Tools for the Procrastinating Writer

This is something I’ve noticed is just a running trend for writers. We all procrastinate regularly. A lot. Like, more than normal people. I embrace this, and I always have. I use it to my advantage.

How? Well, I am notorious for having a million projects going at the same time. Some which will never be finished, and I never plan on finishing them, and others that are much more important and time sensitive. I know this sounds like a terrible way to get things done, and like maybe I would never get anything finished, but it’s the opposite. Cutting down so that I am only working on one project drives me insane. When being forced to focus on a single job, I can’t seem to get anything done.

Why does this work? When I simply can’t make myself focus on the task at hand, I make myself pick up another project that I know needs to get done. The first project isn’t getting any closer to being finished, but that doesn’t mean I have to be anything less than productive. I can still get something done, even if it’s not that one thing. I know how ridiculous this sounds. Trust me. But it does work for me, and it works well. If I wake up one day knowing there’s something I need to get done before the day is over, but I really can’t make myself work on it, I do something else first. Something small, but something unrelated. It makes me feel like I’m getting more done in my day.

So on those days when I have to feel like I’m getting something done, but I REALLY don’t want to do anything, I have my computer. And internet. Here’s how I stay productive even when I’m procrastinating.

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  1. Pinterest. I am terrible for using this site. Seriously. I can get lost for hours on Pinterest just “wasting time”. How I deal with the whole issue of not wanting to waste time is by using it for research and inspiration. All the effing time. I have several boards just for inspiration and writing tips and whatnot. I know there’s a point when you can do too much research. And I’m sure I’ve reached that point many times, but I’m a chronic learner and researcher. I love doing research just for my own knowledge. Doesn’t have to be for books, could be for any other project I’m working on. Some of my other projects take a whole hell of a lot of research to make happen.
    I do use Pinterest for my own personal purposes as well, just like most people, but It’s mostly for project research. The easiest way I’ve found to be productive on the site is to search for something specific. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s super easy to get distracted by what’s popular or random pins on your feed that will lead to more – less productive – procrastination. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
  2. Facebook. Here’s a fun one. Open up your Facebook profile, and scroll through your news feed. Find some random status updates or what have you and write a short story based on them. Then you’re still generating story ideas, but you are also keeping up with what’s happening. This can be easy to abuse, just like Pinterest, but it can also make for some really entertaining storylines as well. Go ahead, try it.
  3. Reading blogs. I try to make time to read certain blogs every week. Some more than others, but I still make time. It’s an easy way to see what everyone else is up to, and to gain some inspiration for your own projects. A lot of bloggers out there have some amazing tips for pretty much anything. I have my favourites, and most are other writers who write helpful articles on the subjects of getting published, brainstorming your ideas, getting your projects done, etc. I always find that I’m more productive after reading some helpful tips for writing, even if it’s something I’ve heard before. It helps me get into the right frame of mind to get some work done when I see how much work other people are getting accomplished. It gives me more drive to get my own things done so that I have more to show for the time I spend working on all of my ongoing stories and other things.
  4. Writing blog posts. Seriously. When I need to feel productive and can’t focus on something else, I write posts. I scribble down ideas that I want to write about, then I go through and brainstorm how I’m going to write them. I will then spend a couple of hours writing a few of them up so that they are ready to post when I want. I also find that it opens up a lot of my time for other things if I can get several posts written in one sitting, as I then don’t have to worry about sitting down every couple of days to write one at a time. It’s less stressful for my schedule to just do more in that time when I’m already in the zone than to try to force myself to be in the zone several times separately.
  5. Watch a documentary. I didn’t say watch television or reality TV. I mean a full blown documentary. Be it something from the History channel or Discovery, or even just something on YouTube, I watch something that will teach me something new. Then I can quench my thirst for new knowledge and still be finding new inspiration for a current project or maybe get ideas for some new thing I haven’t tried before. Guilty pleasures of mine? Ancient Aliens for sure, Daily Planet, Destination Truth, and Ghost Hunters. Ancient Aliens gets a lot of flack, and trust me, I totally get it. But in between all of the so-called crazy, there are really valuable tidbits of historic information that I find to be insanely helpful for my Love and Death series in particular. Plus it gives me locations to add to my list of places I want to see in person, photograph, and write about.
  6. Read a book. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and I know it’s one of the big ones for pretty much any writer out there. That’s because it does help. It’s something to help get lost in your head and at the same time help get you motivated to get some writing done. At least in my case. If I’m feeling a funk, reading a book always makes me feel like writing. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book I’ve read before or if it’s a book I’ve never even seen before. If I can find some time to sit down and read a little from some novel in my library, I an always find the motivation to get something done. It is a good healthy reminder that at one point, the book I am reading, the one in print in my hand that I’m currently enjoying, was once nothing more than some notes and brainstorming. At some point in time, that book was nothing but an unfinished first draft. And it moved forward after countless hours of work to become what I am soaking in fully as I curl up on my sofa with my dog and cat and get lost in that world.

*Disclaimer: No, I do not expect this to actually help anyone get more work done. This is my method, and I know it’s a little crazy. It’s what works for me. But maybe it will help those others out there like me who have trouble focusing and the normal methods of focusing don’t work.

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One thought on “Tools for the Procrastinating Writer

  1. D.I. Ozier says:

    Good advice. I’d expand point 4 to include any writing projects, not just blogs. If, for example, you’ve gotten stuck while writing an epic fantasy novel, take a break and start working on a romantic poem or comedic short story. Something different enough that you’re taking a mental break from your primary project, fun enough for you to enjoy doing it, and productive enough that you’re honing your writing skills while you procrastinate.

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