Tuesday, September 14, 2010

master procrastinator

i got a question in the comments yesterday about how to get past writer's block that's not really writing or story related but more of a "personal motivation issue."

let's call it: Lazy Writer Syndrome.

the first rule of LWS is... it's not your fault!

what i'm going to say will probably be frowned upon by many disciplined writers, but i'm being serious here.
being a little lazy is a personality trait, just like being charming or kind. (this guy with a fancy medical degree disagrees with me, but whatever.) the point is, laziness is something that comes naturally to a lot of people, so i don't want anyone out there suffering from LWS to feel bad about themselves.

however, just like any less-than-desirable personality trait, it may be negatively affecting parts of your life... like say, your dream of finishing a manuscript.
so you need to find ways to combat it when necessary. and i have some tips/ideas/suggestions to do just that. but first let me tell you why i am qualified to make these suggestions:

i too suffer from LWS!!
i am a natural procrastinator. i'd even go so far as to call myself the Master Procrastinator.

it is part of the reason i obsessively make lists. if i didn't, i would simply never get anything done. i would put it all off until "tomorrow" - with the definition of tomorrow being the day after i die. but my desire to be a writer is much stronger than my desire to put things off, so i have had to come up with ways to get motivated to write.

and here they are.

1) my NUMBER ONE suggestion for combating LWS is to read - not just any book - your book.

back up a chapter or two and read up to where you left off writing. reading is free of obligation. there's no pressure to write. however, i find - 90% of the time - by the time i read up to where i stopped, i'm into the story enough that i'm now in the mood to write. i almost always end up writing at least a few hundred words on the nights i tell myself i'm just going to read.

2) as i mentioned in yesterday's post, sometimes the words are just flowing. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE DAYS!

if you are having a moment when a scene just keeps writing itself in your head - but DARN IT you have other things to do! - this is when you should utilize your skill of procrastination by... putting off everything else!
the laundry and dishes can wait until tomorrow. TIVO will hold on to your favorite TV show for a few more hours. dump the entire "to do" list over to tomorrow and write those words NOW, while they are coming. if you bang out a few thousand words in one night, you'll have written as much as many more disciplined writers do in a week.

3) take a writing "staycation."

this worked wonders for me when i was doing revisions for agents who requested changes. i wanted to get them done on some sort of deadline, so putting off writing was not an option. i took a couple of days off work, cleared my schedule of any chores or obligations and forced myself to spend entire days writing. it definitely felt like "work" on these days, but the end result was a lot of satisfaction in my high word count!
(this worked for me because i am not one of those people who can write in the ten minutes i'm waiting for my takeout food order or in the 20 minutes it takes to get my car washed. i don't operate like that. much admiration for the writers who do. it's just not me. i need to be immersed.)

4) goals and rewards.

you need to muster up a little will power for this one, and i confess i'm not too good at it myself, but when i do it, it works.
real housewives of new jersey is on? set the TIVO and tell yourself you only get to watch it tonight if you write for an hour first (or finish the chapter you're on or whatever). just set a goal, and use the thing that would normally distract you from writing as your reward. this one works for me, because once i start writing, i usually get absorbed and forget all about the "reward." i generally end up spending even more time writing on these nights than i planned. for me, "goals and rewards" is really just about giving yourself a reason to get in the chair and write, when writing alone is not motivation enough.

5) finally, i go back to what i said yesterday - it might not be a case of LWS so much as a case of slumping story.

if you're really not AT ALL motivated to write, take a look at your manuscript and ask yourself if people would be motivated to read. you might be surprised to discover the problem was in the manuscript all along.

anyone else have ideas to share about getting motivated and making time to write? this master procrastinator can always use more help!

1 comment:

McD said...

Great advice. Thanks for this post.