Writing and the battle with procrastination

Procrastination and lack of self-discipline are traditional problems for writers. This post by Elizabeth Bluemle on Shelftalker lists some ways in which some writers and artists have conducted their own battles against procrastination, and it was refreshing for me to see that I’m not alone in having a problem with it. I thought I’d share the techniques I use to stay focused on writing.

I do most of my writing on my laptop, and do most of my other stuff (research, social networking, random web surfing, etc.) on my desktop.

Unlike some writers, I don’t have a strict no-internet rule on my writing computer. I’ll sometimes have Facebook and Twitter open in the background, and I’ll let myself check them every now and then. I don’t post, though, and if someone links to an article or similar then I won’t read it until later. Feeling that I’m around people virtually, even if I’m alone physically, helps me feel more positive and is worth the slight waste of time.

I don’t ever play games on my laptop. In fact, becoming mostly a console gamer rather than a PC gamer has probably helped with my discipline, since I no longer associate games with computers at all.

I move to a different room in order to write. At the moment I do most of my writing at the dining table. It’s a little silly that I’ve ended up sitting in a nice ergonomic office chair while reading webcomics and doing my serious work on a dining chair, but maybe sitting on a less comfortable chair helps me to stay alert. Sometimes I’ll take laptop to a cafe or (if it isn’t exam season and full of students) to the public library.

If I’m writing at a weekend or have taken the day off work, and the weather isn’t terrible, I start my writing day by walking to a local park and back. As soon as I get back, I start writing. This formally separates out my writing time in the same way that moving to the dining table gives me writing space. Basically I pretend I’m walking to work, and as soon as I get there I’m ‘on the clock’ and have to focus. Plus it gets me some fresh air and sunshine.

I usually listen to music while writing. I’ll start an album playing, and I’m not allowed to get up or do anything but write until it finishes. Then I let myself stretch my legs, check Facebook and Twitter, make yet another cup of coffee, and decide what to listen to next.

I’ve tried using rewards to motivate myself, but that only has limited success for me. On the one hand, if I feel the urge to play a videogame, it’s good to tell myself “You can do that, but only after you’ve hit your writing target.” On the other hand, if I don’t reach the target, I also don’t get the reward, so I’ll go to bed having not made enough progress and also not had the nice thing, which puts me in a miserable mood and not the best frame of mind for writing the next day.

Anyway, that’s enough time spent blogging for today. Now I should take the laptop into town and get some work done on the novel.

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