Have you ever heard such an oxymoron?
There is such a thing, believe it or not. But for some of us, writing and procrastination go hand in hand. You may have a world of book ideas, but you find it difficult to start (or finish) a single project. Maybe you’re a procrastinator at heart. Or maybe you have so many things competing for your attention that you find it hard to focus on writing.
Either way, it’s difficult to succeed as a writer when you struggle with self-discipline.
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Quick story: When I wrote my first book, I wrote it. I worked for several hours every day to finish it by the deadline I’d set for myself. When I published it, I’d just had my first baby. Then? I went MONTHS without writing. No drafting, no blogging, nothing. (Granted, a baby is a pretty good excuse, but still.) I finally had to admit to myself that I was using my new mama role as an excuse to keep from getting back to work.
Defeating procrastination and becoming more disciplined as a writer isn’t easy. It takes time, intention, and lots of hard work. Here are some tips and tools for making the process a little easier:
Write by Time
Decide on an amount of time that you want to write every day. Start small and increase the time by five minutes each day or week (depending on your availability). This is a realistic way to build up to 1-2 hours per day of writing, which is necessary if you want to make a living from it.
Write by Word Count
Decide to write a certain number of words per day. 100, 500, 3,000. Start by meeting the minimum each day. Then it’ll get easier to gradually bump that word count up. Plus, you might even do it without realizing it. Hemingway wrote around 500 words per day, which is about two pages. Those few words per day resulted in several successful novels and numerous short stories. Plus, he lived in Key West. If that’s not distracting…
Write by Pages
Start by writing a paragraph each day and work your way up to one page, two pages, or even five pages. Even if you only write one page per day, that’s 365 pages by the end of the year. That’s a book, my friend.
Write by Appointment
Literally put it in your day planner, your calendar app, or whatever you use. Include writing in your daily routine the same way you would include work, laundry, lunch dates, workouts, or anything else you do on a regular basis. If you know that 7-9 a.m. (during the baby’s morning nap, in my case) is your only time to write, you’ll become more intentional about it, if it’s important to you. You wouldn’t regularly skip work just because you don’t want to go or because you have other things to do, so don’t skip writing either.
Raise your hand if you, like me, get sucked into ALL the social media when you should actually be writing. I have a terrible habit of scrolling through Instagram before writing, but I’m working on it, I promise. If reading tweets or downloading books on Amazon keeps you from getting more words down, try some apps for distraction-free writing. If you already know that won’t work for you, then trade the computer for a notebook instead. Go longhand. It’s vintage.
Implement a Rewards System
Face it: You might have to bribe yourself. Once you determine your daily writing goal, decide what your reward (or lack thereof) will be. An hour of Gilmore Girls on Netflix? An extra scoop of ice cream? An additional chapter before bed? Incentive helps, especially if you have someone to hold you accountable. So ask someone who isn’t afraid to hide the remote control from you, if necessary.
Picture the Final Goal
What are you writing? What do you hope to accomplish? Picture your final product — a book, a blog about cats that ski, a poetry collection. When you have a goal, you know exactly what you’re working toward. I like to picture what it will be like to hold my published book in my hands.
Holding your own book in your hands is a lot like holding your own baby for the first time. A little less awe-inspiring, but incredible nonetheless. This one is the first of many, and it's mine. 😊💛 Find the Amazon purchase link (as well as the free prequel) at MegBlissBooks.com. Happy Independence Day, and happy reading! 📖🍹 #tolennonwithlove #withloveseries
When you’re feeling stuck, sometimes the best thing to do is just START. I’ve started books without knowing exactly where they’re going only to find that as I write, I get to know my characters, and their stories evolve naturally.
Do I recommend that as the best strategy for writing a book? NO, NOPE, NO WAY. If you want to make your life easier, sure, plan it out. Just remember: planning can be stifling, especially if you’re a procrastinator. Sometimes I get walled in by an outline without realizing it.
If you’re stuck in your writing and don’t know where to go, just start. Start with five minutes, fifty words, or whatever you can manage during a specific part of your day. You may have to write for a while before it evolves into the thing it’s meant to be. But if you persist, you will get there.
How do you practice self-discipline as a writer? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to join the Ladies in Read community on Pinterest for tons of writing and publishing tips!