Any tips on getting over procrastination when writing? Or trying to write?

DAgent

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So, I've got a ton of ideas for different stories, and that isn't the issue. I decided a long time ago to just keep a word doc where I would write down all my ideas and in my free time I would work on developing them into outlines, world building, character bios, research and so on.

That has all worked out just fine.

The problem is making myself do the actual writing of the story itself, get the plot and dialogue and prose all actually written. I have managed to do so on several occasions, literally forcing myself to do and try to ignore any all distractions, but I find I'm not always able to force myself all the time.

So I'm wondering what tips people might have to get past the procrastination and actually write and make writing all the time a "good habit" as some like to call it.
 

JS Wiig

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I would say it depends on what you are looking to get out of your writing.

If it’s a hobby or for fun, I wouldn’t sweat it too much and write when you want to and have the time.

If you’re looking to capitalize or make a career of it, you’ll probably want to develop a schedule and the discipline to stick to it. Make it like brushing your teeth: you do it even when you don’t want to because you know it needs to be done.
 

Phyrebrat

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If you're literally making yourself do it, it's a sign that something is wrong. You should be fascinated and compelled by discovering your characters and scenario. I think you need to reassess why you want to write these works... are they "the real thing" ?

This. Completely.

Every time I’ve stalled on a project it’s because I’m not ‘feeling’ it. This comes down to me not knowing my story or character enough.

Altho it goes against common ‘plough through it’ advice, instead of forcing it, I stop writing, and let it hang around in my subconscious etc. it’s slow but it’s an organic and authentic way of problem solving.
 

sule

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I agree that if you have to "force" yourself to write, it's going to end up being detrimental to your long-term mental health and ability to write. As has been pointed out above, this is likely your sub-conscious trying to tell you it isn't "ready" to write the novel. This could be because the story isn't fully formed, or it could be jitters--the fear that you won't be able to write it, or aren't "good enough" to write it.

Phyrebrat gave a good suggestion on how to combat the former. If, instead, you suspect your issue may be the latter (the fear you aren't "good enough" to write the novel yet), then I would suggest finding time (ideally daily) to free write. It doesn't really have to be very long, and I would recommend doing this by hand in a notebook. The goal of this is to train your "writing muscles" and gain experience writing without putting so much pressure on yourself. Write possible treatments of scenes, or descriptions of characters. Maybe you spend one session coming up with metaphors for description of nature. The important thing is to do this regularly, and to do it without any expectation of writing something that "has" to go in the novel. Think of it like warming up. (This idea originates from Tim Clare's Couch to 80k podcast, which I found extremely helpful building up my writing muscles and making me a more consistent, and less-overwhelmed, writer: Tim Clare's Couch to 80k)
 

sknox

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There are worlds of complexity in between forcing oneself to write and being taken up by the Muse. Writing can come in waves, in spasms, in dying twitches. It often is not much more than tedium, especially in the editing process. But writing can also be daydreaming, getting ideas but you can't lay hands on pen and paper, so you just hope bits of it stick around till you can. Or it can be one of those mad rushes when your brain outraces your hands.

Writing isn't just one experience.

I can assure you of this much though: no writing gets done unless you write. Eagerly, reluctantly, whining, rejoicing, the adverbs really aren't important. This is what's behind the advice to put butt in seat. It's making a habit, making progress, making words into stories. You go into it recognizing it won't always be fun but it also won't always be dreary. Without you sit down, though, the always becomes never.

Even the habit thing doesn't have to be the same for everyone. Georges Simenon famously spent ... was it six weeks? Something ridiculous like that. Churned out at least a book a year, sometimes more, but for the rest of the time he didn't write at all. OTOH, Isaac Asimov wrote all the time, everywhere. Even had a typewriter on the plane. A fine seat companion that one! There really isn't a rule for doing it right.

Only for doing it wrong. Just one rule there. Don't write. I know it sounds terribly obvious, but if you don't write, you aren't writing. Simple as that. Motivation, joy, anguish, all that is stage dressing. Your personal experience of writing. Which you get none of, if you don't ...
wait for it ...
write!
 

OuttaInc

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So I'm wondering what tips people might have to get past the procrastination and actually write and make writing all the time a "good habit" as some like to call it.
My personal struggle isn’t procrastination so much as it’s interruptions and distractions. But what the heck, these tips might work for you, too:

1) I use a pomodoro timer to help me carve out time during the day (25 min writing, 5 min break).

2) I identify an achievable goal at the start of every session- eg, Reread most recent draft, or Sketch out this section, or Rewrite this page in 3rd person, whatever. Having a clear goal in mind makes it easier for me to stay on task.
 

Wayne Mack

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Connect with a main character. If you enjoy spending time with a character and in a world it's much easier to find time.
I find that as soon as I identify the main character, I am ready to start writing. The plot and environment can still be very vague and hazy, but if I know the character, then I can start putting him or her into situations and see how he or she reacts. If, however, I don't know the character I want to write about, then having plot ideas or environment ideas or whatever doesn't help and I get no where.
 

Steve Harrison

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I overcame the same problem by setting myself a very small target for each writing session. Once I've written one sentence, I'm free to get up and walk away. This rarely happens, as I relax after that first sentence (which can take a while to produce) and the writing often flows.

I don't start a novel until I have a beginning, a few set-piece stepping stone scenes and a solid ending to write towards, so I always know where I'm going, but I am a procrastinator and it often takes me an age to get going.
 

Stephen Palmer

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I agree with advice given above - find out more about your main character. Draw them, or find a photo online that tells you more about who they are.
Check out this blog post I wrote for Biskit.
 

Dragonlady

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So, I have ADHD, and even when I am really enjoying writing making my brain do it can be like getting blood out of a stone. I used Tim Clare's couch to 80k writing boot camp podcast:


Which is free, and helps you work round some of the emotional stuff that holds you back, and gets you writing for short periods. I write for very short periods - just 300 words at a time, or 10 minutes, because then it actually happens. What you write doesn't have to be good, and it doesn't have to be in the right order, and it doesn't have to be a story, to start with. You could try to free write for 10 minutes, or spend 10 minutes writing a characters' diary entry, or a random bit of scenery or character detail. The main thing is starting.

If you struggle with procrastination, a tick sheet may help- don't fill the dates in first, because it's asking for guilt when you miss a day, but just some way of logging what you get done so you can look back and be proud of it (and get a nice dopamine boost).

Using the same music each time, and sitting in the same place, can help your brain to get into a good routine first too.
 

OuttaInc

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Using the same music each time, and sitting in the same place, can help your brain to get into a good routine first too.
Great suggestion.

I do this myself. Certain scenes have specific songs associated with them (usually cinematic music by Thomas Newman) which help re-establish the mood and tone I had in mind when I first started the scene.
 

Dragonlady

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Great suggestion.

I do this myself. Certain scenes have specific songs associated with them (usually cinematic music by Thomas Newman) which help re-establish the mood and tone I had in mind when I first started the scene.
i've used music to accidentally make myself exercise, too. Work out to the same music each time and it makes you want to move.
 

THX1138

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I have the same problem too.
I try to spend less time here on Chronicles, but it's nice to have that 'writes' comradery!

When I can't write down the words for my story, I'll go about my day while thinking and playing around with the flow of the story and why I'm stuck. I'll also go through different ways of wording what I'm having problems with too.
If I still can't put down any words then at night, when all is said and done, I'll reflect about my day and where I myself was the obstacle to my writing in what I thought and did. (Back to Chronicles again?!)

Another thing that can and has been an issue is the negative thoughts of "You're not good enough to do this. Others are better than you, let them do the writing. What make you so special?" Just noise from the past, a ghost that won't let go, but ones that need to be cut lose little by little every day, until the words flow onto your work.

Add exercise, good/better diet, more water/tea/coffee and less than you think amount of alcohol (sigh...) and good sleep, the fun and excitement of writing should come back. Declutter your dwelling/desk, clear your mind. I really need to declutter everything! I have found in the last month that the more I clean and declutter, the more I work on my novels. Play a board or puzzle game now and then. (The real thing, not computer games.)
 

AndrewT

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So, I've got a ton of ideas for different stories, and that isn't the issue. I decided a long time ago to just keep a word doc where I would write down all my ideas and in my free time I would work on developing them into outlines, world building, character bios, research and so on.

That has all worked out just fine.

The problem is making myself do the actual writing of the story itself, get the plot and dialogue and prose all actually written. I have managed to do so on several occasions, literally forcing myself to do and try to ignore any all distractions, but I find I'm not always able to force myself all the time.

So I'm wondering what tips people might have to get past the procrastination and actually write and make writing all the time a "good habit" as some like to call it.
George, you might consider hiring a few people to help you work out some of those diversions from book four and five. I wouldn't be able to finish that without help either.
 

Toby Frost

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First, different things work for different people, and the only person who can decide what does work is you. Personally, I'd try to write a certain amount regularly. I tend to think that 500 words is a reasonable amount but anything is good. Music and repetition do help: it's good to make a habit of writing.

Often writing is portrayed in the media as an almost mystical experience, which I don't think is helpful. Most of a book consists of what happened next, or what someone thought, said or did in response to it. Writing prose is often quite, er, prosaic.

You've got to have a story that enthuses you: not just the ending, but the important points along the way and even the more mundane bits. You'd got to enjoy spending time with the characters, or at least be engrossed. The next hundred words have to be interesting to you, which means choosing what to write about. I'm always wary when people plan series before finishing one book, because you're not writing to get to the end of book 4 - you need to be writing for the pleasure of saying what happens next.
 

THX1138

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First, different things work for different people, and the only person who can decide what does work is you. Personally, I'd try to write a certain amount regularly. I tend to think that 500 words is a reasonable amount but anything is good. Music and repetition do help: it's good to make a habit of writing.

Often writing is portrayed in the media as an almost mystical experience, which I don't think is helpful. Most of a book consists of what happened next, or what someone thought, said or did in response to it. Writing prose is often quite, er, prosaic.

You've got to have a story that enthuses you: not just the ending, but the important points along the way and even the more mundane bits. You'd got to enjoy spending time with the characters, or at least be engrossed. The next hundred words have to be interesting to you, which means choosing what to write about. I'm always wary when people plan series before finishing one book, because you're not writing to get to the end of book 4 - you need to be writing for the pleasure of saying what happens next.
Very true!
 

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