We all tread this writing journey with a certain amount of trepidation. Even the most successful authors have concerns.
Will my novel be good enough? Is the story strong?
Will I get good reviews? Have I written my best?
Is there another novel inside me?
It is human nature to agonize over these worries but with support from family, friends and a writing group you can lessen them.
What makes you most anxious in your writing life?
Unfortunately, stress has a detrimental effect on the creative process so we must try to elevate it. There are a few simple methods to help us.
Firstly, walk away from the project and find somewhere quiet to take some deep breaths.
When our body is stressed it tends to hyperventilate with short low breaths. Breath slowly and deeply.
If possible, take a day away from the project – obviously this isn’t always possible – but try to take at least an hour.
Time away enjoying something else refreshes the brain.
If the thought of leaving the project adds to your stress, take notes of how you want to proceed. They will help get you back into the mindset and you have a reference to guide you.
Focus on each step instead of overwhelming yourself with the ‘whole’ project.
Give yourself a reasonable time frame.
If it helps map out each step from start to finish – you have set goals per day, week or month – but ensure you have factored in extra time for each one. That way if a step takes longer than anticipated you still have a buffer of time to complete it.
How do you cope with stress?
This link has some great ideas – http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/8-stress-management-tips-for-writers/
I am honored to thank the wonderful writers I spent this past weekend with at Strawberry Creek Retreat. Unfortunately, Brenda was not in the group photo (unsure why!) but I found one to add. These marvelous women shared their stories – fictional and real – with each other and found fellowship, encouragement and lots of laughter in each others company. We wrote our words, commented and assisted each other, walked in the spring sunshine, explored the many trails and enjoyed the most delicious meals with copious amounts of wine – for the fortification of our respective Muse’s of course! We all succeeded in accomplishing our goals for the weekend but more than that we found a camaraderie that inspired us to create, safe in the knowledge we were respected and honored. My work in progress, Willow Tree Tears, a cowgirl romance was read through, edited and 3000 words added. So I feel accomplished. After settling into our respective rooms the weekend began with an excellent meal, after which a short questionnaire and writing exercise were handed out to complete (or not) over the weekend. Then it was down to writing our projects and utilizing the glorious spaces, inside and out. With communal areas and private rooms and nooks, there was somewhere for everyone. Whether you wanted company or not. Every meal was shared together and laughter was a dish served at each one. We paired up, strolled alone or grouped together over coffee – getting to know each other better or for the first time. No matter which, we all found a gift given and received of generosity and caring. I recommend writing retreats to all writers – it sparks the muse, and gives us the opportunity to share with fellow creators.
Dilatory – definition: 1. tending to put off what ought to be done at once : given to procrastination; 2. marked by procrastination or delay; intended to cause delay, especially said of actions or measures
What aspect of your writing life do you procrastination the most about?
Or do you put off other aspects of your life for your writing?
The latter is most certainly me – yes I admit it – the housework can pile up! Given the choice I would immerse myself in my creativity 24/7 – alas that’s not possible – YET! The day job gets in the way as does the dreaded chores but retirement is a golden carrot (well in my case, a golden pen!) dangling ahead of me, drawing me ever closer to my dream.
Do you have any tricks to stop yourself procrastinating?
1. The First 30 Minutes Of The Day Is Always For Work
Does this sound familiar: you start the work day/study session telling yourself – you’re “just going to check email/facebook/twitter/reddit for 5 minutes, then I’m going to get to work”. Before you know it, 5 minutes has dragged into 2 hours, and 2 hours has dragged into 4 hours, and you realize you have spent half your day sucked into a never-ending loop of checking email, social media, youtube, and your favorite viral news sites?
The first 30 minutes of your day/work day/study session should be spent doing work. If you really need to check email or your social news sites, do it once you have established a good work groove and you’ll find it much easier to shut it off. Or better yet, block distractions out completely until you’re done.
Having trouble jumping into those first 30 minutes? Tell yourself that you’re just going to get 10 minutes of work done and if its just too painful, you’ll give yourself a break. That first 10 minutes is usually all you need to start getting focused.
2. Become More Self Aware
Procrastination usually comes in two forms. There’s:
Difficulty in starting a task
Getting distracted while working on a task
They both follow a similar pattern of self rationalization.
You tell yourself “I really need to get started on this.”
You feel stressed.
You feel an urge to do something else, so you tell yourself “I’ll get started soon, but I can afford another 5 minutes doing this one other thing.”
Giving yourself this little reprieve relieves the stress temporarily and reinforces the neural pathways associated with procrastination, making it just a bit easier to fall victim to procrastination again, 5 minutes later.
Try this next time you find yourself facing this never-ending cycle. Next time you’re about to start a task and you feel a voice in your head telling you to “check your email, it might be important!”, or “I wonder if anyone commented on my Facebook status”, resist the urge. Tell yourself you’ll just resist it this one time.
You’ll find that the urge does pass once you acknowledge it for what it is – a sudden impulse driven by your reptilian brain.
3. Block Out Distractions
Did you know that willpower is a limited resource that can be depleted like any other form of energy? Much like going on a morning jog tires you out for your evening work out, the more energy you spend resisting temptation, the less energy you’ll have for resisting temptation later on. This has been confirmed by real studies.
What does this mean for someone trying to get rid of procrastination? It means that just knowing that Facebook or Reddit is one click away can make it more likely that you’ll get distracted and start procrastinating. While you might be able to resist the temptation during the first half of your work day, as you expend energy focusing, you’ll become more and more likely to give into temptation and start procrastinating.
To avoid this, use software like Rescuetime, StayFocusd or Freedom to block distracting websites, or block the internet out altogether. Not having to deal with the temptation of constant distractions will not only make it less likely that you’ll succumb to momentary temptation, but it will actually give you more energy to focus on your work and avoid procrastinating when you’re tired.
4. Embrace Imperfection
One of the reasons we procrastinate is to avoid having to make tough decisions and deal with a difficult task. If you’re trying to write the perfect paper, coming up with the perfect thesis can be so intimidating that you don’t even want to get started.
Instead of always aiming for perfection, start intimidating projects by just getting started. Can’t come up with a perfect first line for your essay? Just start writing anything that comes to mind on the topic. Can’t think of a topic? Just start writing down anything vaguely related to the subject matter.
The same can be applied to studying. Is the thought of reading that thick textbook too intimidating? Just start by reading the table of contents, or the first page. Too tired to take notes or really process the concepts? Just skim through what you need to get through and come back tomorrow to re-examine the material when you’re refreshed. Getting something done is better than doing nothing, and once you get started, you’ll often find you have more energy than you thought you did.
5. Make Yourself A Date
Human beings can be strange – if we’re meeting a friend, we’ll set a fixed time to do so, and we show up. Most of us would never make an appointment with a friend and simply avoid showing up for no reason. Yet when it comes to important tasks like going to the gym, or getting another chapter written for your novel, we’ll just set vague goals and feel perfectly comfortable pushing back our self-imposed deadlines.
Start scheduling your important tasks and showing up every time, no matter what. You would not bail on a meeting with a friend just because you feel a little tired, would you? So why do you do it with the gym? If you want to go to the gym 3 times a week, instead of just telling yourself you’ll go 3 times this week, pick 3 days and 3 times that you’re going to show up, and don’t miss those appointments no matter what.
Dross – definition: 1) the waste slag or scum that forms on the surface of molten metal 2) waste or foreign matter : impurity 3) something that is base, trivial or inferior
No matter if you are a new writer or a seasoned one, there are times when we read a paragraph or short excerpt and just despair. It can be the premise, the interaction of characters or just how the scene reads. We’re just not happy with it. Depending on your mind set at that moment, there are a few spur of the moment actions that may occur. Pressing delete is number one for most of us as we berate ourselves for writing such dross. Another is to focus too hard on it and become bogged down, re-writing again and again, usually having the result of making us even angrier and unable to concentrate creatively.
If you are absolutely sure that deleting the passage is the only way, then do it but if not, save the offending article in isolation – may be create a ‘dross’ file? Leave the work and do something else, non-writing related. A walk, a workout, make a cup of tea and read a book for a while, no matter what it is distract your mind. In the terminology of the computer age – reboot your mind. Once you return you can see the article with fresh eyes and if you are lucky a revision will reveal itself.
Another aspect of ‘dross’ thinking is when you have finished a project and second-guess yourself as to its merits. Is it good enough? Will anyone like it? Is my writing worthy of submission to a publisher, a magazine or beta readers? We are uncertain literary beings at the best of times and unfortunately compare ourselves to the ‘greats’. All of us have heard the stories of successful authors receiving many rejections before being ‘found’, such J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and John le Carre. Make yourself feel better just look at this link – http://www.examiner.com/article/30-famous-authors-whose-works-were-rejected-repeatedly-and-sometimes-rudely-by-publishers
There is always a golden phrase or sentence that is worth saving or revising. Juggle the words, mix the sentences around or write it from a different characters perspective. Do not give up hope – your words are precious after all.