Let me open by saying I was initially hoping to have this ready to post last week.
Well, I may not be on time, but at least I’m on theme.
Procrastination. It’s quite the beast, really. It can easily eat up a writer’s day, week, even a lifetime if they let it.
And I do let it. A lot. Naturally, this is a huge problem if you’ve got ambitious plans and precious little free time. You can’t afford to waste it.
And yet there are so many different ways to waste it.
Even before the internet (society’s most cutting-edge form of procrastination) there was already laundry, naps, coffee, newspapers (remember those?), and of course, television.
Still, you want to get your scripts finished or you probably wouldn’t have started them in the first place. So if writing-avoidance is also a problem for you, what can you do to combat it?
Ideally, you want to get yourself a Rhonda Smiley, like me. Not the actual one, but a metaphorical one. On second thought, Rhonda herself might be the metaphor in this example (I feel like I should know this).
Regardless, what I’m talking about is a writing partner who doesn’t have a problem with procrastination. Someone who is driven to get things done long before a deadline is bearing down on them.
Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting your Rhonda Smiley do all the work while you binge watch Game of Thrones episodes. Instead, this kind of partner helps keep you accountable and pushes you to do your share of the pages that need to get done in a timely manner.
But maybe you’re a lone wolf behind the keyboard, what then? Obviously some form of time management (which may or may not be a future post) is key. The real trick is figuring out what motivates you away from the distractions and back to the work.
This is pretty straightforward. You can only procrastinate so much when a delivery is on the line (at least if you want to get paid, and have a chance at another assignment in the future).
If you don’t have to deliver to anyone but you, then you need to create a self-imposed deadline. Once you decide when you want to have your draft finished, take out a calendar (and possibly a calculator) and work your way back from that date. How many total pages are you hoping to achieve? How many do you have so far?
Take the difference and divide that by the days until your deadline. That number is the daily page target you’re gonna have to keep if you want to finish… when you want to finish.
Another form of self-imposed deadlines for aspiring professionals (even actual professionals) are screenwriting contests. Entry deadlines are frequently cited as a good motivator for getting those fingers back on that keyboard and getting back to work. Financially speaking, early-bird entries are often cheaper. That’s an even tighter deadline.
Maybe the cost savings will push you to be more efficient with your time.
Other than the fact that writing is supposed to be what you want to do in the first place… What’s in it for you if you finish another page? Another ten?
You decide, but make it tantalizing. What kind of carrot do you respond to the best (I imagine it’s not an actual carrot. If it is, you’re in a lot better shape than I am)?
Maybe after you finish each page, you agree to let yourself surf online for twenty minutes. How about food? An hour of writing and you give yourself a cookie. Maybe get through an act and watch an episode of Project Runway.
Like a gym buddy, sometimes just having someone else working parallel to you is enough motivation to get you working when your mind wants to drift away.
This isn’t an actual writing partner on a particular project, just someone you share goals with, like pages or drafts. Someone who keeps you honest and on-the-job, while you do the same for them.
In a similar vein are social media prompts called Writing Sprints. I’ve never actually participated in one myself, but I first heard of them via an article by Jeanne Bowerman at Script Magazine. Basically it’s a call to arms for anyone who wants to join in and write at the crack of a digital starter’s gun. You can read more about the concept via this post from Julie Duffy on Story a Day.
Ultimately, if you want to write professionally, you can’t let procrastination get the better of you. For most people, I think a little procrastination is inevitable. But if you notice that you’re spending more of your “writing time” goofing off than you are actually writing, then you really need to take stock and change some habits before it eats you alive.
Do what you can today and improve over time. Build good habits. Change your instincts. Strengthen those brain muscles.
By the way if you have any unique procrastination busters, please share in the comments. This old dog can still afford to learn a few new tricks.
Now get to work. I’ll do the same.
In just a minute.