Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Strategies for Procrastinating Writers

Today I welcome Shelley Munro to Terry’s Place. Shelley lives in New Zealand and has been published since 2004. Her current releases are Cat Burglar in Training, available from Carina Press and Eye on the Ball, which is available exclusively from All Romance ebooks.

Change procrastination to productivity.

Does this sound like something you need? Yes? I have to admit there are times when I’m a champion procrastinator. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes attacking the ironing pile seems like way more fun than sitting down to write. On days like this it can take me hours to pound out my target number of words, and each one is dragged from me kicking and screaming.

2011 was a bad writing year for me, and after months of writing nothing new, I had to do something drastic. I don’t believe in writers’ block, so my lack of writing came down to a combination of procrastination/laziness and plain fear because my confidence was at an all-time low. Once I admitted this, it was easier to formulate a plain.

Here are some strategies I used for dealing with my procrastination.

1. I set myself a realistic target of 2000 words per day. When I’m in the groove this is the amount of words I can write comfortably day after day without suffering burnout.

2. Whenever practical I leave the house to write. These days the trendy word is “coffice”, which is a coffee shop that is used as an office, hence the word coffice. When you look around, it’s surprising how many people actually work in cafés. They conduct interviews, have meetings and complete paperwork. I write. I’ve trained myself to concentrate and write through any noise and tend to get a lot done.

3. Recruit a team to help. I meet with one of my girlfriends on a regular basis, and we write. We’ve made a rule that we don’t chat until we’ve completed our words for the day. Having another person present helps to keep me honest.

4. If you’re on Twitter, join in with the 1K word challenge. The object is to write 1000 words in an hour. Just post a call on Twitter and ask if anyone is interested in a writing challenge. Start writing, and once the hour is finished report back with the number of words you’ve completed. Try this once or twice a day and the words will mount up in no time.

5. Plan on writing for a specified amount of time, set a timer, and don’t stop writing or move until the timer goes off. The first few times might be a bit rough, but you’ll soon get the hang of it and your WIP will grow in length.

6. I don’t plot. I’m one of those writers who fly into the mist with little to no idea about what comes next. To help me get into the flow of writing each day, I end each session by jotting brief notes of plot points that I hope to write the next day. I like to finish my writing session this way because it focuses my mind. For the rest of the evening my characters and the situation I’ve left them in floats around my mind. This provides me with a roadmap. It might be rough, but it stops me from giving in to procrastination because I’m not really sure what comes next.

7. Flex those muscles! If you write every day, it becomes a habit. If you stop writing or give in to procrastination your writing muscles become weak. Use it or lose it. Get into good habits and write consistently.

8. Get to know your rhythms. I write best in the morning. For you it might be late evenings after the kids are in bed. Match your writing time with your own personal rhythms for high productivity.

These are the strategies I’ve used to get out of my writing funk. 2011 ended on a high note, and I’m determined to continue on this path for 2012.

How do you cope with procrastination? And while we’re at it—do you believe in writer’s block?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. She writes hot and spicy romance for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing and mysteries for Carina Press. Her latest release CAT BURGLAR IN TRAINING is a contemporary mystery, now available from Carina Press. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at http://www.shelleymunro.com 

(And because she lives in New Zealand, her responses to your comments won't be immediate! But don't let that stop you; she'll get here when it's 'normal' time where she is.)

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Tricia Jones said...

Great tips, Shelley. Love the idea of the 'coffice' and will give that a try. Coffee and cake on hand when you need it. Yay!

Hmm, writer's block? Like you, I don't believe in it, because there's almost always something more behind it. For me, it's usually low energy (physical and creative) and/or loss of direction in the story. These can affect my confidence and take their toll on output. Thankfully, they don't visit as much these days :)

Thanks for a great post.

Susan Roebuck said...

Interesting post, Shelley. I think you're spot on when you say that it's not writing block but a lack of confidence and fear. That's exactly it. Also I'm like you in that much of what I write is "fly in the mist" pantser - although I do know how each novel begins and ends. It's the bits in the middle that are the problem. Having a beta reader or partner who'll give honest opinions helps with the confidence problem.

Wynter Daniels said...

Great strategies, Shelley - thanks. I'm having trouble finding the time now while I am taking care of my father full time. Normally, I find switching back and forth between two manuscripts helps keep me focused. I know it sounds strange but it works for me.

Written Words said...

Great ideas. The only problem I have with them is that you don't plot. Don't you have days where you realize the 2000 words you wrote only lead to a dead end?

Scott Hunter said...

I am the worst procrastinator of all - thinking of introducing myself in my Roman series as 'Procrastinatus'-- anyway, funny, I always do better out of the house in a coffee shop, Costa being the best. See you there!

Savannah Chase said...

Really great tips. I think we all get the procrastination bug and we just have to find a way to push forward and once again ignite the drive and inspiration to write on.

Mary said...

I've never been a procrastinator..my hubby is and it bugs me to no end. When I have something to do, even if it's not due until next week..I want to get it done now.

Maria Zannini said...

I cannot imagine you ever suffering from a lack of confidence.

Excellent tips all around. I have a friend who uses me as the 'brute squad'. Once a week I poke her with my pointy stick and ask how much she's written that week. She says it helps her feel accountable.

And it gives me a chance to use my pointy stick. :)

Shelley Munro said...

Tricia, Coffee and cake works wonders when it comes to productivity. I wrote 2000 words in a coffice this morning. Unfortunately, the wifi access wasn't working, hence my late arrival here!

Confidence is such a major thing when it comes to writing or any of the arts. Believing in yourself is half the battle.

Shelley Munro said...

Hi Susan,

A good friend who understands and helps with writing is like gold. With the middle "blues" I find that thinking about my book constantly or going for a walk helps let my mind past a plotting wall. Showers also work well for me, so I'm a very clean person

Thanks for stopping by.

Shelley Munro said...

WynterDaniels - whatever works. I sometimes have two manuscripts on the go. If you come to a stop on one switching to the other keeps the flow of words coming.

When time is short I sit down and jot notes about where I want to go next or write a few quick paragraphs. Sometimes a day full of snatched 10 minute writing blocks adds up to a lot of words.

Shelley Munro said...

Hi Written Words. I've written for many years using this method and I trust my instincts. When it comes to the editing /polishing stage I seldom have to dump big chinks of my story due to misturns.

I think the secret for me is that I constantly think about my characters and what's happening when I'm not in front of the computer. I'm constantly percolating my plot.
Also, if I come to a point where I think my scene isn't working I'll switch POV characters. This usually works, or at least it helps.

Shelley Munro said...

LOL Scott. When I start thinking the ironing pile is more attractive than my WIP I head straight for my coffice.
I'll wave from NZ :)

Shelley Munro said...

Savannah - you're right. The bug hits us all at one time or another. It's the getting past it that takes skill!
Thanks for stopping by :)

Shelley Munro said...

Mary - I think you're in a minority! I always start with good intentions and use a list to keep me on track. Sadly, sometimes I fail.

Shelley Munro said...

LOL Maria - I have my moments.
A friend with a pointy stick is a friend indeed!!

Alison Stone said...

Great suggestions. It's so easy to avoid doing what we have to do as writers. A few writer friends told me recently to "get the words in first" before I do anything else. Still working on that.


Shelley Munro said...


That's great advice. My days always go better if I write first and do everything else later. I'm still working on that too :)

Carole said...

For some light relief here is a funny about procrastination