My thanks to Victoria (Tori) Zigler for the below guest post. I meant to post this weeks ago. However, with the need to do housework, answer emails, varnish my toenails and so many other things, I have only just got round to doing so! Did someone just accuse me of procrastination!
We all know how it starts. We have the best intentions when it comes to writing, but then we think of something we must do first, and then… Wait. What happened to the last two hours?
Ah, yes. Procrastination. It does wonders for keeping up with housework, or what family and friends are posting on social media. But it’s not so great for getting that novel written, or trying out that new poetry form you read about the other day.
I used to be fantastic at avoiding procrastination. You only have to look at my list of published works to see that. But nobody’s perfect, and at some point we all stumble on that road to success, and none of us is immune to procrastination, unfortunately.
I’m sure many people have stories from last year similar to mine: I went in to 2020 with high hopes. I’d finally gotten my backlist available in audio. My health was stable enough I was spending more time at home than in hospital. The awful neighbour we’d had living below us was gone. And I’d finally figured out how to make the dogs let me get some writing done most days. It was going to be a great year for writing!
Until it wasn’t.
At first, even with the pandemic hitting, I managed to limp along with my writing plans, despite fighting anxiety issues. Then some things happened in my personal life. I ended up in a situation where I had to move twice in six months, during which a family member who had always been a big part of my life died, both situations made even more difficult to deal with because of pandemic-related restrictions. Of course, it was my writing that suffered for it. After all, with all that to deal with, nobody could expect me to even feel much like writing, let alone actually find time and energy to do so, right?
Unfortunately, while it’s true there are times when other things have to take priority over your writing, and last year certainly held a lot of those for us all, it’s very easy for those reasons to become excuses, and for you to fall in to the trap of writerly procrastination. But, sooner or later, you have to figure out how to take up that pen – or keyboard – and get back to writing again.
With that in mind, here are some tips for fighting procrastination. Many of these have been mentioned by others before, but I know I could use the reminder, even if you don’t need it. They’ve worked for me in the past, so I’m hoping they will again, and maybe they’ll help you too. Feel free to add your own in the comments if I missed any.
1. No matter what’s keeping you from your writing, set yourself a date to get back to work, and stick to it. Treat it like an appointment that can’t be missed, or the first day back at a day job after time off. If life keeps throwing obstacles in your way, or you’re dealing with a situation or change in circumstances with no end in sight, find a way to carve out your writing time anyhow. Sometimes it’s the only way.
2. Make sure everyone – especially those sharing your household – is aware of your intentions, and that they know there’s a day and time they need to leave you alone. Make them respect this, even if you have to resort to bribery. This is sometimes easier said than done, but find a way to make it happen.
3. Don’t answer the phone. Just don’t. If it helps, unplug the main phone, and turn off your mobile. It’s OK to be out of touch for a while… Honest!
4. Do not under any circumstances check social media or eMails during your writing time. Set aside time to do that either before or after your designated writing time.
5. Resist the urge to look things up during your writing session. If you need to know certain facts to accurately write a specific scene, just make a note of it somewhere and move on. It really is OK to do that. That’s the beauty of a first draft. You can plan a research session for another time, when it’s OK if you get lost down research rabbit holes. Now is for writing, and only writing!
6. If you use housework for procrastination, either plan to do it afterwards, or get it done before your writing time, depending on whether you work best after it’s done, or consider certain chores a reward. Hey, some people do view housework that way. Whatever works, right? If you’re like most of us, and it’s the writing that’s the reward, you could even try rewarding yourself with writing time between chores.
7. Make sure your pets’ needs are met, and play with them before your writing time. If their needs are met, and they’ve had some attention from you recently, they’re more likely to let you write in peace. This isn’t guaranteed – some days nothing is going to stop those petkids demanding your attention – but spending time with them first increases the chances they’ll let you have your writing time.
8. Whether you have a room to yourself, share one, write at the kitchen table, or whatever, make your writing space a pleasant one. Ever heard the word Hygge? It’s a Danish concept that loosely translates to ‘cosy’, and refers to that feeling of contentment you get when you’re doing something you enjoy, whether alone or with others. Bring some Hygge in to your writing space and routine.
9. Find your carrot. In other words, find that thing that’s going to encourage you to prioritize your writing. Whether it’s a reward for doing a certain number of words, or for spending a certain amount of time writing, figure out what it is, and reward yourself. Be careful not to make any food-based rewards too frequent though, or your waistline won’t thank you for it. Try focussing on non-food-based rewards.
10. Remember why you write. Sometimes just that reminder is enough to reawaken our enthusiasm for writing, and fight our way free of the procrastination trap. There’s a reason you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Remind yourself what it is.
11. Even if you’re just writing nonsense, when it’s your writing time, write. Eventually habit will kick in, and you’ll manage to write something worthwhile.
12. If you’re struggling to make progress on one writing project, work on another. You don’t want too many projects on the go at once; otherwise you’re never going to finish anything. But having a second project to work on while you mull over a tricky plot point in your main project can be useful.
Victoria Zigler is a blind vegan poet and children’s author. Born and raised in the shadow of the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, she moved away from Wales three times: once to spend six months living in Alberta, Canada, the other times to spend a few years living near Hastings on the South-East coast of England, UK, each time returning to Wales. Now she lives in Wales again, along with a chinchilla named Mollie, a West Highland White Terrier named Lilie, a Cavapoo named Logan, a Hermann’s Tortoise named Artemis, and her Canadian husband, Kelly.
Despite spending far more time than she’d have liked in hospital, and eventually losing her sight to Congenital Glaucoma, Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, with no plans to stop any time soon. So far she has published nine poetry books and 46 children’s books, all of which are available from a variety of online retailers in multiple eBook formats, as well as in both paperback and audio. She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II, which is available in eBook only. Additionally, Tori’s Hermann’s Tortoise, Artemis, was featured in both the Magnificent Pets Coloring Book For Children and the Magnificent Pets Mandala Coloring Book For Adults, which are available via Praise My Pet.
Vegan due to both a love for animals and dairy allergy, as well as an Eclectic Pagan, Tori describes herself as a combination of Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books: Hermione’s thirst for knowledge and love of books, combined with Luna’s wandering mind and alternative way of looking at the world. She has a wide variety of interests, designed to exercise both the creative and logical sides of her brain, and dabbles in them at random depending on what she feels like doing at any given time, but is most likely to be found playing with her petkids, curled up somewhere with a cup of tea and a book, or trying to keep one step ahead of those pesky typo fairies while writing her own books.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717
Find Tori’s books on…
…Along with a variety of other retailers, such as Audible, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.