I’ve been thinking a lot about procrastination lately. In my most magnificent procrastination efforts I would rather clean my bathroom than start a writing project or edit my writing. Sometime procrastination comes in the form of productivity in some way, shape or form, and other times it is merely wasted time. I don’t think I have ever not been a procrastinator, but I have always seemed to turn in good work. Even though I know the flaws and faults in this habit of putting off work, I still manage to vocally discourage it in my students’ work. I ask for drafts and revisions, trying to manage the time they spend both the writing and the procrastination process. If only I could have spent the past several years putting into practice what I now preach!
The best weapon that I have ever been given against procrastination is this: “just start writing.” We find so many excuses not to write – it’s too late; it’s too early; I need to do more research; I’m waiting until I feel confident; my computer crashed; and the list goes on. Now that I know these vices and don’t really believe in these excuses anymore, I still put off writing, but am better able just to start rather than making up reasons for not starting.
If you are having trouble starting a project, I would suggest the following: Go to a quiet, comfortable place. It might be a desk, or a coffee shop table, or even a campus bench. Close your web browser. Take some deep breaths and focus on your thoughts. Then write, and don’t let yourself stop writing for a good length of time. It could be 10 minutes, or it could be an hour. Don’t worry about being perfect because you won’t be. But what you will have at the end of those minutes will be content and, more importantly, inspiration!
Treat your next writing project like a trip to the gym. Spend 5 minutes making excuses and putting it off, then get going. You will find that these exercises, like consistent trips to the gym, help flex your writing muscles and better equip you to stave off procrastination for subsequent projects. In the writing life, “exercising” in this way proves to be enormously helpful. Try it. Take that terse, semi-annoying little word of advice: “start.”