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Writing procrastination excuses and how to overcome them

Updated on January 18, 2013

This is a hub about writing procrastination excuses and how to overcome those things that easily derail our good intentions to write. I suspect that many people on this site are afflicted with the disease of avoidance, whether it be often or just occasionally. Anybody who used to write and stopped writing and wants to start again knows about this. So I will share some of my excuses and stories I've told myself to avoid writing and what I do to short circuit them

I have to clean the house

This writing procrastination excuse is a favorite of mine. Of course, there are so many things to do, clean the kitchen, sweep the floors, scrub the counter. When I do these, I won't be writing. Then, I get to tell people I had to do all this housework.

I have several tips for overcoming this one. Get up a bit earlier and pencil in the clean up time before your work day (I'm assuming work at home). Or schedule a cleanup day and do maintenance on other days. On some days, I have to give the writing higher priority and accept that I will not get as much housework done. Better the piece of writing than the clean floor. So I don't do very much cleaning. Occasionally, I even hire cleaning help. The key is not to let the cleaning pre-empt the writing.

I have to browse and look at email

This is one of the biggest time killers, one the easiest ways to fritter away time under the delusion of seeming busy. The Internet itself is so distracting, can make us feel like a person with ADD and pull ius in many different directions at once. I don't doubt that we all have legitimate reasons to use email whether it be to send brief notes to family or friends or read news reports. But watch out that it doesn't become a writing procrastination tool.

I have discovered, though, that nothing bad happens if I do not check my email every hour. I usually check first thing in the morning, at noon, and then at the end of the work day. That's enough to get most things done. In fact, I'm learning that many emails don't even need an immediate response (neither do texts, and that's a whole other dilemma). If you want to see how much time you waste on email, then record yourself for a week. Once you see how that time adds up, you'll understand you could do other things with your time.

The same goes for browsing. This has become a new past time for many people.. But browsing creates work detours, and the next thing you know, you've created a diversion away from your writing work. If you like recreational browsing, pencil it into your schedule. Then go nuts for a few minutes. Just don't let it prevent you from writing.

Get writing

I'll write when I quite my job or retire

If you use this excuse to avoid writing, you will find your whole life has zipped by, and then when you do leave that dreaded job, you'll probably make up other excuses. Life does get busy. Someday never comes. One of the things I started doing when I first began writing articles on the Internet was to grab short blocks of time here and there. A half an hour during lunch, a half an hour after the students left the class (and I had some alone time), and a half an hour at home. That was enough to write my first article. I have written many dozens of articles since then. When I break up my writing in to short segments, I feel no pressure. I know after 30 minutes, I will have gotten something done. And once you get it done once, it creates momentum to get it done again.

I'll create a drama in my life

Some people avoid doing something they love such as writing because they are embroiled in the drama of other people's lives (I'll start to write when my friend stops drinking), or in their own lives (when I settle this roller coaster relationship down, then I'll write). Maybe you're looking for material for your novel. That's fine and nice, but your screen will sit empty while you're embroiled in distracting yourself with dramas

I'll write when I finally overcome my issues

Ok, so like many people out there you had a bad childhood, you had a tough life, and you have to have a few years of therapy, before you can start writing. If you just start writing and it is something you truly love to do, you won't need therapy. You'll feel energized from the writing. Your issues may never go away, but there's an old saying that your actions will go where your energy flows. So focus on what you want to do, not on why you can't do it.

Some good tips

I can't write because it just won't be good

You might have had a teacher who shamed you in school. We've all had those. It's funny how we remember the negative and not the positive in our lives, and I see many students quivering with fear and freezing up in class when it come times to write something because of their dread of the red marker.

Sometimes that voice in your head becomes so entrenched that it feels like a reality. In fact, it can be paralyzing. But let me share a secret with you. The secret to writing is just to write. Once one word comes out, then another will follow. Perhaps some of it won't be good. But, who's looking over your shoulder?

Tell the inner critic to take a hike right now. You have my permission to write and for it not to be a work of art. Here's what I know about starting (just from watching my students do it). Within that mess of words that becomes a draft will be the seeds of the next draft. Once you have something down, you can fix it. In fact, give yourself permission to be as crappy as possible in the first draft. Writing is mysterious. As you are meandering all over the place, there will be an order that starts to emerge from the chaos. There will be a spark somewhere inside the words that you can then reshape.

I once went to an art gallery that featured the works of a prominent Canadian artist. The exhibit showed the final version of a paiting and all the sketches the artist made before he created the work. (and there were lots). Give yourself permission to start, to be exactly where you are. You can always fix it later.

How to overcome writing procrastination

Give yourself permission to write- I talked about that before. That creates a mental shift where it becomes OK to just do it and not wait for a magical moment to start.

Write for the wastebasket - This is something I learned form Tony Robbins on an Introductory CD he gave away for a program called The Edge. What that means is that rather than having the fear that someone is looking over your shoulder, and that your writing has to be perfect, just write with a view to tossing it out. You'd be surprised how many good nuggets may show up if you don't have pressure. I tell my students to do this. Just get something down, quickly. It doesn't have be good, and it won't count for marks. Then I go around and look. All of them, unconscionably created their first draft, once they didn't have to worry. Now they could do a final draft.

Set goals - some examples? I'll write 1,000 words a day. I'll create 1 hub a week. Then challenge yourself to exceed your goals. When I did this my income started climbing on Hubpages. Alternatively, set time goals. I'll write for 30 minutes a day (or what ever number works).

Use a timer - This one really works for me. A kitchen timer with a 'beep' after time's up is good. My optimal time is 30 minutes. That time is sacred. During those 30 minute I'm not allowed to do anything else. No email, no browsing, no Facebook, no text messages no nothing. A digital alarm on your computer could work. .Try it. You just might surprise yourself at how much you get done.

After the timer twangs that the 30 minutes are up, you just might want to keep going. If you feel like it then continue. But if that 30 minutes was difficult then stop. It's only 30 minutes, so go do something else. Get the coffee, check the email (not for too long) or clean the floor. Then do another 30 minutes. Try and schedule a few of these 30 minute blocks each day.

WriteMonkey - This is a a freeware program that creates a very stripped down screen. The computer certainly did revolutionize writing (I started my publishing career just before the computer revolution and first used typewriters!), but it also has brought with it many distractions on the desk top. When I use WriteMondkey I have total focus.

Just do it. The difference between writing and not writing is just doing. A funny thing happens when you do it. You start to build momentum. So just do it. Then just do it again.

More tips

  • Try not to worry about fame fortune and publishing, being on TV or book signings. Just do it.
  • Pencil in your writing time into your daily schedule. It becomes real when it schedule.
  • Be gentle with yourself
  • Do something fun after you reached a major goal.
  • Did I mention that you should just do it

Now you should have some strategies in how to overcome procrastination (especially writing procrastination). It's a key element in the writing process and will help you more effortlessly complete your writing assignments

The war of Art

I have read this book, and I love it. It explains why you procrastinate, especially if you are an artist or an entrepreneur, and it will inspire you to move past procrastination

What are your excuses to avoid writing

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  • Sherry Hewins profile image

    Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

    Totally. Being at home without a boss to answer to is hard. I finally got so unmotivated with writing hubs that I am taking a break. I'm sewing, doing some crafts, and taking a Dreamweaver class. Hopefully I can tap in to that creative spirit and come back to writing renewed.

  • Rhonda_M profile image

    Rhonda Malomet 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    They never seem to go away!

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    You hit the nail on the head! I've used many of these excuses and am still trying to overcome them. There are just so many distractions!