This is a guest post by Melissa Donovan of Writing Forward.
Procrastination among writers is a mystifying phenomenon. Aren’t we writers because we love to write, because we choose to write? So why are we constantly finding ways to avoid writing?
We’d rather clean the oven, walk the dog or scrape the gutters than face the blank page. And there is no shortage of excuses for why we can’t bring ourselves to write: there’s not enough time, our ideas aren’t good enough, we’re tired, and most of all, we’re afraid.
So, we sit around waiting to become writers. One of these days, we’ll find the time or the courage. Eventually, a masterpiece poem or an original plot will drift into our consciousness. Then, we’ll write something worth submitting, and we’ll get it published. It will all start happening soon — we’re sure of it.
Stop Postponing Your Dreams
The first step in overcoming procrastination is to stop making excuses:
- Stop trying to find time to write and start making time. Even writers with the busiest schedules can spare ten or twenty minutes a day.
- The quality of our work may not be professional or masterful but it will never become professional or masterful unless we practice writing regularly.
- If we can’t work our way through the bad ideas, how can we expect to get to the good ones? We need to stop judging our ideas so harshly, give them room to breathe (write them down), and see where they lead us.
- When the alarm goes off and we have to get up and go to work, we do it, even if we’re tired. The kids need to be fed? We feed them, even if we’re tired. We run errands, pay bills, and even exercise when we’re completely exhausted. Therefore, we can write when we’re a bit sleepy.
- If we’re not writing, fear cannot possibly be a factor. So if we’re scared, our fear is irrational and unfounded. Write something, and then decide if it’s frightening.
Once we’ve swept aside all of our excuses, we can sit down in front of that blank page and get busy.
Freewriting is sometimes called stream-of-consciousness writing or discovery writing. It goes by a number of different monikers but they all refer to the same activity:
You set a limit and then you sit and write whatever comes to mind.
If luscious, frolicking lilacs come to mind, then you write that down. If purple baby unicorns come to mind, then you write about them. If nothing comes to mind, then you sit there and write the word “nothing” over and over until something else comes to mind. You just let it flow.
Your limit can be based on time or quantity: ten minutes, two pages, or 500 words are all limits that work well for freewriting sessions. Some days, you’ll be in the zone and will write well past your limit. That’s a good thing! And when you find yourself writing the word “nothing” over and over again, just keep going until you reach that minimum limit that you set for yourself.
The Benefits of Freewriting
Freewriting is one of the best ways to promote creativity and produce consistently better writing while cultivating good habits:
- Freewriting gets ideas flowing when we’re feeling uninspired, making the blank page far less intimidating.
- Because a freewriting session can be as short as ten minutes, it’s perfect for writers who struggle with hectic schedules.
- Daily freewrites are good writing practice.
- Because freewrites force us to work quickly, we don’t have time to judge or self-edit.
- Freewriting is a great way to come up with ideas and material that can be harvested later. They’re not meant to be polished or pristine works, so there’s no pressure for perfection. Nobody has to see your freewrites except you.
Freewriting is a no-excuses approach to getting your writing done. You can do it in the morning when you wake up or at night before you go to bed. Dedicate part of your lunch break to it. There’s no pressure and you’re free to let your ideas stream onto the page. It’s a private, creative and incredibly gratifying.
Next time you find yourself out in the garden pulling weeds when you know you should be writing, stop and ask yourself what writing means to you. Let go of your fears and expectations, and then give yourself the gift of ten minutes, a page or two, or a few hundred words, and watch your writing flow and soar.
How has freewriting helped you overcome your procrastination?
About the Author: Melissa Donovan is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a website packed with creative writing tips and ideas.
Note: I’m going to be on a blogging break until September. Each week throughout the summer I’ll be sharing guest posts from a bunch of different writers. If you’d like to guest post for this blog, send your idea to: firstname.lastname@example.org.