In this post I’m going to try to talk about procrastination—and how I’ve learned to turn it into anticipation instead. There are a million ways to procrastinate. One of them is reading blog posts about procrastination. Another is writing blog posts about procrastination 😉 But in the end, procrastination always means one thing—words aren’t getting put on the page. And when that’s the case, your book gets no longer, your story stays untold, and everybody’s all the less happy because of it—and we want people to be happy, so here’s a quick look at how to stay “in the mood” for writing, replacing your fear of sitting down at your desk with a bouncy anticipation
Write With Other Writers
The biggest thing to remember when you’re constantly finding yourself unmotivated and unwilling to sit down and write is that you’re not alone in your struggles. As anyone who’s ever tried to write anything near as large as a long story, novella or novel, it can be quite a daunting task to undertake, and some days, you feel like you just can’t do it. But, to quote Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, “nothing helps a good mood like spreading it around.” As cynical and evil as it sounds, it holds a grain of truth—ain’t no better way to stop complaining than to complain to people with the same problems as you.
This is one of the biggest reasons I’m such a fanatic about all things NaNoWriMo, and why long distance running is so much more bearable when you do it with a friend. There’s something about doing hard things with other people that makes them that much easier, and writing is no exception.
So if you already have writing buddies, great! If you don’t, find some. They can be neighbors, relatives, or old friends, but they don’t have to be—like I said, NaNoWriMo is a great way to write with thousands of other people, and it’s online. You’ll find that not writing all by yourself is oftentimes just the motivation you need to sprint to the end of that chapter.
See Your Characters As Actual People
The best thing you can do for your characters is to let them be who they are. If you can manage to develop your characters to the point where they could stand alone in the real world and you could just stand back and watch what they’re doing, you’ll find you can do just that—stand back and watch.
Character development doesn’t have to be boring, either. While you could just write down a page-long description of each person, that would be really boring, and why not do something else instead? One technique I’ve read about and tried is to have a conversation with your characters—out loud. Pretend that they’re standing right in front of you, ignore your friends’ confused and concerned looks, and try to talk to the character. Of course, you’ll be the one playing both sides of the conversation, but this type of exercise makes you think—actually think—about what your character would do in any given situation. You could try switching up the types of conversations that you have—what’s his or her favorite place to eat? What do they think about the elections? Would they rather go hiking or swimming? Try to imagine what their responses to questions like these would be.
Now, the reason behind all this character development stuff and its relation to procrastination is simple. Procrastination is about avoiding things that are difficult to do, right? So it makes sense, then, that making your job as a writer easier will also make you more prolific, right?
Look at it this way: is it easier to make a full length feature film, or to watch one? Directing a movie is a whole lot of work, but watching one takes little to no effort—you just sit back and see things unfold.
Similarly, is it easier to have to think, consider, and constantly edit and rewrite a conversation between two characters because you’re not really sure what they’d say or do, or is it easier to know your characters so well that you just write the first few lines, and all of a sudden, they’re off? Obviously, it’s easier to write the conversation if your characters, not you, are the ones talking. This applies equally to narrative and action, too—instead of wondering what to write for this one minor character’s backstory, let them tell it to you.
This type of character development—getting to know your characters inside and out—can seriously help when it comes to procrastination. Remember what I said about how procrastination is a result of not liking to do difficult things? Character development makes writing less of a difficult thing, and before long you’ll find yourself eager to just sit back and watch the show.
Denouement—Have a Good One Ready
One last thing that makes writing easier is to keep the end in mind. Writing without knowing where you want your story to go is generally not a good idea. Think about the last novel you read. Did it have a satisfying conclusion? Or, if it was a part of a series, did the conclusion make you want to read the next part?
And if you’ve already got a killer ending scene or two, make sure it’s really killer. Part of that is making sure that the buildup is killer, too. Don’t just have the solution to everyone’s problems magically pop into existence right when it’s needed. Make it so that the reader’s riding by the seat of their pants the whole final act—it’ll make your crazy killer ending that much better, and it will keep you motivated—action, betrayals, reveals, and escapes are way more fun to write than landscapes and infodumps.
You might wonder what all this has to do with procrastination! Well, the answer is once again a simple “it makes things easier.” The easier you make your writing to do, the less likely you’ll procrastinate doing it, and like I said above, having something to work towards is a surefire way to make it easier. If you find your plot is just wandering around without direction, fix it! Otherwise you could fall into the Pit of Demotivation (hate that place) because you don’t know where you’re going and you have no mission or drive to complete what you started.
I hope what I’ve written in this post has helped you in some way—not sure that it will, but hey—that’s what this site is: one giant experiment. I know that staying motivated helps me overcome procrastination, and until my next post, I’m intent on holding on to the anticipation I’ve taught myself to have towards writing my story.
As always, too, keep in mind that I’m no expert—these posts are purely based off of my limited experience as an unpublished author—but if you find something helpful, then great! Glad I could help.