The biggest lie I tell myself as an aspiring writer is this – I don’t have time to write.
As with all things in life, the jobs we enjoy and want to do are always pushed to the back of the to-do list for one reason or another. Either some other menial task such as the washing up or folding the laundry takes president. Or, another classic, being too tired after a day at work and just needing to steal a few moments to chill out and relax.
In other words, Netflix binge.
And whilst prioritizing our workload and avoiding burnout are both valid and reasonable demands on our time, they are also an excuse.
Stephen King, JK Rowling, Dan Brown and countless others all share the same 24 hours in a day that we do. Yet they all still find the time to write, and whilst dodging the paparazzi at that!
Ok, so not having enough time in the day, for the most part at least is another excuse.
After all, we all know we need to make time to write.
So why do we lie to ourselves?
Yes, it is true, whether you want to admit it or not – having no time to write is a pretense and a facade for a common enemy that we all share. One that can kill our productivity in a mere moment.
What! I hear you cry, ready to click close and concluded I’m some sort of nut job.
But hear me out.
If writing is something you want to do, then why are you not doing it nearly as much as you would like? Or even at all? This is a question I have come to ask myself so often in the past, almost as often as I have lied about not having the time.
So, if we would usually make the time to do the things we love and enjoy, why then are we not more productive writers?
Well, the answer is simple really. Although we love writing, sometimes it is just too much like handwork, and well, we are lazy creatures after all.
With evils like writer’s block, tiredness, lack of concentration, etc, to contend with, it is small wonder we don’t fancy doing battle at the end of a days labor.
The sad fact is that for most of us we are quite happy dreaming about our next novel and lying to ourselves to avoid feeling guilty, to ever do anything about it. If that wasn’t the case we would have all mastered the art of getting up at 5am and blasting out six chapters before breakfast a long time ago, right?
And who’s to blame us? Modern life is so hectic at times and it’s not like we are hurting anyone.
But what can be done?
As someone who has been drifting in a boat of excuses, floating on a sea of laziness, these are my top ten tips on how to beat the time lie and stop writing procrastination in its tracks.
1. Write an article on being lazy
Yeah, alright, you caught me. But hey, I’ve just written something new and what better way to testify that this method works. Even if you never intend to publish it, writing about why your not writing really helps to warm up your brain and get the creative juices flowing.
It also gets you thinking about writing, which in turn will help kick the dreaded writer’s block and make you motivated with other/past projects. It’s a win-win.
2. Start with just five minutes
It’s a universal truth that five minutes into any task will oft as not make you motivated enough to carry on.
If not, though, then don’t get discouraged. At least you have given it ago. We can’t be motivated to work all the time and at least with five minutes under your belt you know you’ve not just been lazy and can come back to it with a refreshed mind.
3. Play a writing game
When we feel lazy and unmotivated, we either want to do something fun or nothing at all. In this instance I appeal to your fun-loving side, otherwise, you may as well just go to sleep.
One way to bring the fun in is to play a writing game. Pinterest is great for inspiration for these and other writing prompts. You could also challenge yourself to produce an entry for a writers competition or even play an actual game.
I like the Writer’s Toolbox for this. My brother-in-law got me one a few years ago for Christmas and my only issue is I don’t get as much time to play with it as I would like, as I am always full of ideas and inspirations as soon as I lift the lid. Its something of a distraction in itself, but of the good kind.
However, I do prize the writer’s tool box highly as it never fails to spark a story or poem.
Well worth adding to your Amazon wish list!
4.Set the mood
I have numerous books and magazines on writing and each of them in some shape or form touches upon a ‘writers rituals’. Other than telling us we are an odd bunch that can only produce content when chained to our desk, in the nip or typing on a vintage typewriter in the middle of Starbucks wearing our favorite bunny slippers, these case studies of a ‘writers rituals’ do drive home a valid point.
What works for one does not necessarily work for all.
And while for some, all they need do is pour a cup of coffee and turn the laptop on, not all of us are so lucky. Some of us require dead quite, whilst others need blaring music and distractions.
The key though is to figure out what puts you in the mood to write and just roll with it.
For me, I have to be comfortable with my hair down. While most people would find their hair in their eyes annoying, I love it. It relaxes me. I also prefer either natural light or a half light ambiance with music playing. But it can’t be anything with lyrics I know or else I will just start singing along and not get any work done. But it also has to be engaging emotionally, so usually, I listen to instrumentals or medieval music. YouTube is a great resource for relaxing playlists.
I also have to have a drink of some sort on hand as there is nothing more distracting than when you’re thirsty.
Another thing I like to do is have a candle or incense burning, as it makes my writing time feel more sacred and precious, as silly as that sounds. But it works for me.
Writing time should be special, so jazz it up a little and treat yourself to some time alone with your words. Remember, its what ever works for you!
5. The Washing Up Can Wait
Frankly, if you cannot get motivated enough to write then why on earth would you want to do the washing up instead? It is beyond boring, even if you are OCD like me. And yet we all do it. Put the need for a clean kitchen sink above an extra ten minutes writing time.
And rightly so for the most part. Just because we are writers doesn’t mean we have to be slobs. Whilst I am by no means denouncing the noteworthiness of a clean and tidy home, I will say this –
Every now and then won’t kill you!
If the muse is calling then ditch the marigolds, because chances are once you’ve finished drying the crockery, you will probably just want to sit down or go to bed. And that won’t help you reach the desired word count or finish your next best seller. Instead, I recommend just writing first. Get those ideas down before their lost in a whiff of detergent bubbles. Chances are after 10-15 minutes writing, the inclinations to clean up will still be there with the added satisfaction of words on the page.
It never works the other way around.
6. Avoid Distractions
I am writing this (the first draft anyway) the old school way. Pen and paper at a desk. The computer is often very distracting, with the allure of Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook sneaking up on you.
While we all have the best intentions of just one episode of our favorite soap or five minutes playing a game, it almost always translates to a couple of hours procrastination at the least.
The safest thing to do is to avoid it.
Although this is easier said than done when it comes to human distractions, it is easy enough to simply not turn on whatever electronic time sucker is the devil for you.
As writers, we are all advised to have a notebook or two and distraction avoidance is the best time to crack these puppies open and run our ballpoints dry.
7. Make writing a priority
Whilst we do all kid ourselves about our time commitments, we must also all follow the old adage of making time to write. And to do that we have to set aside time and priorities our commitment to our creativity.
Make an appointment with yourself at a suitable time and let people know you will be unavailable then. You don’t even have to give a reason why if you don’t want to. It’s your time.
By prioritizing your writing time you will be more likely to commit to it. Other people will respect that you’re otherwise engaged and leave you alone long enough for you to get some ‘work’ done and you’ll feel honor-bound to produce something, just as you would for work or school.
Just stick with it and do not let your will be swayed. This time is for writing. Nothing else.
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself
I think this is maybe the hardest thing on this list. I know it is the one I’ve struggled with the most. I don’t know about you?
It is simply too easy when all else has failed, to criticize yourself for a lack of productivity.
But what is the point?
All we do when we heckle ourselves is make ourselves feel even less motivated, less worthy of our time and frankly like crap.
Whilst being a bit strict with ourselves is sometimes necessary, when motivation has flown, being overly hard on yourself will just set you up for failure next time. Getting too much up in your own grill and putting yourself down is not worth the energy it takes.
We are all human. We all have bad days. It is just one of those things, a day when the washing up gets done first before the vicar knocks on the door looking to collect donations for the local tombola and made you overbearingly houseproud. That’s all.
There is always tomorrow.
Getting down about your writing will just take all the fun out of it. And if it’s not fun, then what’s the point?
9. Brain Storm
Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like an idea. It’s that feeling at 3am when you’ve woken up from a dream with the next billion-pound novel idea and all you want to do is write.
Brainstorming is a great way of recreating this.
Just grab a piece of paper and start filling the page with ideas, spider-webbing anything that comes to mind. Don’t stop or take too long to overthink things.
It can be a jumbled mess of ideas or a piece of inspirational artistic prompts. The choice is yours.
Just get those ideas on paper, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just written down. Because once you start, lazy or not, you are writing.
10. Start where you last left off
I once read that when you complete a writing session, you should leave the last sentence you wrote unfinished.
This then means that to continue, you have to go back and re-read some of what you last wrote in order to continue the story.
Whilst I’m not a fan of leaving a sentence incomplete, I do find it very helpful to re-read the last few paragraphs I wrote before I start to write again.
This enables me to get back into the mindset I was in before and helps continue the flow of my work.
It’s not about editing or picking out flaws, but regaining the feel of the story. Re-inspiring yourself and asking what comes next?
It’s a great way to dive back in and get motivated to write. Why not try it next time you’re tempted to turn on the TV?
So there you have it, my top 10 tips to overcoming writing paralysis and to prevent laziness from dampening your creativity.
Let me know in the comments below which of these has helped you to overcome your writing woes and what writing ritual you use to help get yourself in the mood to compose.