|Thomas Alva Edison, |
punching in to work on his 74th birthday
Those who rely on their writing to pay the bills don’t have the option of waiting for inspiration to strike. Hence, b-i-c.
Procrastination can take many subtle forms. It can be the need to set up the perfect writing area, find just the right software, arrange the lighting, the chairs, and the bookcases just so.
It can masquerade as concern about what rights to sell, or whether to use a pen name. It can hide behind a need for a little more research, or that long-awaited writing class.
It can, of course, be a an inbox full of email.
Procrastination may grow out of fear (of success, or failure), rebellion, burnout, or any number of other sources. But whatever its origins, its effect is the same. It robs us of accomplishment.
So how to get started? Everyone develops their own routine. Here are a few tricks you can try:
Start in the middle. It’s frequently difficult to figure out how to begin a piece, even when you know what it is you are going to write. So give yourself permission to start in the middle – the middle of the story, or the middle of the first chapter, or even the middle of the first paragraph. Begin at whatever point you feel comfortable with, and just go. You’ll find the opening eventually. Often it will come to you while you’re busy writing something else.
Some authors swear by the “stop in the middle of a sentence” method. The theory is that you stop writing in the middle of a great bit of action or dialog, so the next morning when you open the file, you can pick up where you left off. Some of us would never remember what we thought we were about to say, and would waste half the morning trying to figure it out. But for some people, this is reportedly a good method. A slightly-less risky variation is to go back and read (maybe even revise) the last chapter or page you wrote, and then keep going from there.
For a non-fiction piece, a review of your research materials will frequently get the juices flowing. Or pretend you’re writing an email to someone, explaining the subject or describing your writing project. For fiction you can make that an email about your story (but don’t deplete your creative energy talking about/around the work!)
Other tips many writers rely upon:
“Work clothes.” Get dressed as if you were going to the office. Maybe even go out to the car, and then come back in and go straight to your desk. The contrary approach says “don’t get dressed until you’ve written five pages” (or more drastically, variations on “I can’t eat until I write 1000 words.”)
In the end, overcoming procrastination is getting started. B-I-C, sitting down and putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, actually setting one word after another. Frequently the first words we write will be awful. They are like the sputtering of an unprimed pump, or the flickering of a lamp that needs trimming.