Anonymous asked: I’d love to write a book, and I believe I have the talent, but I procrastinate so much when it comes to writing, I can never bring myself to just sit down and force myself to get out a chapter or two, unless one of those moods hit me where I NEED to write, you know? Do you know how I could overcome this?
Ah, yes. The terror of procrastination is something that plagues us all. Luckily, writing frequently makes one well-versed in procrastination and the techniques required to avoid it. You’re in good hands!
- Don’t write books. Avoid using the word “book.” A book is a vessel, a physical object that houses a story. You’re in the art of telling stories. Think of it as a story. Not as a novel, not as a novella, and definitely not as a book. A story. Start small. Work on generating ideas for short stories. You will develop techniques for character development, plotting, dialogue, and scene building that will greatly improve your writing, and you don’t have the long-term commitment that a novel requires. Tell stories to your friends. Listen to them tell stories. Your primary responsibility as a fiction writer is to tell a story. Work on that before you start thinking about books.
- Don’t Believe. Do. You believe you have the talent to write. I believe that I would have the talent to become an astronaut, if, you know, I trained every single day in physics, engineering, and strength. I would only really know if I had the talent required if I went to NASA and went through their training programs, at which point I would be able to call myself an astronaut. You can’t be a writer if you believe you can be a writer, you have to write. You’ll never know unless you write.
- Sit down with direction. Presumably, if you’re in the middle of a work, you have something of a plan. If you don’t, it’s encouraged that you develop one. If you know what you have to accomplish before you sit down, you will not be intimidated by the size of your project. Just hash out that scene or rework the word choice in some dialogue. Plan what you’re going to do next. Try to make it such that, when it’s time to write, you run to your desk full speed and start pounding out brilliance as opposed to sitting there, wallowing in a lack of direction.
- Your story is not going to write itself.Stories don’t flow out in one sitting. It is going to take time, it is going to be incredibly difficult, tedious, and emotionally wrenching work. Recognizing these things is really recognizing what it means to write. Writing is not the basic act of putting words on a page, you have to dedicate everything you have to a writing session. A willingness to do that is what gets you writing, not a willingness to sit at your computer.
“Watching people write is boring. In my case, at least, it doesn’t even involve that much actual typing, but writing does, at least for me, require quite a lot of concentration, and to concentrate, you must be prepared to face the terrifying specter of boredom without fear.” (x)
You need to embrace the brutally non-glorious reality that is writing, and you have to commit to being able to do that on a regular basis.
- Work out a routine. Figure out a time of day that works best for you to write. Find a comfortable spot. Find things you like to have with you (music, a notepad, a glass of water). Turn off your cell phone. Disable your internet connection (turn it back on if and only if you need to research something). Set a time to stop. Experiment with these techniques (or some of your own) until you figure out a system that works for you. Do as much as you can in one sitting, but be sure to leave yourself somewhere to go next time (remember point three).
- Care about your work. The most surefire way of having your writing mean something to you is caring about the subject matter at hand. If you can sit down and, as Hemmingway put it, bleed on the page, you’re not going to worry about procrastination. Granted, it’s doubtful that every session is going to bring you this kind of passion, but you should be excited enough that procrastination should not be a problem.
- Exercise.If you don’t have an idea you like, search for one. Track down stories.
If you don’t have a story or you just want to practice, there’s stories all around you. Your job as a writer is to find them breathe life into them.
- WriteWorld has Blocks every day to help you get started and we are constantly publishing posts on how to dig up ideas.
- Dig up a book on writing exercises like the 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kitely.
- Practice writing by jotting down things that happen to you in real life, but make them engaging and in-depth enough such that a stranger would enjoy and understand it fully.
To be a writer, you have to love it. If you’re dreading sitting down to write, you need to make some kind of adjustment. Getting rid of distractions is important, but the most effective way of getting things done is to get yourself excited about what you’re putting onto the page. You can only call yourself a writer if you write.
As always, if you have any comments or questions on this article or anything about writing, please use our ask box!