I’ve been a runner for over twenty years, ever since I started medical school and learned that exercise was the “magic pill” that everyone was looking for. Throughout the years, there have been times when I didn’t (or don’t!) really feel like going out for a run.
So I trick myself.
I can tell myself, “just get dressed in your running clothes, then if you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to go.”
Sometimes, even after I’m dressed, I have to keep up the pretense: “Just stretch a little, see how you feel.”
Then, “Just go outside, see how the air feels (or how cold it is, how hot it is).
Then, “Just jog a little, see how you feel.”
Well, by then I’m running and once I start, I don’t stop. Not even that time I ran the Disney World Marathon without training for it. (It hurt. A lot. I wouldn’t recommend it.) Took me six hours, but I finished.
These days, I also trick myself into writing.
With a toddler, a business, and a home to care for, there is never enough time in the day for everything. So sometimes I find myself putting off my writing, which I enjoy so much, in order to check more tasks off my to-do list. When I catch myself doing this, I trick myself. It works to get me running, why not try it for writing?
If I have a writing assignment I need to get going on, I’ll grab a notebook or a piece of paper and say, “I’ll just write for five minutes (or two, or even one), just free associate, see what happens.”
Or I might set my timer and say to myself, “just put something down, it doesn’t have to be good.”
Sometimes I have a first draft of something already finished, but I’m convinced it’s lousy and I’m not going to be able to use any of it. Instead of continuing to avoid it, I tell myself, “just take a look and see if you can find one sentence that you can keep.” I’m usually (not always, but usually) surprised at how much I want to keep. And once I look at it, I usually want to keep working on it. Reworking a first draft feels easier than starting from a blank page.
Lowering my expectations and breaking the writing up into tiny pieces usually gets me past procrastination.
What are your tricks for getting your writing done?