Sometimes plunging into a big writing project can be terrifying. Why? There’s probably a myriad of reasons, but underneath most lie that primordial, soul-crushing emotion fear. Ultimately if people let go of all fear of judgment, I think this planet would be awash in paintings and music and dance and novels.
Perhaps that world is inconceivable because many people feel as I do–when I try to deploy that age-old advice “letting go,” I find I stumble into its less well-known cousin “getting no [where].” So, instead of relying on a huge mindshift, I have come to depend on a lot of little tricks to jumpstart my writing. I share them below. Hopefully, they can help you stop procrastinating with your writing.
Freedom. Freedom is a delightful program that blocks the internet from your computer while you write. I like it because it’s pretty simple–you just put in the number of hours you’d like to be without the internet and then you’re good to go.
Getting Up Early. When all else fails, getting up early usually works as as way for me to bypass my critical mind. When you’re looking for one, even the sun can serve as a distraction. At five in the morning, there no needy sunrays in your way. There’s just not much at all but you and your work.
Writing Dates with Friends. Writing dates with friends can often get your fingers flying across the keyboard, especially if one or both of you has an important deadline. I still fondly recall the period I wrote alongside my friend studying for the bar exam. She was very quiet and focused. Not everyone is going to be like that, but still, a meet-up or two with a friend might at least get the ball rolling when you’re stuck.
One Sentence Is Better Than None. Sometimes if I feel reluctant to write for whatever reason, I trick myself into getting more done by opening up a document and not committing to doing anything more than a sentence. That makes me feel as if the pressure is off, and I usually end up writing more than I intended.
Deadlines. Deadlines can help, especially if you have a friend you can work with this on. Unfortunately, I find I tend to blow off my own deadlines. Consider asking a friend to give you feedback or enforce your deadline. You might even want to consider hiring someone to do this, to really ensure they get the job done.
Quitting Social Media. I have found that taking long breaks from social media (as in deactivating accounts), which can really contribute to mental clutter, has helped me get my focus back on my writing. This gets harder and harder to do as Facebook and Twitter have grown increasingly important for business reasons. On the other hand, just the fact that I wrote that sentence shows how much I need to whisk myself away.
Retreat. If you can get away for a week or a couple of days, the new surroundings can often prompt some writing. Even a cafe or a library can do the trick. I don’t like working in cafes too much, but I find if I’m stumped, the switch, even for just a morning, can help.
Soothing Music. Recently I got clued into the world of white noise tracks on YouTube, ambient noise that effectively drowns out the hollers of construction workers and chatter of new neighbors on fire escapes.
Like a gateway drug, these tracks led me to tons of relaxing, soothing music on Youtube. Corny, yes, but they work. I always thought the magic of spas stemmed from having the permission to lie down, but now I recognize the integral role the sounds play. I’m listening to waves lapping a shore as I write this.
Don’t Leave the Neighborhood. Think of it as the opposite of a retreat. I find if I confine my activities to my neighborhood, eventually my mind will have nowhere to go but deeper and deeper into the world of my project. It sounds brutal, but it’s actually very liberating. And when you do finally venture out, passing through a turnstile will contain all the excitement of embarking on the Orient Express.
“No One Else is Going to See This.” Sometimes if I tell myself this, I’ll loosen up and get started. Like a knife, cutting right to the heart of your fear!
To conclude, I find that it is more important that I invest the time and energy into making sure I have created a space in my life that I can fill with writing rather than stress about how the writing itself will turn out. That’s something that editors and agents and overzealous Goodreads reviewers will handle for you.*
One last item–Close this Web Page.
*Elizabeth Gilbert has a good quote along similar lines. “All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.”