Several years ago I wrote to a colleague who just couldn’t seem to “get back to writing.” Unlike here, where I am offering unsolicited advice in my blog, she did ask for advice. I did a stream of consciousness about what helped me to resume writing after a hiatus.
Most of it still holds true today when I find I’ve been procrastinating or downright into denial. One key for me is to use the word resume rather than begin. Beginnings can be so daunting. Where to start? What to write about? When to write? But resuming means I already have some knowledge, maybe even a few tools to pick up again and see how they feel.
10 Ways to Break That Procrastination Funk:
If you’ve been reminded that teaching/work/the kids/housekeeping is just a slice of the pie of life or of the “what’s on your plate” image, take a brief look at what else is actually on your plate. Caring for children, grandchildren, your partner, going to the job that pays the rent, getting to the gym, housework, shopping, friends, healthcare? They do take time. So be realistic. Then again, occasionally the other slices can seem overly important. Sometimes I found doing for other people took over the plate. Crazy as it seemed to someone who views herself as an independent, assertive woman, but there it was. Completing the book can get pushed to the side of the plate. Is it important to figure out why? Maybe. Also, maybe not. (See #8).
2. What moved you to write in the first place?
Who were your cheerleaders for that? How does it feel when you are in the zone with writing? Visualize that feeling each day. Pick up the utensils (tools, attitude) that you had when you were writing earlier. Get in touch with your cheerleaders. Ask for help. But not too much. Remember, you are the best cheerleader for yourself. You are the only person who can write this piece, essay, or book. Why should you keep your ideas to yourself? Many people will love, and I mean it, love to read your work.
3. Keep your head where your feet are.
If you are looking ahead in this “meal” (to keep with the plate metaphor), are you concerned about dessert? For now, stay with the main course. Save the full dessert for later. Once your writing habit is re-established, then look ahead. How will you market your book? Find people who are actively publishing and marketing the way you will. Since I read Jay Conrad Levinson’s first edition of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers in 2000, guerrilla-marketing writers have come out of hiding. Social media is a great aid to find like-minded writers, and marketers. Go to local open mics and readings. Watch, ask questions, get up and read your work.
Write daily for short periods, or a few days a week for several hours. Or go on a home writing retreat. Go to your office or writing place (You do have a special place to write, yes?) every day without fail for 3 days, or 4, or 5. Write, or scribble writing ideas, plans, and writing dreams for three hours. Take a break to eat, walk, stretch. Then back to writing. Stock up beforehand on healthy food, beverages, and snacks. Tell your partner/family you are in a Do Not Disturb Zone. Don’t answer your phone. Good grief, that’s why we have answering machines.
Too many distractions at home? Go to the library and write in one of those lovely quiet work/study areas or an “own your zone” area.
Some coffee shops seem to exist filled with people hunched over laptops, and taking sips of that highly popular and legal psychoactive drug – caffeine. Join a writing group that meets regularly just to write. I love the concept of “Shut up and write.”
5. Cheerleaders. Who’s on your side- unconditionally? Who’s got your back?
When I was working on finishing Thinking of Miller Place, my Scriveners weekly writing group in New Jersey was a great touchstone to keep me going. The same held true here in Tucson, Arizona when I was working on Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. The Eastside Writing Room writers were the ones I complained to, shared with, but mainly wrote with. To my writing community at large, when they asked how the book was going, I replied, “GREAT!” That kept me going too.
I talk “writing” with different writing colleagues each week to share what’s going on. Lucky me, my husband has been writing for three years now and we share drafts, revisions, and ideas.
6. Write about writing.
Writing this blog is motivating me to complete snippets of essays that have been left in the first or second draft stage. Journal what you think about writing. What writers do you admire? What authors do you read? Write a fan email to an author.
Put some photos of your vision or earlier successes on a table or shelf. Print out a mock book cover to display. Keep taking the next right step.
See Feb. 25 blog. “G.O.Y.A. An Antidote to Procrastination”
9. Commit to it.
Even if you think you don’t know what you will write that day. “Pen to paper” to paraphrase Natalie Goldberg. It still works.
10. Take time to relax.
Do something you enjoy.
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.