Friday, September 30, 2016

Dreaming and Procrastinating
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Jamie’s quotes last week were for the most part short and sweet, but inspirational nonetheless. My favourite of the bunch was this one:

You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.
~ Jim Rohn

Pretty straightforward, right? I look at writing as a learning experience, one where we strive for constant improvement. We aim high, dream big, and build the skills we need to reach our goal. But if we’re not willing to learn, then we need to dream a little smaller.

Often writers are accused of being nothing but dreamers. I take that as a compliment. Dreams, fueled by our imaginations, are where we get our inspiration. We dream big because that’s what it takes to succeed. And we continue to learn so we can keep up with our dreams.

In contrast, the quotes I used over the past week seemed to be on the long side, and as none of them seemed to go along with the quote of Jamie’s for the week, I went with the one I liked best:

As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.
― Paul Rudnick

It’s a well known fact that writers make the best, or maybe that should be the worst, procrastinators. But I have to wonder why this is. We must enjoy writing, otherwise why do it at all? So of course I did some research to see if I could come up with some answers.

It’s human nature to put things off. Sometimes we’re not even aware we’re doing it. But just as there are many different ways to procrastinate, there are many different reasons why we do.

Often fear is one of the most common reasons why we procrastinate. We have a fear of looking bad or foolish when we don’t reach our goal. A fear of failure. But sometimes we also have a fear of success. Success comes with its own pressure of having to do better next time, of perhaps stepping out of our comfort zone.

Another reason we procrastinate is that we’re perfectionists. As long as we don’t finish something, then we’re not risking others seeing something that’s less than perfect.

Hand in hand with perfectionism is our tendency to judge ourselves too harshly. We don’t like what we’ve written so we put off finishing it, or even working on it. Maybe we’ve received some unfavorable criticism in the past so now everything we write is suspect.

Sometimes our procrastination stems simply from a lack of time management skills. We convince ourselves that we need a big block of time and have only little blocks, or we get a big block of time and don’t know what to do with it. So we put off the writing until a more auspicious occasion.

Or maybe we’ve just been working too hard. It can be draining to work on something that has very little return for the hours we spend on it. Procrastinating can give us a much needed break, but it also makes it more difficult to get back into the writing habit.

It’s not easy to overcome procrastination, especially once it’s become a habit, but here are a few things to try:

Try to find a distraction free area to work in. Turn off that phone, disconnect from the internet. Maybe find a place outside the home like a coffee shop or library so you’re not tempted to clean house instead of write.

Set some realistic goals. Not something like “I want to write a best seller” or “I want to be as rich as J.K. Rowling”. These can backfire by putting too much pressure to succeed on yourself and make you procrastinate more. Instead, make a list of the reasons why you should write instead of doing anything else.

If time management is a challenge, try breaking the writing process into manageable chunks. Write a single scene, or even a single paragraph, at a time. Set a timer and write only until the time runs out. Give yourself a daily word goal. Once you’re back in the habit, gradually increase the length and duration of your daily goals, but remember to keep them reasonable.

Reward yourself on a regular basis. Finished that chapter? Meet some friends for coffee. Wrote 500 words a day for an entire week? Treat yourself to a movie. I bought myself a book that I don’t get to read until I finish the edits on one of my WIPs.

Make yourself accountable to someone else. Maybe it’s a writing buddy, maybe it’s a family member, but if you have someone who checks in with you on a regular basis, it will help you stay focused on the finish line. Maybe you can even join a writers group that will give you positive feedback.

You may not ever completely eradicate your procrastination, but with time and effort you can keep it to a manageable level.

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