can. Yes, a certain amount appears to be inherent in the writing process, but it’s up to us if we let it cripple us–or if we choose to use it as a springboard for writing growth.
September 11, 2012
Last week we talked about “weakened mind anxiety” and what that feels like.
Symptoms that rear their ugly heads just before you try to write include fatigue, foggy brain, depression and an urge to cry/sleep/watch TV/surf the ‘Net. (from Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel)
What’s the Problem?
Before we talk about solutions, I think it would be helpful to explore why we experience so much anxiety when trying to do creative work. For me, at least, understanding is half the battle.
Mastering Creative Anxiety (another book by Eric Maisel) talks about various reasons this occurs. One or more (or all of them!) may apply to you. As with most ailments, different causes require different solutions.
1. Desire for Excellence
We love books. We love to read. We have stories we’ve treasured since childhood. We have high standards when it comes to what we like to read.
We doubt the quality of our work as we measure it against these high standards and strive to make our work excellent. We know the quality of writing we dream of producing. The gap between our desire and what we actually write causes high anxiety.
2. Negative Self-Talk
Our thoughts dictate, to a large degree, what our anxiety level is on any given day. Think thoughts like “I’ll always be mediocre” or “I’ll never sell another book” or “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and you’ll procrastinate into a major writing block.
Thoughts like this are not just “unhelpful.” They are damaging to a huge degree, pulling us further down in a black hole.
3. The Creative Process Itself
I had never thought of this, but Maisel is so right when he talks about the creative process being exactly the opposite of how we spend the rest of our days, so it goes against the grain.
As he points out, our entire days are spent trying to avoid mistakes and “get it right.” You get up at the right time, you eat the right foods (or try to), drive on the right side of the road, use your computer correctly so it doesn’t malfunction, etc. Your whole day and mind are aimed at not making mistakes and avoiding unnecessary risks. Maisel points out:
“Then, somehow, you must shift from that way of being and thinking to a radically different state, one in which mistakes and messes are not only possible and probable but downright guaranteed. Of course that makes you anxious!”
Procrastination produces anxiety. We feel immobilized and trapped by our own resistance. It erodes our self-image.
Whatever caused us initially to block only grows with procrastination. It is, says Maisel,
“a classic vicious cycle, in which our new anxiety prevents us from dealing with whatever provoked our initial anxiety and caused us to procrastinate.”
The Good News
Now that we’ve defined and described weakened mind anxiety, and we’ve considered the main causes, we’ll be ready next week to discuss the anxiety-management skills that can defeat it!
May 23, 2012
I’m so excited! I found an answer to my pain condition, a condition aggravated by decades of sitting at a desk. If you’ve read my blog very long (or my Writer’s First Aid or More Writer’s First Aid), then you know I talk about health issues for writers. Even if you have no pain, it’s a big issue, as you’ll see below.
I’ve had headaches, upper back pain, and neck pain (and multiple surgeries)–and all these conditions are made worse by hours slumped at a desk. (Yes, no matter how straight my posture is at the beginning, it’s not long before my shoulders are rounded and my head is forward.)
I wish I had taken out stock in Excedrin years ago. I’m sure I’ve kept them in business.
My New Exciting Work Station
My dear writing friend, Maribeth Boelts, wrote to me a couple months ago about her new treadmill desk. It was helping her with a chronic pain condition of her own, and she urged me try it. I researched the idea (see sources below), read about the benefits, saw how some writers had constructed their own inexpensive treadmill desks, and decided to try it.
Maribeth had assured me she got the knack of typing while walking in less than 15 minutes. I figured I would give it a week–I don’t think I’m that coordinated. But she was right–it took less than 15 minutes!
She also mentioned that the constant walking took care of her “ants in the pants” feeling while sitting at a desk. I have found that to be true too. I think better when I’m moving, and since you’re always walking, you don’t feel the “itch” to get up all the time. In fact, I use a timer now to remind myself after an hour to get off and walk on “dry land.” The first week I had the desk, I worked once for three hours without stopping, and it took a while to get my “sea legs” back when I got off. But what a nice problem to have! Concentrating too long!
Dangers of Sitting
“It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting – in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home – you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”
And consider this from “Sitting All Day: Worse for You Than You Might Think”: “If you’re sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type. But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly,” Blair says. And because the major muscles aren’t moving, metabolism slows down. “We’re finding that people who sit more have less desirable levels” of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, he says, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of health problems.
Not sold yet? Did I mention that I now have to eat a lot more in order not to lose weight? For someone my age whose metabolism went into a coma a decade ago, it’s been heavenly to eat what I want! (Or you can slowly drop unwanted weight, if you prefer.)
Benefits of Walking While Working
This article lists more than 60 benefits resulting from using a treadmill desk. Here are just the first ten:
- 1.Weight loss of up to 50-70 lbs in a single year without restrictive dieting
- 2.Reduces stress and depression symptoms 30%-47% faster and more effectively than medications (source: Harvard Medical School)
- 3.Long-term Success: Requires no extra time, effort or motivation
- 4.50% reduction in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes (source: American Diabetes Association)
- 5.Reduces the risk of cancers 30-70% (source: National Institutes for Health)
- 6.Improves memory and cognitive abilities as much as 15% in a 6 month period (source: University of Illinois)
- 7.A workout at work with a TrekDesk treadmill desk slows physical and mental aging processes
- 8.90% reduction in risk of initial heart attacks (source: American Heart Association)
- 9.70% reduction in the risk of stroke (source: American Heart Association)
- 10.Strengthens the immune system, prevents disease and restores health.
Practical Tips: Money
If you decide to try this, let me get practical with you. You don’t have to spend much money, even though there are treadmill desks available for several thousand dollars. If you already have a treadmill with straight horizontal arms, you can make this desk for zero dollars. You can also find used (but like new!) treadmills very inexpensively on craigslist. Because my office is very small and already crammed full, we got a treadmill that easily folds up when not in use.
My husband built the wall mounted shelf from scrap lumber in the garage. See photo right below. I think since the treadmill desk is working so well for me that I will get some paint and give the shelf some color. Ditto the keyboard shelf.
The keyboard shelf is just a board laid across the treadmill arms. (Again, the arms must be level.) Because I wanted to be able to fold the treadmill up, my keyboard shelf is removable (held on with Velcro straps underneath). See third photo. Sometimes when I have boring reading to do (like a marketing book), I move the keyboard off and read there. I clipped on a reading light. The walking keeps me from falling asleep while doing necessary reading.
Practical Tips: Clothes
Although I’m wearing jeans in the photo above, I don’t stay in jeans or sweats very long. You warm up fairly quickly, even at very low speeds. Dress in layers so you can peel off as you work. I use a fan later in the day.
And wear good walking or running shoes! I tried it barefoot one day, and my legs really hurt the next day.
Practical Tips: Speed
When you read about people’s experience with treadmill desks, you’ll hear advice that you should start at 1 mile per hour. Go ahead and do that, but if you’re like me (and Maribeth), you’ll be comfortable walking faster. I like it at 2 mph. For some reason, the 1 mph hurt my hip and felt awkwardly slow. Experiment.
Some people recommend standing at a computer desk without walking. I tried that a couple times and got a real backache (probably because I don’t stand up straight any better than I sit up straight.) Walking forces you upright!
Remember to take breaks too. You’ll find your brain working faster when you walk, and so it’s tempting to go for hours and hours without a break. Set a timer for a while until you get used to your own rhythm.
PLEASE NOTE One last thing: there are treadmill desks for laptop computers, where you have to raise your hands higher. I have not tried this with my laptap, and it doesn’t look comfortable to me at all. It might work fine, but I can’t personally recommend it to you. My treadmill desk is for a desktop model.
December 16, 2011
Today let’s look at Key #2: thinking like a writer. These keys are based on Susan Perry’s Writing in Flow.
CHANGE MY THINKING?
We all think like writers already, or we wouldn’t be writing, correct? True enough, but in this series we’re concentrating on developing the ability to write in flow. Do writers who frequently write deeply and easily think differently?
Yes, it appears that they do. They have a certain set of attitudes, based on hundreds of Perry’s interviews. If we study these attitudes and beliefs and incorporate them into our own thinking, we should also be able to write in flow, be more productive, and enjoy the writing more.
This doesn’t mean you need a new personality. Quite the contrary. Be who you are, Perry says. “When you work with what comes naturally to you rather than struggling against it—whether it’s your preference for an uncluttered workspace or your tendency to do the opposite when those little voices in your head suggest that you ought to be answering those letters rather than writing a poem—you can apply your energy to what matters most to you.”
Another attitude, especially with writers in the early years, has to do with spending free time pursuing writing. They may be “troubled by the niggling feeling that taking too much time for their writing is slightly selfish because it’s like stealing time from their family,” Perry says. “If you identify with that second attitude, naturally you might find it more difficult to let go and focus fully when you do sit down to write.”
This attitude is easy to overcome after you are published and making money at your writing. Before that, I found that I got over the guilt when I took my writing time from my own free time activities—my sleep, TV, time with my friends. I gave up my own “extras” instead of taking it from the family, and then I didn’t feel guilty. It’s very hard to relax and write “in flow” when you’re feeling guilty!
Relaxing into flow—that essential letting go—can feel risky to certain personality types like mine. I don’t like risks, and I spend too much time probably trying to avoid risks. I would love it if I could make all my loved ones stop taking risks too! However, being afraid to take risks in your writing can stifle you as a writer.
“Taking risks, of whatever kind, can be especially challenging to those who can’t bear to give up control,” Perry says. “You can learn to open yourself to the unexpected, which is such a rich source of creative insight, by giving up control in small ways.” Remember, we’re talking about taking risks in your writing. You can certainly still control all the things in your environment that help you get into the flow state: clean desk, soft music, set daily routines, writing in certain locations, whatever you need.
For many writers, taking risks with your writing—in subject matter, in tone—can be scary. What will XXX think? (XXX = your editor, your mother, your spouse, the critics…) If you are focused on the fear of taking risks and what others will think, you can’t relax enough to enter the flow state.
One day I realized that in order to avoid that feeling, I only had to promise myself never to show the story to anyone if I didn’t want to. It never had to see the light of day, never had to offend anyone or hurt someone’s feelings. That decision helped me to write freely. And when I’d get to a place in the story that set off internal alarm bells (“You can’t say that!”), I said to myself (out loud), “No one ever needs to see this. I can say what I want. I can always change it later if I want to.” Writing this way, there is no risk involved whatsoever—and you can’t fail.
BE FULLY ABSORBED
Being fully absorbed in your work is very close to working in flow. And it’s a decision you can choose to make more often. Being fully absorbed means you “are deeply immersed in some activity as to be impervious to distractions…As a personality trait, absorption reflects the degree of your tendency to become deeply engaged in movies, nature, past events, fantasy or anything else.”
This type of person will have an easier time entering the flow state, which requires an ability to become deeply engaged and weed out distractions. A fully absorbed person can watch a good movie or read a good book and forget (temporarily) about negative distractions like his hunger, his headache, and her fight with her spouse—or lovely distractions like the phone, a beautiful day outside, or the cake in the kitchen.
You don’t start out writing with confidence or the ability to bounce back from rejection. You will need to find ways to master your fears, find confidence in your own writing voice, plus deal with isolation and self-doubt. All writers have to do this. I wrote many years with no confidence whatsoever. It can be done, but it’s rather torturous. I wasn’t writing in the enjoyable, timeless flow we’re talking about.
If you want help in this area, I highly recommend Cecil Murphey’s new book called Unleash the Writer Within: the Essential Writers’ Companion. Rather than working to overcome your weaknesses, the author shows you how to make friends with them and turn them into strengths. He deals with helping you find your real voice, like yourself, deal with the inner critic in an usual way, shatter writer’s block, and more. And he does all this in such a kind, straightforward and transparent way. Cec Murphey has millions of books in print and speaks from experience.
LONG-TERM PREPARATION FOR WRITING
If you have several attitudes mentioned above that need adjusting, you can’t just sit down and decide to think like a writer right now, so you can slip into flow. It takes time, depending on your mental attitudes at this time.
Developing the above attitudes will help you tolerate anxiety, be more open to new experiences, and learn to trust the writer you already are. If you feel like you need help in this area of “writerly attitudes that benefit you,” Unleash the Writer Within is my suggestion for you. I wish I’d had this book thirty years ago.
I’ve given you a lot to think about this week on the subject of writing in flow. Next week we’ll begin with Key #3: Loosen Up!
November 16, 2011
Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and give yourself permission to read something uplifting and helpful for fifteen minutes. Here’s a variety of posts, covering several subjects dear to the creative heart. Enjoy!
How to Avoid the Power of the Drift talks about the value of planning your life–and the dangers of NOT planning. You won’t “drift” into the writing life of your dreams.
The Week Three Pep Talk from NaNoWriMo by Deb Olin Unferth is full of great practical tips on how to keep going on your novel.
Ten Timeless Books for An Organized Mind gives you a great selection of books on getting organized and getting the writing done. (I already own #3, #5, #6, and #8. I just ordered #4 to learn how to de-clutter my mind!)
Procrastination is an artist’s site, but the issue concerns all creative pursuits. It ends with a great one-minute video showing procrastination in all its glory.
November 14, 2011
I’ve noticed one amazing thing about myself and other writers who claim to want to write more than anything else. Something odd takes over, and we fill the free time of our lives with all kinds of non-writing activities. We reach for things that make us feel good, that quell any anxiety we might be feeling, or at least keep us occupied.
What fills our lives–what quells our anxiety–can be either positive or negative. The activity we choose can be either a pacifier or a catalyst.
What’s the Outcome?
Activities that fall under the heading of “pacifiers” are things like mindless TV viewing, complaining about the sad state of publishing to all your writing friends, eating mass amounts of comfort food, surfing the Net, playing video games, or shopping till you drop.
Nothing good (for your writing career) comes from any of those activities. They serve simply as pacifiers, something to make the whining, fretful baby in us be quiet. But are we then any closer to our writing goals? No, not at all. We’ve simply passed some time–writing time that we can’t get back.
Positive Time Fillers
What if you’re tired of your non-writing rut, but you can’t seem to crawl out of it either? What can you fill your free time with instead of a pacifier activity? Why not try a catalyst instead? A catalyst is a springboard for change, something that nudges you in a better direction. The next time you feel anxious about your writing and you want to fill your time with something to soothe the fear, why not try a positive change agent?
Activities that fall into the catalyst category might include:
- watching an inspiring movie about an “overcomer”
- spending time with a writing mentor or coach
- reading an inspirational book or self-help writing book
- listening to motivational tapes
- reading a biography or watching a documentary about someone you admire (especially another writer)
- reading a current copy of The Writer or Writer’s Digest
- attending a writing conference, retreat or workshop
Think Ahead–Then Choose
We all feel anxious sometimes to the point of being stuck. That’s okay. Just be aware that there are activities that only pacify the fear (and waste your time)–but there are also enjoyable activities that can act as catalysts to get you writing. Choose the activity that is going to propel you forward, not help you stagnate even further.
We all have our favorite catalysts. Mine include reading inspirational writing books or writing articles I’ve saved over the years, Skyping with another author about writing issues, or watching a movie about authors (like Becoming Jane, Cross Creek, Finding Forrester, Finding Neverland, or Miss Potter).
What is your favorite pacifier–and what’s the effect on your writing? On the positive side, what is your most helpful catalyst and its effect on your writing? Please share some ideas that work best for you.
November 11, 2011
People often tell me that I’m very productive, so it was a shock recently to take a procrastination test and come out in the top 10% of procrastinators!
It said I scored 80 out of 100 possible points and “when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t… Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress.”
Procrastination: Who, Me?
I wanted to mutter “stupid test,” but I was aware that certain bad writing habits (dare I call it procrastination?) were affecting the quality of my work. Oh, I got the writing done, but too often lately the quality was less than it could be because I delayed starting. I was submitting writing that was less than my best because it was hurried.
I think I had deluded myself into thinking there was no problem because I was busy all the time. I am never late with the educational writing, and usually early. I am never late for my M-W-F blogs or paid critiques. I don’t even procrastinate on writing nonfiction books. Just fiction. Just the “pulling words out of thin air and making up people and whole worlds” kind of writing.
Check Yourself Out
Why is getting started so hard? In a magazine article on procrastination in Children’s Writer, the following quote struck me as true–of me, anyway:
“In many cases, we procrastinate because we are anxious about the work at hand. It seems too difficult or onerous. ‘The hardest part of any task is the first five minutes. It’s like cold water. It’s just getting in that’s the hard part. Once you’re in, the water feels great,’ says Steel [a university professor who studies procrastination]. ‘Usually after procrastinating, once people finally get around to the task, they say, ‘I don’t know why I thought this would be so much worse than it was.’”
That struck me as true, so this week I’ve been starting my NaNoWriMo writing by setting a timer for just five minutes. Then I write furiously for five minutes, with permission to quit if I hate it at the end of five minutes. Have I stopped yet when the timer went off? No. I’m on a roll by then, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d made it in my mind.
Why do we do this to ourselves over and over? It feels silly to have to “trick” my muse with a kitchen timer. But hey, it works, so I’ll probably keep doing it until I find something that works better!
What about you? What tricks do YOU use to get started?
November 2, 2011
Yesterday, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I had such good intentions. But my novel idea looked overwhelming to me (and rather stupid, I must also admit). I dinked around, trying to get started, until 3 p.m.!!! Major procrastination. I got a few other things done, but mostly I wasted precious writing time. I only got 635 words written, way short of the daily 1,667 words needed to meet the 50,000 word goal in November.
Then I remembered an old trick I once used to break other bad habits and decided to use it this morning to cure the procrastination temptation. (This works for all kinds of procrastination, from avoiding exercise to avoiding the keyboard.)
Make a Movie!
Being tempted to do any of the things we do to avoid writing (watch a movie, eat sweets, play on the Internet) deals with avoidance and some kind of instant gratification. We want to feel better about our procrastination and time wasting. When you “make a movie,” you move beyond the instant “feel good” aspect of your contemplated activity–and play the movie out to the end.
You don’t concentrate on how good you’ll feel if you stop and watch TV and eat half a gallon of ice cream. You play out the whole scenario. An hour or two later, how will you feel? After you waste the whole day, how will you feel? What will it cost you today, in terms of productivity and lost self-esteem? What will it mean in the long run if you do this all the time? (No career? Death from some obesity-related disease? No self-respect?)
Borrow This Template
When faced with a procrastination temptation, turn to this questionnaire (below) which I keep in a document template on my computer. I filled it out in detail this morning before writing almost 2,000 words (yippee!), and after I blog, I will probably fill out the questions again because “afternoon slump” is starting to set in. Feel free to copy this questionnaire to use. It’s a great technique for helping you look past the instant fun of procrastinating to what you can accomplish if you take the long view. Here’s the form to fill out:
Pause when facing any kind of temptation to procrastinate (by eating unhealthy food, or watching TV, or surfing the ‘Net, etc.) and fill in these answers in writing:
I consistently struggle with the following bad habit:
When I play the tape through to the logical conclusion, the end result of this habit makes me feel:
and does the following to my self-respect:
typically produces the following results in me:
If left unchecked, the behavior will probably lead to the following long-term consequences:
ON THE OTHER HAND…
If I play the other healthy tape all the way through to its logical conclusion and choose NOT to give in to my bad habit, I feel:
and my self-respect is:
typically produces the following results in me:
If I keep away from this bad habit, I will benefit from the following long-term results:
Whatever temptation you’re facing right now, take a few minutes and make a movie. Follow your intended actions to their long-term consequences. Is it the life you want? If not, make another movie. In this movie, you resist temptation and make the right choices–consistently. Take time to linger over the final credits of this movie. If you want, it could be your life!
August 31, 2011
When re-reading Getting It Done by Andrew J. DuBrin, PH.D., I came to a section on dealing with procrastination. One suggestion is something I’d like your feedback on.
He said you can make progress with procrastination if you “compartmentalize spheres of life.” He says that if you have multiple demands on your time that seem overwhelming, “mentally wear the same blinders placed on horses so they can concentrate better on the race and not be distracted.”
Box It Up!
I would love to be able to do that on a regular basis! Are you able to compartmentalize? I agree with the author that procrastination is more tempting when multiple demands are swirling and competing in your mind.
I think that male writers have an advantage here. They seem able to put things in boxes, tape the lids shut, and then deal with one box at a time. (I know this for a fact because I can tell when I am being put in the “wife” box!)
Women, however, mix things up. Our concern for our child’s health or marriage problems or a sibling’s financial crisis “bleeds over” into our writing time. And we tend to feel guilty if we’re happily typing away while a member of our family is in trouble or needs us.
So…please share your wisdom with me. Men, if you can explain how to put things in boxes or make blinders work, please advise. Ladies, if you’ve figured out how to push aside your other concerns while you write, please share.
I bet we could all use some tips!Newer Posts »