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Write Or Die: A Free Tool for Procrastinating Writers


By Jennifer Blanchard

I was recently introduced to an awesome writing productivity tool from a follower on Twitter (@armselig). The tool is called “Write or Die,” which is “a Web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences,” according to the tool’s creator, Dr. Wicked.

Here’s how “Write or Die” works:

  • There are 3 modes: Gentle, Normal and Kamikaze.
  • In Gentle Mode, when you stop writing, you will get “writing reminders” that pop up on your screen reminding you to keep writing until your time limit is up/you have hit your word count.
  • In Normal Mode, when you stop writing, you’ll hear a very annoying noise, which will only go away if you keep writing.
  • In Kamikaze Mode, when you stop writing, it gives you a few seconds and then it starts deleting your words. To keep it from deleting everything, you have to keep writing.
  • Once you choose your word count/time limit, mode and how “forgiving” you want the tool to be, you’re off and writing.

Now before you try out this tool, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This is for productivity ONLY—Do not expect to write anything even remotely close to The Great Gatsby or Grapes of Wrath just by using this tool. This tool is not here to make you a better writer. It’s here to make you write, period. (You can worry about editing what you’ve written after you’ve written it!)
  • Kamikaze mode is the BY FAR the best mode to use—Since it deletes your writing if you stop for more than a few seconds, you are forced to keep writing in order to not get anything deleted. If you are serious about getting writing done, this is the mode for you.
  • If you’re attempting this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, Write or Die will easily help you reach your daily word count (of 1667 words).
  • Remember to select all the text you wrote and copy it—There is no way to save your text using this tool, and once you navigate away from the page, everything you’ve written is gone. That’s why you need to copy what you wrote and paste it into a Word document in order to save it.
By using this writing productivity tool, you are learning to shut off your inner editor and just getting writing done. And that, Procrastinating Writers, is what it truly takes to be a successful writer.

How To Overcome Procrastination

By Jennifer Blanchard

How are those New Year’s Goals going? Have you given some time to thinking about what you want in 2009?

One thing many of you probably have in mind for this year is overcoming your procrastination. So this is one post out of many to come in the months following that will begin to explore what procrastination is, why it happens to you and how you can overcome it.

Personal development blogger and author, Steve Pavlina, explains in his article, Overcoming Procrastination, that there are 4 root causes of procrastination:

    1. Thinking you absolutely have to do something–“When you tell yourself that you have to do something, you’re implying that you’re being forced to do it, so you’ll automatically feel a sense of resentment and rebellion,” Pavlina says. “Procrastination kicks in as a defense mechanism to keep you away from this pain. If the task you are putting off has a real deadline, then when the deadline gets very close, the sense of pain associated with the task becomes overridden by the much greater sense of pain if you don’t get started immediately.”Pavlina says that the best way to overcome this mental block is to realize and accept that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. “Even though there may be serious consequences, you are always free to choose,” he says. “No one is forcing you to run your business the way you do. All the decisions you’ve made along the way have brought you to where you are today. If you don’t like where you’ve ended up, you’re free to start making different decisions, and new results will follow.”Overcome it: Choose projects to undertake in 2009 that you want to undertake. Choose something that inspires you or something that you’re really passionate about. (And if you’re having a difficult time figuring out what you want, do what I do, pretend today is your last day on earth–what would you regret not having done? These are the things you need to be pursuing now!)
    2. Thinking of the project as a whole–“Thinking of a task as one big whole that you have to complete will virtually ensure that you put it off,” Pavlina says. “When you focus on the idea of finishing a task where you can’t even clearly envision all the steps that will lead to completion, you create a feeling of overwhelm. You then associate this painful feeling to the task and delay as long as possible. If you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to do my taxes today,’ or ‘I must complete this report,’ you’re very likely to feel overwhelmed and put the task off.”

Overcome it: Focus on one small piece of the overall task at a time. By doing this, you’ll complete the task in steps, which will make it easier for you to keep motivated.

  1. Being a perfectionist–Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate. They get so worried and worked up about wanting something to be perfect that they end up not even working on it for fear it will come out flawed.”Thinking that you must do the job perfectly the first try will likely prevent you from ever getting started,” he says. “Believing that you must do something perfectly is a recipe for stress, and you’ll associate that stress with the task and thus condition yourself to avoid it. You then end up putting the task off to the last possible minute, so that you finally have a way out of this trap. Now there isn’t enough time to do the job perfectly, so you’re off the hook because you can tell yourself that you could have been perfect if you only had more time. But if you have no specific deadline for a task, perfectionism can cause you to delay indefinitely.”Overcome it: Allow yourself to be human. Humans are not perfect; they make mistakes. That is part of what is so beautiful about life–you get important (sometimes life-changing) lessons from every experience you have, every mistake you make.
  2. Thinking that completing the task-at-hand will deprive you of fun–“This means you believe that undertaking a project will offset much of the pleasure in your life,” Pavlina says. “In order to complete this project, will you have to put the rest of your life on hold? Do you tell yourself that you will have to go into seclusion, work long hours, never see your family, and have no time for fun? That’s not likely to be very motivating, yet this is what many people do when trying to push themselves into action. Picturing an extended period of working long hours in solitude with no time for fun is a great way to guarantee procrastination.”Overcome it: Plan out your fun activities and schedule your work/tasks around them. By doing this, you’re making sure you have plenty of time for the activities you love to do (the activities where you usually don’t procrastinate). Then work/tasks won’t feel so overwhelming because you won’t feel like all you’ll be doing is working/completing tasks.

For more details on each of these root causes of procrastination and more tips for overcoming them, check out Pavlina’s article.

So for 2009, look at overcoming writing procrastination as small hurdles to jump, rather than as a huge thing you need to overcome.

10 Things Procrastinating Taught Yvonne Russell

In light of the fact that National Novel Writing Month is finally over, I thought I’d give you something humorous to read. This comes from the “Grow Your Writing Business” blog written by Yvonne Russell:

Ten Things I Learned From Procrastinating

1. I can get lots of things done, just not the one I should be doing

2. Procrastination can be fun and guilt inducing at the same time

3. Procrastination and perfectionism are a sure fire combo for stress

4. There sure are a lot of interesting sites you discover when procrastinating

5. Procrastination is often called research

6. Research is never called procrastination

7. Procrastination is often called thinking

8. Thinking is never called procrastination

9. Checking emails is high in the hierarchy of procrastination

10. Procrastination inevitably leads to doing… eventually…

Happy writing…jb

I Did It! What I Learned While Writing My First Novel…and How It Will Help You (Part 2)

In Part One I talked about four lessons I learned while writing my first novel. Here are another three for you:

  • When You Want To Procrastinate, Nothing Will Get You Moving–Picture this: You’re one chapter away from being finished with your first novel. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years. You were starting to think this day would never come.A week later, you’re still one chapter away from being finished with your first novel. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years. You were starting to think this day would never come.A week later, you’re still one chapter away…Ok, are you sensing a pattern here?

    Procrastination is a killer, especially to the novel. Remember, people often fear success because of what might change, so it’s not all that uncommon for someone to be a chapter shy, a few scenes shy, whatever, from finishing their project and then they set it aside and never complete it.

    I thought that was going to be me because I was one chapter away and I had the most delicious bottle of champagne chilling in my fridge, waiting to be cracked the moment I wrote my last word, and it still took me almost three weeks to finish my final chapter.

    Thankfully, I was able to step around my fear (of success, of failure, of my first draft sucking, etc) and finish my novel. And drink that delicious bottle of champagne.

    When this happens to you, lean on your RB. Tell them exactly how you’re feeling and let them reassure you that everything will turn out great. They’re right.

  • “Shitty First Drafts” Are an Urban Legend–Ok, maybe not an urban legend, but they’re definitely a myth. When I finished my novel and sat down to reread the whole thing, I realized that I actually had a pretty damn good first draft on my hands.Sure, it needs editing–what first draft doesn’t? But I feel like I have a complete story that has no major plot holes, no major “bad” writing issues and best of all, it’s actually pretty compelling.So stop being so hard on yourself about writing your first draft. When I think I’m writing my worst, it usually turns out to be some of my best. And you’ll find the same thing with your first draft as well.

    And if you do find some parts that make you want to hurl (ok, so maybe it was a bad idea to use that cliched love scene as the turning point in your book), it’s ok. Take a deep breath and relax. That’s why they call it a first draft!

  • It Goes By So Fast–When I look back on the whole novel-writing process, I realize that, after years and years of talking about writing a novel and sitting around thinking about it, but taking no action, when I finally sat down and wrote my novel, it actually went by so fast I don’t remember most of it.

So don’t let the fear of how many hours or weeks or months you’ll have to spend dedicated to writing this novel stop you from writing. When it comes down to it, if you set yourself tight deadlines (I gave my writing coach two chapters a week, for example) and meet them, you’ll get your book written so quickly you won’t even know how you could’ve procrastinated for so long.

I hope the lessons I learned while writing my first novel help you to finally get your novel written. Remember, negativity is always going to make your writing “bad.” So keep a positive, upbeat attitude and remind yourself that your story is worth writing, so sit down and write it!

3 Tools You Need to Write A Novel


There are lots of writers whose dream is to write a novel, but so many of those same writers never follow through with it.

Why, you ask?

Because they don’t know the three tools every writer needs to complete a novel. Here are the three tools that will take you from novel-writing dream to novel complete.

1) A Desire to Write a Novel–Though this seems kind of obvious, you’d be surprised how many writers really have no desire to write a novel, they just dream about doing it because they think “that’s what writers are supposed to want.” Not true. Writers should write whatever it is that makes them happy, whether that be a screenplay, short story or a novel.

Writing a novel takes a lot of hard work and commitment. It’s not something that you can complete by closing your eyes and wishing for it to happen. You have to actually work at it and spend time each day (or as often as you’re able to) writing.

Having a desire to write a novel from start to finish makes the entire process that much easier because when you desire something, and I mean truly desire it, not just desire it because you think you should, it makes the overall process a lot more fun and you’ll be more willing to stick with it.

2) A Deadline–Every writer who wants to complete a novel must have a deadline. Deadlines are extremely important to writing success because it gives you a specific endpoint.

Having a deadline to work towards will help you make better decisions when it comes to “should I write tonight or should I watch that rerun of Pretty Woman on TBS?”

And an in-flexible deadline works better than a deadline that you can change. This being because when you know there is no way of getting out of the deadline, you’ll also be able to think clearer about other activities that aren’t as important as getting your writing done.

3) Support–All writers need support to get their writing done. This is especially important for procrastinating writers. Having someone to answer to will keep you writing.

The support can come from a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, neighbor, writing coach or a combination of them all–anyone who will keep you on track, give you a pep talk when you’re uninspired or stuck, and encourage you along the way.

When I was gearing up to write my novel, I needed to first figure out if I actually did have a desire to write one. After realizing that I did, I hired a writing coach to help me stay on track (since I’m a major procrastinator, I knew self-set deadlines wouldn’t work for me).

Her and I set a deadline that seemed reasonable (Sept. 22, which was my 25th birthday), and we were off and running. I wrote as much as I could each week, and turned in to my coach 2 chapters every Tuesday. Then we had a 30-minute meeting each Thursday to talk about the chapters I turned in and for her to give me a pep talk whenever I needed one (which was pretty often as it turns out).

Knowing that I had a long-term deadline and a weekly deadline to hit made me procrastinate less and made me get my novel finished on time (early, actually. I finished a week and a half before my deadline!).

So tell me…how did you get your novel written? And if you still haven’t written your novel, but you truly desire to, try out my three tools for novel writing success, and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Take A Break Every Now and Then


Writers are some of the hardest working people I know. Most of my writer friends are writers by day and writers by night. But working at magazines and freelance writing and in marketing and public relations departments all day long sometimes makes it hard to go home and continue working on that novel or screenplay or memoir. I know that happens to me a lot and I wish I could just work full-time from home so I could dedicate my time to my fiction, but you have to make a living somehow, right?

Writing all day long kind of sucks the creativity out of me. So what usually happens is, I end up spending very little time writing my novel and when I am writing it, I get burned out quickly.

Oddly enough, for a project at work, I’ve been researching and learning about job burnout. The symptoms of project burnout include:

  • Inability to concentrate on the task at hand–working on your project
  • General apathy, particularly in issues relating to your project
  • Lack of interest in socializing because you feel like you have to spend all your free time on your project
  • Inability to have fun
  • Feeling like nothing ever happens with the project
  • Feelings of stagnation
  • Feeling that no one cares what’s going on with your project
  • Feeling that everything is wrong or is not working out
  • an overall negative attitude

In order to be a writer for the long-haul, you need to takes breaks every so often in order not to get burned out on a project (especially when you write all day long).

Here are some ways to avoid project burnout:

  • Take a mini-vacation–go away for the weekend with your friends or significant other, take a day trip to the beach, go visit a friend who lives in another city. Anything you can do to take your mind off your project for a little bit is good.
  • Switch off–it’s good to be working on a couple projects at the same time* so if you get blocked on one you can work on the other. This helps me immensely with not burning out, but I also find by working on two or three projects simultaneously that when I’m working on one project, I’ll get ideas for the others.
  • Take a Break–leave the project for ten minutes, an hour, whatever and grab a cup of coffee, or take a walk around your favorite local mall. Getting your mind off your project for even a short period of time can help when you’re blocked. By thinking about something else, I always get ideas for my projects.

*One word of caution–don’t try working on more than three projects at one time or you may risk spreading yourself too thin. Instead, try to dedicate your time evenly to all of your projects. And ignore this caution when a project takes off; when this happens, you’re better off running with it and coming back to the other ones later.

Writers Take Note: Practice Makes Perfect

In the most recent issue of Shape magazine, Venus Williams, a tennis star and winner of numerous titles, talks about her seven ways to get motivated. And her first way involves practicing. She says:

“You have to practice to develop your talents–and learn to enjoy putting the effort in, otherwise you won’t succeed.”

She then explains that she does two hours of training per day in the gym and four hours per day on the court.

 

Procrastinating writers can learn a lot from Williams. She’s motivated, dedicated and, above all, reaches her goals.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time putting in the effort and writing, which is the main reason why I don’t write most of the time. But this is something I, and every other procrastinating writer, needs to move past. If we’re ever going to succeed in our writing goals, we need to practice, practice, practice…and love doing it.

 

The best way to get started with practicing is to write, and write often. No more skipping days, no more “I don’t feel like writing,” no more “but there’s a rerun of Seinfeld on that I’ve never seen before.”

 

And you don’t need to jump into this and make a huge commitment. As Bill O’Hanlon says in his book, Write is a Verb (which I will be discussing in a later post), write for just 15 minutes a day to start. That’s it. Just 15 minutes. Eventually you’ll start to fall in love with writing and want to write for longer.

 

So do you think you can write for 15 minutes a day? Let’s try it together…then come back to let me know how you’re doing.

Set A Specific Writing Time To Avoid Procrastination


By Jennifer Blanchard

If you’re like me, you tell yourself almost everyday “I’m going to write today.” And then you find 300 other things to do that are just “so much more important,” like cleaning the bathroom, washing the laundry, picking up after your kids, etc. And then you never end up getting around to writing. And then you feel guilty for the rest of the day/night/week.

But what you don’t realize, is that by saying “I’m going to write today,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Especially if you’re a procrastinator.

When you tell yourself you’re going to “write today” or that you’re going to spend “the day” or “the weekend” writing, you’re bombarding yourself with having to write, which makes you feel overwhelmed, and then you look for a million other excuses not to write.

To get writing done, instead of saying “I’m going to write all weekend,” tell yourself “I’m going to write for two hours on Sunday.” By setting a specific day and amount of time, you are not only giving yourself freedom to do the other things you have to do (like walk the dog, bake a cake…you get the idea), but you’re allowing yourself freedom to write without feeling bombarded by it.

Give it a try this weekend. Choose a day and an amount of time, then when that day comes, sit down and spend that much time writing. That’s it. No more, no less.

I’m going to try it this weekend as well. Be sure to come back and let me know how it goes for you!

Never Give Up On Your Writing Dreams

“My mind tells me to give up, but my heart won’t let me,”–Anonymous

Many writers can identify with that quote above. Especially writers who’ve been rejected a lot, and writers who procrastinate to the point where they wonder why they’re even dreaming anymore.

Recently, I’ve had a few people make me feel like my writing dreams are impossible. And for a minute I started to think, maybe they’re right. Maybe this is something that will never happen for me. And then I tell myself to ignore them, stay positive and keep dreaming.

Sure, it’s really difficult to chase a dream and to keep on feeling like no matter what you do or how hard you work, you’re never going to get there. All writers understand this feeling (and actually, all dreamers understand this feeling, too!).

But you have to push through it. You have to keep on trying and, especially, keep on believing.

You have the power to make all your writing dreams come true. You just have to be willing to stand up to those who put you down and to look negativity in the face and say, “I’m doing it whether you like it or not.”

Because there will always be someone around who wants to knock you down. There will always be an editor who hates your work. There will always be a publisher who rejects you.

But if you believe in yourself, and keep on writing and keep on dreaming, eventually, you will get there. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

So whenever you feel like you’re losing your nerve, remember this: Critics didn’t put you here, so they can’t take you down.

5 Steps to Reaching the Writing Finish Line

“No matter how long it takes, if you keep moving,
you will reach the finish line,”-anonymous

 

Every writer, no matter what writing project they’re working on, has a goal in mind. A personal “finish line” they are trying to reach.

 

But for many writers, that finish line is so far in the distance they can’t quite see it (or even imagine reaching it).

 

Procrastination is a silent, but deadly killer. Well, deadly to your writing anyhow. Luckily, there’s a way to transform yourself from procrastinating writer to completed writer. And according to Cynthia Morris, author of the eBook “Cross the Finish Line! 5 Steps To Leaping Over The Hurdles to Completion,” it only takes 5 steps:

 

1) Identify your Motivation–start by answering the question: “What is important about becoming someone who finishes?” Understanding your motivation for wanting to write/work on your writing project is the way to align yourself with your personal finish line.

“A single affirmation or reminder of your commitment can do a lot toward achieving the finishing line,” Morris says. “Develop your own version of the Little Red Engine’s mantra: ‘I think I can, I think I can!'”

2) Commit to a Project–Oftentimes writers take on more projects than they can handle and end up not finishing any of them (I’m extremely guilty of this!). Morris suggests narrowing down where you will focus your time and energy. One way to do this is to make a list of all the writing projects you’d like to complete at some point. Go thru and number the list in order of importance to you. Then (no matter how difficult it may be) choose one or two projects to focus on, and put the rest on the back burner until you’re finished with your first couple projects. Although this may seem difficult, it’s the only way to ever become a finisher. Taking on too many projects at once will cause you to get overwhelmed.

 

3) Build Structure–deadlines, timelines and accountability will help you to stay on track toward the finish line. So the best way to become a finisher is to set a deadline for finishing your writing project (or mini-deadlines for a longer project like a novel) and stick to it.

 

“Your inner saboteur will pipe in with notions like ‘I’m not a deadline person,’ or ‘Lists don’t work for me,’ Morris says. “Take this as normal resistance that surfaces when you try something different. Sometimes creative people think they need to be free and flexible, but the truth is that structure allows creativity to flow.”

 

4) Stay on Track–figuring out your motivation, committing to a project and setting a schedule are the three most important steps to becoming a completer. Morris says that you must stay on track if you’re ever going to become a completer.

 

“Don’t flirt with your other ideas once you’ve committed to go all the way with one,” she says. “You’ll need to develop your creative stamina, hone your emotional intelligence, and stay connected to all the previous reminders about why you’re doing your project and what’s your payoff for finishing.”

 

5) Acknowledge and Celebration Completion–Morris says this step is an important part of the process, but is often overlooked. Writers start to get more motivated once they complete a project, so they usually just move on to the next one without taking some time out to celebrate their accomplishment.

 

“Before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle, take some time to acknowledge what it took to get here,” Morris says. “Take the opportunity to learn about your creative style and what it takes to bring your projects to fruition. Acknowledging and celebrating will help you build confidence to complete future projects.”

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So now that you know what it takes to become a finisher, it’s time to put the process to the test. Over the next couple days, think about what your motivation is, and try to commit to a project or two. And be sure to drop me a line and let me know how it’s all going.