You sit down to write…
…and before you know it the living room is vacuumed, the fish are fed, you’ve gotten yourself a snack, and you’ve played five levels of Candy Crush.
You haven’t written a word.
I envy the writer who can say this has never happened to them, because they’re a rare bird indeed. So, how do you stop yourself from having a very clean house instead of a finished book? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are some thoughts:
Is it Ritual?
If you find yourself wasting time with the same procrastination activities, but then managing to write afterwards, you could just have subconsciously developed a writer’s ritual. A lot of us have them. For me, it’s music. No music, no writing happens. Some writers have to have their coffee, in that one specific mug.
Some might have to clean something before they can write. If it does turn out you have a routine, you probably don’t want to mess with it.
Are You Stuck?
Are you, well, stuck? The symptom of this might be if you have multiple projects, but only procrastinate on one of them. Or maybe every time you hit 30k words, you start procrastinating (I call this Great Sticky Middle Syndrome, and I might do another post about it).
You might not realize you are stuck consciously, but it’s possible you have either reached that point in your WIP that’s always difficult, written yourself into a hole, or are trying to write a scene that is emotionally trying.
There’s not much you can do for one or three there other than find a motivation (which I’ll talk about before). But if you find yourself struggling with a scene, it’s always worth interrogating yourself to find out if you’re in a hole. This is often more of a problem for gardeners, but plotters may get stuck because their outline is no longer valid!
Do you need to go back a couple of scenes and then write forward from there? Tweak your outline? Take a break?
Do You Just Need the Proper Motivation?
A writer’s dream world is when the words flow and the writing becomes its own reward. When they don’t, it’s easy to get into procrastination. You might not be out and out stuck, but you aren’t motivating yourself.
One of my writer buddies, a gentleman named Nobilis Reed, coined the term “biblioterminophobia.” He slows down as he reaches the end of a book because he doesn’t want it to end. The Doctor demonstrates the reader version of biblioterminophobia a few seasons ago when he tears out the last page of a book because he…doesn’t want it to end.
In other cases it could just be that writing isn’t happening that day…but you still want to get it done.
Here are a few possible motivation tips to try:
Give Yourself Points for Words
There’s an app that does this, 4thewords, although I haven’t tried it myself (I’m afraid to…last time I tried a productivity game I spent more time on the game…). I know people who swear by it, though. Another writer of my acquaintance will buy a bag of candy and let herself eat a single piece per X words.
Plan an End of Book Celebration
If you’re writing a long book, then plan some kind of celebration for the end of it. Go out to dinner. Go to a museum. Take a day completely off writing. Whatever will make you want to finish it the most.
Money can be the great motivator and if your budget allows, giving yourself an allowance for the work you done, money you can spend on anything you want can help. Consider having a piggy bank and dropping cash in it when you reach certain word goals.
Join a Writing Group
Writing groups aren’t for everyone, and it can be a challenge to find the right one. However, they will keep you honest by demanding something new every month or week.
Get a Writing Buddy or Alpha Reader
Alpha readers read your work as you write it and motivate you by yelling at you when you fall behind ;). Ask somebody who is another writer or a good critic so they can also spot the holes in your work. Alternatively, pair off with another writer and trade word counts.
A lot of people will say that a daily goal is great motivation. It’s worth trying, but if you find yourself depressed when unforeseen circumstances cause you to fall short, you probably don’t want to keep using that method.
If you have a very clean house, then you may just be procrastinating. The most important thing to do is look at what is going on and work out if there is a reason for it. Is it that you think better while pushing a vacuum? Or is it that you have an issue with the work.
If not, then all you need is the right motivation and some confidence. Here’s a bit of that:
You can finish that book.
I know you can.