5 Tips to Fight the Writing Procrastination Gremlins

For every 300-word blog entry or 2,000-word article they write, many writers spend a substantial part of that time doing everything they can to not write the story.

I know, I know, shhhh! I’ve just blabbed a state secret among us writers.

Writing may be something you have wanted to do since you started a class magazine in the sixth grade, wrote editorials for your college paper or had to succumb to it because of your current job responsibilities. But whatever the case, writers of all types excel at avoiding writing.

Here are five tips to fight the writing procrastination gremlins, rev up your creative vibe and start writing.

  1. Step away from the computer (and no one will get hurt). The word 'Now' is centered on a blackboard in white chalk, surrounded by other words relating to procrastination that are crossed out.

Staring at a blank screen, fingers hovering centimeters above the keyboard is too much pressure. You may as well have a 1950s schoolmarm standing behind you, slapping her ruler on the back of your chair, barking “Write now!”

Instead, take a walk around the block or up and down the stairs at work, thinking about your article as you go, for 5–15 minutes. Sometimes just the simple choice to get up and move helps organize your thoughts (and you’ll get a little exercise).

  1. Stop working.

Now, I’m not trying to get you fired, but if you’re really stuck on a story, put it aside and don’t think about it again until you’re away from your job. Many writers do their best thinking during their commute or in the shower. Others spin phrases and write their leads while jogging or doing yoga.

If you play with words and ideas while simultaneously doing a task that doesn’t take much concentration, sometimes that perfect phrase will come to the surface.

  1. Type up your notes.

If you still take handwritten notes during an interview, type up those notes—immediately after the interview, if possible. You’ll remember the cadence and tone in a person’s voice, and strong quotes will pop out at you. It can also help you to see what the story structure or outline should be.

  1. Mimic your fourth-grade teacher.

Pretend you’re sharing a story with a classroom of readers. Print out your notes or story draft and read them aloud. If you don’t want to be ridiculed in an office full of people, then silently “say” the words out loud while moving your mouth. Even feigning reading aloud causes your brain and eyes to slow down and focus on each word, instead of simply scanning.

And by hearing your story, you’ll notice phrases that need more “oomph” and those that are solid. You may even be more likely to catch grammatical errors.

  1. Be your own taskmaster.

Distractions today are infinite: Email alerts. Co-workers’ chatter. Facebook and Twitter. Plus, the constant buzzing or ringing of your smartphone.

Turn off all notifications and shut down all tabs. Now, force yourself to start writing for a set period of time.

Try the Pomodoro Method: Set a timer for 25 minutes and begin writing. Don’t stop until the timer goes off. Then, take a five-minute break doing something completely different. Then start the 25-minute process again. While you can stick to the Pomodoro method, I find that once I get started, I don’t want to stop and I’ll continue writing.

Now, get to work. I’ll join you, as I need to turn my attention to the feature article I gladly shoved aside for the last hour to write this blog.

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