Weekend Writing Inspiration: 10 Tips to Push Through Procrastination
April 18, 2019
“Help! I need a strategy for beating procrastination.”
Procrastination is one of the most common manifestations of writing resistance. You want to write, you have a solid script idea, and you’re ready to get to work, but somehow each day that rolls around, you find yourself stalling, making excuses, delaying, and doing anything but writing.
Here are 10 tips to help you push past procrastination and get into action.
- Ruthlessly eliminate distractions
If you’re serious about writing, get what’s stopping you out of the way.
What are you doing instead of writing? Make it your job to ruthlessly clear anti-writing distractions and non-essential activities out of your way.
On your computer, close your email program and and your social apps. Make it hard to see other apps by writing in full screen mode.
On your phone, delete apps if necessary. Make notes about things you need to look up and do that later.
In your life, take stock of what’s not important and cut it out. Keep what supports you as a person and a writer, and get rid of everything else. Let nothing distract you from the actual writing.
- Put your script in your way
As a corollary to this, deliberately put your script front and center. (See also: “Make Your Script Your Main Thing”). Have your screenplay be the thing you see on your screen when you open or boot your computer. Leave it open on your desktop when you wrap up for the day. You want to trip over it before you see (or do) anything else when you get started tomorrow.
And once your screenplay is in front of your eyeballs, don’t look away until you write at least one sentence (or page!) or meet a “rock bottom minimum” amount of writing for the day.
- Use a timer
When you sit down to write, use a timer. It sounds simplistic (it sounded ridiculous to me when someone first suggested it), but setting a timer while you write will help you keep your eyes on the page. If you know the clock is ticking, you’re less likely to venture off into doing other things.
Decide on an amount of writing time for your writing sprint, set the timer, and GO. Don’t look back or change course until your timer goes off.
The snarky Productivity Challenge Timer (iOS | Android) and practical Toggl timer (Web | Desktop | iOS | Android) are two my favorite timers. I also use the timer app on my phone, and even occasionally use the built-in timers in Google (type “timer 15 minutes” into your browser bar in Chrome and it’ll start the countdown for you). I hear good things about Clockify too (Apps).
- Track your writing time
Once you’re timing your work, use a method to track your writing. Whether you log your writing time and page counts in a spreadsheet, use one of the apps above that compiles time on a project, or write it by hand in a bullet journal, keep track of how much you’re writing. It’s inspiring to see your time and page counts building, and it will motivate you to keep going.
As an added bonus, your logs will give you a sense of how long it takes you to write (and revise) which will give you a leg up on planning future scripts.
- Use writing rewards
When you write, reward yourself. This doesn’t have to be big, fancy or complicated. An X on your calendar for the day (or a sticker) is enough. Much like having a sticker chart for kids, SEEING evidence of your writing streak will motivate you to keep going.
- Start with small increments of writing time
One of the biggest myths procrastinators buy into is the notion they have to write for big blocks of time in order to get anything done. And sure, yes, you’ll want to build up to that. But if that idea is stopping you from writing, change it.
Bust through your procrastination habit and reboot your writing by working for 15 minutes (or less, if needed). The idea is to find a number where you mentally respond with “that’s easy enough, I can do that.”
The critically important thing is to get to the page, for no matter how long. You can gradually increase your writing minutes over time.
Again, this sounds simplistic, and it’s something writers doubt, but let me ask you this: How much are you writing right now? And how much can you accomplish in 15 minutes a day? Isn’t that more than zero? And isn’t that worth it?
I’ve shared this before but I’ll share it again: I completed a page-one rewrite of one of my early scripts in 15 minutes a day during a difficult personal phase of my life. It took me about six months, but it was done and it was so worth it.
- Get up early
If you’re a procrastinator, one of your best tools is writing EARLY. Get up and write. Don’t do anything else if you can possibly avoid it. A trip to the bathroom, putting in your contact lenses or getting your glasses, maybe a drink of water, sure, but get to writing ASAP.
To make this work, get up early (and go to bed earlier too; I know that sucks but we have to make sacrifices to write). Set your alarm clock for 15 minutes (or more) early, put your laptop by your bed, and wake up and write.
This is the ripping off the bandage approach to dealing with procrastination and it works wonders. The relief and energy you’ll feel from having written first thing in the morning will more than make up for the change in your sleep schedule, too.
- Leave a ragged edge
When you’re done with your writing time for the day, stop wherever you are, even if it’s mid-scene or mid-sentence. In fact, it can be BETTER to leave a ragged, unfinished edge in your story because it gives your brain something to noodle around while you do other things, and you’ll be ready to jump right back in the next day.
- Don’t go longer than 24 hours between writing sessions
If you’re wrestling with a massive case of procrastination, make a point not to go longer than 24 hours since the last time you wrote, even if you’re “only” writing for 15 minutes each day.
Here’s why: The more time between writing sessions, the more resistance and procrastination build up and make it harder to start again. Keeping the time shortened between writing sessions keeps you mentally warmed up and ready to go.
- Buddy up for accountability
The pièce de résistance for pushing through procrastination is to create accountability for yourself. Find a writing buddy and commit to sending them your new pages EVERY SINGLE DAY. They don’t have to read them — and they shouldn’t at early stages — but knowing you have someone waiting for your words will help you get into action.
As an added bonus, keep adding accountability until you’re fully motivated. Work with a coach or mentor who’s waiting to see your pages every week or two weeks. Commit to a deadline for a writing contest. Sign up for a class or course, preferably one where you’re working on your own script instead of doing writing exercises, or join a writing program that focuses on writing every day, including group writing sprints (my writing programs are like this).
You’ll know you have put enough accountability in place once you’re writing regularly again.
YOUR WEEKEND WRITER’S ASSIGNMENT
This weekend, set an alarm and get up early to write. Rip off the bandage and just do it. Then see how you feel. Do it again the next day, and the next.
To refine your process and improve your chances for continued success, chose from among the other tools I’ve shared: Look at what distractions you can ruthlessly eliminate from your life, decide how you can make your script the thing you trip when you get to work, try using a timer, and especially, see how you can create accountability for yourself to write.
GOT QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself as a writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to email@example.com or via Jenna’s online form and she may choose your question to answer in a future article.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list