Every day I have the best of intentions. I’m going to sit right down at my computer, fortifying cup of coffee beside me, and begin. Open up my file (whatever project I happen to be working on) and GO. But first, I really should clean up the breakfast dishes. I can’t have them sitting out all over the counter. And I need to check my emails. That laundry piling up in the hallway—I should make a dent in it. Just throw in one load. Oh. And what are we having for dinner tonight? I should put something in the crockpot. Get THAT out of the way. Who’s on Facebook? Ha ha. That’s funny. Someone posted a clip of a guy singing about his sister getting attacked. Wait. That’s not funny. Is this a sign of the decline of Western Civilization? Jeez. Now the laundry’s finished. I need to throw it in the dryer.
I think you can see where I’m going with this. Next thing I know it’s nearly lunchtime, I’m still in my pajamas and I haven’t written a single word.
Ah, procrastination. It’s a pitfall most writers continually battle. How do I know? Because I have read dozens of books by writers about writing, and every single one says something about the challenge of motivating yourself to write. I used to wonder about all of this working-yourself-up-to-write business. What’s so hard about writing? It’s not like you’re painting houses, or grilling steaks at Ponderosa, or washing two hundred pizza pans at Papa Ginos (all jobs I’ve actually had, by the way). I don’t know why I put off writing. And I don’t know why there are days when I slog through each painful word. All I do know is that when I don’t write, I feel really horrible. Which is usually enough motivation to get myself going.
Here are a few other tricks of the trade (gleaned from all those writer books on writing) that I wish I had known 15 years ago:
1. BIC—Butt in Chair. As in, put your butt in the chair and write. Some people think you need to be inspired before you can start writing. I’ve learned that if you sit and write, the inspiration will come. It always does. I have no idea how this works. It’s magic.
2. Set a word count. Stephen King says he writes eight pages a day every day. I believe him. But (and correct me if I’m wrong here, Stephen,) I don’t think he has to make dinners or take forgotten lunches to school or clean toilets. Eight is too much for me. I write six. And I take one day off a week.
3. Find an accountability partner. I email my word count goal to my best writer friend every day. At the end of the day I check in with her and tell her if I’ve done it. It’s amazing how this simple thing keeps me on task. When I first started doing it I realized that it didn’t even matter if she read my emails. Just telling her what I was going to do, made a difference. I guess I’m one of those need-a-deadline people.
4. Finish each writing session in the middle of a thought/sentence. It’s cool how easy it is to get going when all you have to do is complete the last sentence from the day before. And you’re off!
5. Don’t blog. Ha ha. (Just realized blogging is THE perfect vehicle for further procrastination.)
Must sign off now. It is noon. I have not started on my writing goal for the day. But my laundry is finished. My counters are cleared off. I am out of the old pajamas and ready to put my BIC.