This is a guest post from S.D. Farrell
It’s generally accepted that writers are dreamers — we think about what’s possible more than what’s right in front of us. It’s also said that most writers are introverts: We enjoy spending time alone and draw energy from it.
That said, we shouldn’t take these old saws to mean there’s only one way to approach the craft of writing.
There are at least two ways to go about every task, and a whole spectrum of variations in between. So I’m going to tell you about “hard” and “soft” ways to handle procrastination.
The Soft Method: Meditation and Creative Visualization
What do I mean by “soft” here? In this case, I’m referring to using the special skills all writers have: The ability to focus inward and use the mind creatively. In this method of overcoming procrastination, you switch on your “writer’s self” in a very specific way.
If you’ve never meditated before, please accept this quick breakdown:
- Eliminate the distractions around you: Televisions, phones, music, and so on.
- Dim the lights and close the door, creating a pleasant, distraction-free atmosphere.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your palms on your knees and your back straight.
When getting started, the most important things are to keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply. Doing so encourages the special state of relaxation at the core of meditation. Begin by simply allowing yourself to relax.
Now comes visualization.
If you are not a very visual person, don’t worry: You don’t need to “see” things in your mind. Just think about all of the distractions, racing thoughts or other obligations that keep you from writing. Think of them fading away; perhaps they are running off your back like rain. Maybe they’re bouncing off you. Boing! Boing!
My personal visualization centers on being encased in a light, flexible suit of armor. When I am inside this armor, the constant chatter in my mind goes quiet.
With practice, you will find a visualization that makes you feel refreshed and ready to write.
The Hard Method: Beat Procrastination by Tricking Yourself
When I say “hard” here, I am talking about using methods outside of yourself — focused on an external tool. Procrastination often arises from the feeling that the task we’re avoiding is too huge to deal with. My “hard” method makes tasks seem smaller.
Whenever I need to work on a difficult writing project, I use a stopwatch. I set it to alert me in about ten minutes — during that ten minutes, I work without looking at the watch or the time display on my computer. After ten minutes of work, I take a brief break.
It is not necessary to “finish” anything in ten minutes. You want to dull your awareness of the larger project, focusing on short increments. There are computer programs that will simulate a stopwatch so you can lose your awareness of time and simply write. That means moving through your project in quick, self-contained bursts.
This way, you can stop worrying about putting in hours of work. The brief breaks can refresh you — and the short work periods add up without being overwhelming.
Before you know it, you have achieved more in a day than you ever expected. Combining this technique with the one above has gotten me through many tough projects!
How do you overcome your procrastination?
About the Author: S. D. Farrell is a freelance writer and career coach from Tampa, Florida. His first book, Oxford Made Easy, is a guide to help college students develop academic and leadership skills to win study abroad scholarships. He also contributes to www.degreejungle.com a college student resource.