Tricks to Outsmart Writing

Writer’s block can hit us all in the most awkward moments, but today I want to offer seven tips for authors prone to procrastination. Some of us are like the tortoise and the hare—rushing to the WIP finish line just to get distracted by the comforts or distractions of life, like the legendary rabbit’s nap.

Sitting in front of a blank screen can be painful and can make absolutely everything else more urgent. But what is more important than completing your project and achieving your writing goals?

Procrastination is a natural response to an uncomfortable situation when we do not want to finish work. We can choose to catch up on emails, watch a TV show instead, or browse our library by color. These are not terrible things to do, just obstacles on how to finish your next great novel. Whether you’re closer to the rabbit or the turtle, read on for tips on avoiding procrastination.

1. Get into the habit.

One way to stay on track with your novel is to write every day or on a set schedule. There are many scientific reasons why writing daily can make procrastination easier. Having a regular schedule can reduce decision-making fatigue, as your routine automates this part of your thinking. This rationalization declutters our mind and allows us to focus more on our writing task.

Don’t know what Decision-making Fatigue is? This is the result of the tens of thousands of decisions we make daily that wear down our ability to do more. It could be about which socks to wear or skipping them all together for flip flops, but after making a constant stream of choices all day, the mind becomes overloaded and even simple choices become too difficult.

Another way to strengthen this daily routine is to use visual cues. Most people are hardwired to respond to visual cues, which may explain why we may be attracted to decorative signs that say things like “LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE” (Guilty, by the way! If you want to start a writing habit (or refresh an old one), try leaving notes for yourself in the house.

  • There are a lot of things you can do to get to know each other and to get to know each other.
  • Add encouraging messages to your whiteboard by recording your progress daily.
  • Stick a favorite writing quote on your monitor for inspiration.

Let your inner encourager encourage your writing and you’ll want to show up and write more.

Keeping a writing habit is essential for productive writers because it has many benefits. This frees up creative energy due to less decision-making. This allows writers to write their novels faster, because it trains them to work at that time. This makes their writing stronger because they flex their writing muscles more often. Take this, procrastination!

2. Plan your time.

Writing regularly requires planning. Here are some tips for planning your writing sessions that could make them more productive. Use what works and skip what doesn’t, because everyone has a unique writing process.

Ivy Lee Method.

Using this age-old method, writers can release their mental energy and prioritize their to-do list daily.

This system forces a person to think about the end of his day. They write down what they want to accomplish the next day, stopping at a maximum of six items. This forces the writer to decide what the most important things are. If you have a doctor’s appointment or need to go grocery shopping, add it to the list. Make sure that your writing-per-page or 500-word type goal is also on your list. Items that did not happen are put on the list the next day.

Keeping track of daily tasks and minimizing them to the six most important ones has been used in large companies for more than 100 years. It prioritizes the most important tasks and eliminates stress. We can also use these productivity ideas for our writing.

Minimize interruptions.

Honor your writing time.

Turn off notifications.

Wear noise-canceling headphones.

Do everything you need to do for your optimal writing time.

Build in wiggle time.

It will take you a few minutes to settle down and get into your writing mode. Structure your time so that you can spend most of your time writing. The goal is to have more words on the page, right? Find a simple celebration that suits you and stick to it. Do you prefer any of these methods to start writing?

  • Many authors start their writing sessions by reviewing a page or two of what they wrote the day before.
  • Some leave their work on a cliff hanger, which they are delighted to make the next day.
  • Other authors dive right in, knowing that their first paragraph or two will probably be deleted.
  • Pantsers play with their characters and listen to what they say should happen next.
  • The plotters find the next scene and build it from their notes.

3. Set dummy deadlines (and phone reminders!)

One way to trick your mind while working on your WIP is to set up a dummy calendar before the real deadlines. When planning a project, I like to give myself more time. If I get bogged down with another job or life happens—as it is—I don’t have to stress as much.

Set up reminders on your phone. Mine give me a boost during the week and the day before I need a finished written work. This can be done in advance and are helpful ways that I keep myself accountable for my writing goals. It is important to save time and make your schedule more flexible when you are trying to write more productively.

4. Train your elephant.

This is a reference to a very interesting book called The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding modern truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt, in which he extrapolates truths from the main world philosophies and finds commonalities in how each applies similar life lessons.

In his book, he illustrates the psychology behind motivation or why-we-do-the-things-we-do with an analogy. Haidt compares our brain to a rider on an elephant and he explains how our brain has two main functions, the action-or-flight limbic system and the decision-making frontal cortex.

The elephant represents our more mundane brain, full of powerful emotions. The second system is our frontal cortex in charge of sophisticated socially acceptable behaviors. The good and bad news is that creative people tend to have very active elephants, which is great fodder for exciting plots and romantic characters, but without working with our cavalier, our writing life can turn into a disastrous three-ring circus on a bad day.

Making decisions helps train the elephant to work with you as you create your novel. The elephant tends to go for a peanut flavored cheesecake instead, so it takes time and repeated effort to allow for good teamwork. Your elephant will be trained to work when you need to is an essential part of overcoming procrastination.

5. Make motivational tasks last (and pay attention to avoidance tasks!)

Have you ever heard of doing the hardest thing first when you’re reviewing your to-do list? I may have to disagree with this conventional wisdom. Although the fulfillment of the most difficult task frees the writer, eliminating the dreaded task, there are some considerations.

1. Review your to-do list first (Maybe you have your list of six items in front of you? Perfect! Isn’t one of these tasks related to writing? Don’t do them (yet.) Do the writing first. Marketing and email responses can wait an hour or two most of the time.
2. Do you like some of the urgent tasks? If you love creating visuals for social media and need to feed your Twitter, do this as a reward after completing your writing sprints.
3. Do you have a big bulky project that would prevent you from writing? You could probably accomplish a writing session without cleaning the top drawer of your desk. This is an example of an avoidance task. This is procrastination.

Find what motivates you and follow up your writing sessions with that. It’s as simple and frustrating as that. (And maybe a little influenced by the elephant doing a joy ride through an interesting message thread!) Keep showing up for your writing, but don’t forget to focus on getting the words on the page.

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