The Top 10 Tips to Help Writers Overcome Procrastination

February 28, 2022 5 min read

By Author Abigail Geiger

Let’s be honest here, shall we?

I sat down to write this article and immediately reached to pull up Facebook. Or Twitter. My blog, an online comic, Youtube. Literally anything that would keep me from actually having tostart writing.

Never mind that it’s my job, never mind that it’s what I love to do or what I intend to spend the majority of my adult life doing. Starting—especially at the beginning of the day when I know I have a full schedule ahead of me—is hard. It’s uncomfortable. And frankly? I’d rather squeeze in a few minutes before that day starts to scroll something mindless and possibly entertaining.

Unfortunately, those few minutes can turn into a few hours, or a few days, and that article, novel, new idea, or character sketch begins to wither away to dust.

As someone who battles—and mostly conquers—procrastination nearly every day without fail, here are my top ten tips for giving it a good kick in the face.

1) Develop a Ritual

Light a candle. Fill your water bottle, because hydration is thekey to success. I’m not lying. Close your blinds, or open your window. Have something that you do every time you sit down to signal your brain that it is now ‘The Time to be Creative.’

Personally? I pray and invite the Master Storyteller to come and help me with my project. It always gets me on track.

2)  Pick Your Top Three

What are you working on? Are you drafting an article? Writing dialogue? Sketching a character? Only having a vague idea that you want to ‘write’ today will quickly derail your productivity if you sit down and don’t know where to start.

So take a moment to brainstorm and establish the top three tasks that you want to accomplish before the end of your writing time. Be specific. ‘Write today’ is not a doable task. ‘Write 500 words today on X project’ is a doable task.

3) Keep Your Desk Stocked

Water, tea, chocolates, carrot sticks, chips. Whatever floats your boat. Keep your snacks and your drinks nearby. And while you’re at it? Refill your supply of pens and keep a notebook handy.

If you need a certain book for reference, have that within reach. Keep your kitty treats in a drawer so when that tiny monster comes over wanting an offering from his most humble servant, you don’t have to get up and go looking.

4) Ditch the Phone

I keep mine plugged in on the counter. All the way across the room from my desk. It’s much easier to resist Pinterest when you have to get up, dislodge your purring companion, and go allllll the way across the room just to procrastinate.

5) Turn off the Internet

This is a tip that you will see in every single article about procrastination on the planet. Know why?

Because sites like Instagram and Pinterest are specifically designed to distract you, pull you in, and prolong that ‘quick glance’ to a twenty-minute scroll.

It’s not worth it. Ditch the wifi. Research can—and should—be done in designated chunks of time, not whenever a questions arises. As important as research is, it’s also a good excuse for procrastination if it’s not scheduled and purposeful.

6) Ask Yourself Why?

Occasionally, procrastination is connected to something deeper. Take a moment and dig into that feeling of resistance.

Want advanced tips for reducing distractions, overcoming writer's block, and boosting creative confidence? Book a 1-on-1 consultation with Writing Coach Lyndsay Carder.

Are you stuck? Have you reached a place in your novel or article that feels like a dead end? Is the character you’re working with being forced into something they would never do?

Procrastination can be a sign that your ‘Writer’s Intuition’ knows something is off and is trying to let you know.

7) Warm Up

Quick, drop and give me fifty pushups!

I’m kidding.

Still, a quick warmup before you start your day can get things flowing. Doodle a bit. Write some juicy dialogue from a scene you’ll never use. Write a hundred words based on a prompt you loved. Throw together a quick poem if that inspires you.

Getting words onto the page, even if they’re not useable for your current project, can make the rest of your day much easier.

8) Be Wrong

I started this article off with a sentence I was sure was wrong. The idea that I had didn’t take shape the way I wanted it to, and it would have been easy to waste the hour I had on a first sentence that I liked.

I didn’t.

After years of beginnings, I’ve discovered that the first sentence is the hardest. Once that stubborn cork is out of the bottleneck, the rest can begin to flow. Waiting for the ‘perfect sentence’ or the right words often results in a very long wait, or a day that never gets off the ground at all.

Going back later to rewrite a less-than-perfect beginning is much easier than staring at a blank page until your writing time has run out and you have a tension headache from grinding your teeth. Who knows? Sometimes you’ll go back to the beginning later and discover it doesn’t need quite the number of changes you expected.

9) Start Small

Starting your day can be intimidating when you have hundreds—or thousands—of words you need to write, projects to finish and send off, or an endless number of chapters that you can’t wait to finish. If your goals are too high, especially in the first hour of your day, it can feel like a deadlock right from the beginning.

Dividing your tasks into manageable chunks, especially in the first part of the day, can trigger the release of dopamine—a ‘feel-good’ chemical that is released when your brain is expecting a reward.

Aim first for a hundred words, or a character sketch, or the outline of that article you’ve been meaning to write for months but haven’t. Look at the day—or whatever time you have as a writer—as a series of small, manageable chunks that will add up over the day, instead of an enormous mountain that has to be climbedright now or you’vefailed. 

10) Bite the Bullet

This particular tip is last for a reason. Willpower is finite resource, and expecting to be able to dip into it every time you sit down to write—and continue to use it throughout your day—is unrealistic. You will run out long before you’ve finished your project or reached the word count you were hoping for, and will wind up disappointed in yourself and your writing.

Routines, habits, rituals, and tricks like those above will help to conserve this limited resource, but in the end, we all have to use it eventually.

Sometimes, writing really is all heart and no ‘inspiration’.

I firmly believe that inspiration hits when you’re in the chair and three hundred words into whatever project you’re working on, and not a minute before.

As lovely as it is to feel the whisper of that magical muse, chasing after it—or worse, waiting for it—will leave you a very discouraged and unproductive writer.

So, bite the bullet and get your butt in the chair. Good luck!

Want advanced tips for reducing distractions, overcoming writer's block, and boosting creative confidence? Book a 1-on-1 consultation with Writing Coach Lyndsay Carder.

Photo by Mrika Selimi on Unsplash

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