It was the beginning of a new writing project… Fingers flying over the keyboard. Leaning into the computer screen. Excited flush through your body. Steadily higher-ticking word count. Surprise when you looked at the time, for how much had passed. Typing late in bed and allowing schedule delays because of delightful idea-whispers in your ear. Your friends could see it in the openness of your face, the brightness in your eyes, the big ol’ grin… you were creating.
Then… what happened?
Now you dread opening the document. You’ve been staring at the same words for the past week. Nothing changes even after hours in front of the screen.
The time you’ve allotted for writing comes around… but you. don’t. wanna! You find other things to do. You miss the spark and wonder what’s wrong. Maybe your idea just isn’t working.
This procrastination and resistance in the middle stage of writing is normal. The initial spark of inspiration can’t always carry through an entire project. Just like when exercising, there can be a plateau somewhere in the middle when the novelty and excitement has worn off.
Below are five things you can try when you’re procrastinating.
- Take a break. Focusing on something else for a while can be a much-needed reset. You may even return to that OTHER project you were procrastinating on — this can be a welcome time to switch gears. Then when you hit a snag with the other project, you can return to this. 🙂
- Have a gentle inquiry with yourself about what is underlying the “I don’t wanna.” Put on a hat of genuine compassionate curiosity. Ask that “I don’t wanna!” voice for more details as if it is a child. Why not? Why? Keep asking why. Remember to be gentle with the voice – curiosity and kindness will likely get you much further than force or judgement. (E.g. I should be enjoying myself — something’s wrong if I don’t feel happy and inspired when creating. What if this is a dumb idea and it’s pointless to complete it? When I finish, I’ll have to show it to people; I’m not ready for that!)
- Set a timer for five minutes. Or use a stopwatch. Tell yourself you’re going to seriously try to write for those five minutes. You don’t have to be productive, make a ton of progress, or complete your draft. Just tell yourself to sit and make a sincere effort for those five minutes. If after the time is up, you’re still struggling and not enjoying yourself, you can stop. And if you’re loosened up and the spark of inspiration is there, you can keep going until it doesn’t feel good anymore. This can take away some of the pressure. I find it surprisingly effective. Most often, I continue writing well past the initial 5 minutes.
- Change up the routine. If you’ve been staring at your screen, try writing by hand. If you always write at your desk, try the living room or take your laptop outside. Novelty can increase chemicals like dopamine and send signals from the brain to be more alert. This can help when you feel apathy towards your writing.
- Accountability. Like setting a timer, letting someone else know your goal is a way to have accountability. Try setting process-oriented instead of outcome-oriented goals. How much time do you want to spend on your writing, and when? Tell a buddy what you plan to do, and see if that helps stick to it.
Similar to plateauing with an exercise goal after the initial excitement wears off, sometimes writing feels like work. Even if it isn’t fun all the time, it doesn’t mean it’ll always be like that. It doesn’t mean you’ll never finish.
Sometimes you just need to keep going. You may even be closer than you think to the end. The results may surprise you. Be kind to yourself.
I hope this helps you plod through the messy middle. Is there something from this list you’ve tried, or want to try? What helps you through procrastination? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know!