After We Stop Procrastinating…

Last month I wrote a blog post about procrastination. Today I want to tell you how I actually get myself to sit down and write.

Sometimes an idea comes and I just sit down and start writing. Or I jot down the idea and sit down and write as soon as I have a free minute. 

Often I look ahead and see that I have a blog post due soon and I start thinking about what I could write. I think about it as I walk, run, and drive through my days and, once I get an idea, I sit down to write. 

Other times, I notice I’m procrastinating, so I do the only thing that works for me. I schedule my writing time. I write down in my calendar “Write book,” because that’s the scariest thing I’m doing right now and I’ve procrastinated a lot over this book and enough’s enough.

Then, at the appointed time, I sit down at my desk. I don’t want to. I never want to sit down to write at the time I’ve scheduled it. I know this ahead of time so when I show up at the appointed time and “don’t feel like” sitting down to write, I accept this feeling and sit down anyway. When I do, I’m honoring my commitment to myself and to this project I’m working on that I care so much about. 

The first thing I write is my journal entry about how scared I am to do this writing. (I wrote about this last month.)

Then I begin. I write. It doesn’t have to be good. It only has to be done. 

If you haven’t done this kind of scheduled writing before, keep the time short. Fifteen minutes is plenty to begin with.

Your lizard brain may tell you 15 minutes is nothing, but try it anyway. You’ll be surprised how much you can write in 15 minutes, especially when you don’t give yourself permission to edit along the way.

Schedule your 15 minutes of writing time and write. When the timer goes off or you notice 15 minutes has gone by, stop. You are done. You did what you said you would do. You kept a promise to yourself. 

It doesn’t have to be good. This is not about quality. That’s for later, when you are editing. 

When I resist writing writing down my writing time, or resist getting specific about what I want to write, that’s when I know I definitely need to schedule my writing time.

Here’s my process:

  1. Notice resistance to writing or even scheduling writing time.
  2. Schedule writing time anyway.
  3. Sit down and write at the appointed time, no matter how you feel about writing.
  4. Stop when your time is up.
  5. Close document or notebook. 
  6. Repeat.

What happens when you schedule your writing time?

*******

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

How Writing Is Like Running

Writing is like running (or just about any activity); but since I do 2-miles a day running, and enter an occasional 5k (a 3.1-mile walk/run), I’m using the running analogy.

For writing (and running), first you make the decision to do it. The best goals are written, so hopefully you put it into your calendar as a date for yourself.

Then you decide on the length and outline (or determine the route).

Next, you start writing (or running). One word at a time (one foot in front of the other).

When you hit a wall, you push through – write more words, keep putting one foot in front of the other – hopefully you hit a flow and get into a groove where the words flow (the steps just happen).

Maybe you make revisions (adjustments) along the way to smooth out the article/story (or your pace).

Then you reach the end of the article/story (or destination/finish line) and submit the written piece (or celebrate the achievement).

Lastly, you polish the piece (cool down from the run).

For running, it’s that middle portion of my route where I hit my stride, and in writing, it’s the middle of the piece where the words flow easiest.

Determination (to reach a goal) gets you started, passion keeps you going.

Lisa crossing finish line of a 5K foot race

Finish line of a ‘Stache Dash

And just like with accomplishing any goal, please celebrate the accomplishment — whether it’s hitting ‘send’ to a publisher/editor, seeing your name in print, or receiving a check — celebrate each milestone for your writing — and for finishing the run (I love crossing finish lines!)

What do you equate writing with?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter. Subscribe to her Write Your Way newsletter for bite-sized business, networking, and writing tips – and fun stuff.

Morning Pages – Clearing the Head Clutter

Morning pages — if you already do them, you know their benefits.

If you don’t do morning pages or haven’t heard of them, read on.

I learned about morning pages through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s one way to work through the clutter that can fill your mind and stump your writing (or any creative) progress.

In the image included here, I have a copy of The Artist’s Way as well as The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal. There is no real reason to purchase the journal, I simply like that it follows along with the book (if you’re interested in a 12-week program to increase your creativity), and it allows 3-pages-per-day to fill in for those 12 weeks.

Morning pages are simply journal pages you do first thing in the morning (for best results).

The best benefit of morning pages – no thinking! The morning pages are meant to clear your head space before you fully wake up and start any creative activity.

The morning pages are stream of consciousness and never for anyone else to see.

Decluttering your mind of whatever filled it while you were sleeping allows you to focus quicker when you move into your day.

How to do morning pages:

  • wake up
  • roll over
  • grab the journal and pen
  • open to the next blank page
  • write — whatever flows out of your fingertips

Of course you can vary the process depending on your life – bathroom rituals might take priority. You may prefer to grab a cup of coffee. Maybe you want to sit at a desk to write. The earlier you can start writing, the better, though. Get the clutter out and move on!

Writing three pages before I’m fully awake is easier than writing them any other time of the day, because once the day begins, it’s so easy to drift off and think about things on the to do list.

I truly feel that morning pages ‘clear the clutter’ out of my head so I can get to the words I need. Like shoveling a path to the car on a snow day — if the snow isn’t cleared I can still get to the car, but it’s a struggle. So it’s best to clear a path to be most productive!

What writing habit do you find useful to clear your head clutter?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, AlignableInstagram, and Twitter.

Make Time for Writing

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As writers, we all struggle with finding enough time to write. There are a number of ways we can “make time” to write. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Redefine Writing Time

I used to think I needed a whole day to get some good writing done, but over the years, my time window has shrunk. For example, I started the first draft of this post while waiting for my son in the car pool line at school. I had 10 minutes and I used them!

  1. Make Routines for Everything You Can

I’m the cook in my family and, last fall, I started creating weekly meal plans, usually on Sunday. It takes me half an hour to plan my meals for the week, and it turns out to be a huge time-saver. The hard part about cooking, for me, is figuring out what we’re going to eat. Once that’s done, its just math—and one trip to the grocery store.

Today, for example, is Taco Tuesday, so I have to start cooking at 4:30 PM. If my son and I get home from school at 3:30 PM and he happens to get involved in playing with his LEGO minifigs, that’s an hour of writing time I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d been staring in the fridge at 3:30, wondering what the heck we’re going to have for dinner. Not to mention the last-minute trip to the grocery store once I decided and realized we didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed.

  1. Keep Internet/Facebook/Email/Apps/Games/Etc OFF

If you plan to write on your computer tomorrow, make sure you shut it down completely tonight. Then, when you sit down to write tomorrow morning, only open Windows, or Scrivener, or whatever program you write with. Do not check email or Facebook first.

If you work from your computer and feel this isn’t possible, try this: schedule a block of writing time—after lunch, at 5 PM when you are done with your day job, or after you go to the gym. Before lunch, at 5 PM, or before you go to the gym, shut your computer down. When you come back to write, only open your writing program. Once your writing time is up, you can open up your email or Facebook or Slack, whatever you need to do.

  1. Move Your Body

Exercise is the magic pill. It makes everything better. Our bodies are meant to move and if we walk, even for 10 minutes, we will have more energy than if we sit in a chair all day.

So stretch every hour, take a walk at lunchtime, and/or go to the gym before or after work. Even if you hate exercise, figure out something you can do to get more movement into your day. You will have increased focus and energy as a result, allowing you to be more productive as a writer.

How do you make time in your life to write?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

Start with One Step Forward…How Else Will You Get There?

sign post with arrows pointing in various directionsWhether you call them resolutions or goals or plans or dreams, in order to succeed at achieving them you need to move toward them. They won’t come to you on their own.

While I was out on a brisk icy morning to complete my 1-mile-per-day-outside-for-the-month-of-January challenge, I thought of this one-step-forward concept (I know it is not original, it struck me in the moment though). I took deliberate steps that morning because it was slippery, and with each step, I was one step closer to the 1-mile goal.

It was slow progress, but it was forward progress.

And as with any goal, resolution, etc. you set for yourself, as long as you’re moving toward it — full speed, half-speed, slowly — you have a much better chance of reaching that finish line than if you sit still and don’t do anything.

Am I right?

This isn’t anything new. We all know we have to take steps to reach a goal, yet, time and time again, it’s easy to slip back into the not doing it or thinking we’ll do it later. However, the truth is that tomorrow’s success is based on today’s actions.

Keep saying you want to write a book but haven’t started it yet? Write 1 word today (sounds silly, but it’s 1 word more than you had yesterday), then write another tomorrow… before you know it you’ll be writing a paragraph a day, then a page a day, then a chapter a day — or simply a sentence a day. Whatever it turns out to be, you’re writing that book! Finally!

Want to walk a mile a day? Start with a walk to the end of the hallway and back, to the end of the driveway and back, to the start of the neighbor’s driveway and back. Figure out ways to get some steps in and the do at least the same amount of steps or more the next day and the next, and the next and eventually you will hit a mile-a-day (or whatever your goal is).

Want to build your business network? Connect to someone new on social media. Give a sincere reply or comment to a post you liked reading. Make a phone call to a past client. Reply to a request for assistance. Join an online group. RSVP ‘yes’ to an upcoming event. Do one thing today that can start you forward on building your business network. Then do another tomorrow.

Doing one thing may not sound like enough – but if you’ve had the same dream, goal, resolution, etc. for a while now, doing nothing hasn’t worked, has it?

Maybe it seemed too overwhelming.

So, stop and take a serious look at the goal/resolution/etc. Is it something you truly want to accomplish?

If no. Toss it. Get it off your list once and for all. If yes, if you still want to see that end result, then I challenge you to take one step toward it today.

And then another step tomorrow.

And so on.

Promise yourself you’ll to do at least one thing and I bet you’ll end up doing more.

By taking at least one step forward, you’ll feel good about making positive strides. I know, because it’s what I’m doing now in a couple of areas.

What will be your one thing to get you moving forward?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

Goodbye and Farewell

GOODBYE

Dear Readers: This is my last post for Live to Write – Write to Live.

It has been deeply gratifying to post my thoughts about the business and craft of writing here every other week for almost eight years. I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge, my successes and my challenges with you. And I’ve loved the “Likes” and comments you have given me in reply.

I’ve come to recognize many of your avatars, enjoyed stimulating correspondence with others of you, and consider a few of you my on-line friends. I will miss you, but it’s time for me to consolidate.

CONSOLIDATION

The impasse I came to with Vermont Public Radio has shaken me in curious and unlooked for ways. Most notably, I am honoring a need to consolidate my thoughts and energies to telling the two stories I’ve been working on in fits and starts these past years. I recognize the need to make telling them my priority, and to do that, I have to give up the shorter, easier, extremely gratifying work of writing for you.

TURNING INWARD

Between the death of my father, the end of my term as Chair of the Brattleboro Community Justice Center, and my break with VPR, I sense in myself a great moving inward, as if I’m finally ready to sit still and listen to the voice rising from deep inside.

LIVING IN PLACE

I will continue to post an essay every Wednesday on my personal blog, Living in Place. I invite you to join me there, where I write about our human condition by telling stories. Humans are a narrative species. We thrive on stories.

For reasons I don’t begin to understand, I seem to have been chosen to tell them. I hope you will honor me by subscribing to Living in Place. I look forward to seeing your avatars there, and to engaging in thoughtful exchanges of ideas and opinions.

FARE WELL, WRITE WELL

I wish you all the courage to tell your own stories. May you always find the exact word you need to say what you mean and thereby engage in that intimate relationship between writer and reader.

Fare well,

Deborah.

Goodbye and FarewellDeborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator who blogs weekly at Living in Place.

 

Write Now!

Write Now!

Due to complications of my husband’s broken jaw, I have to Write Now!

This afternoon’s writing time was unexpectedly pushed aside to pick up liquid Ibuprofen, a pill crusher, a WaterPik, and energy drinks for my husband, who’s had his broken jaw wired together this morning and will be on a liquid diet for weeks. I rushed home to cook dinner for friends arriving from Great Britain momentarily, and I haven’t written Tuesday’s post yet.

Write now!

I remember days when writing time would be supplanted by a childcare-giver’s day off, a sick child, a grandmother’s broken ankle, chicken pox, strep throat and a child’s broken ankle. Emergencies happen, yet one can still write in the waiting room, in the car, in the sick room, while the kids are playing dress up or make believe or watching a movie.

Write now!

Write now!

You can write anywhere, write now!

Then there are the planned trips to the shop for car maintenance. I’ve come to love those waiting rooms. With earplugs to drown out the TV, I use the hour to write.

I’m driving on the Interstate, headed to or from a gig at a library and the words for a commentary start bubbling up. I pull over, pick up my pen and notebook.

Write now!

The dishes are piled in the sink, the clean laundry needs to be folded, the trash needs to go out. Take care of the trash. Everything else can wait.

Write now!

I’m told my mother-in-law sold her washer and dryer, subscribed to The New Yorker, and read it in the laundromat every week. Have to do laundry? Write now!

The emails are incoming thick and fast. Turn off email – write now!

If social media is no longer a tool but a distraction, turn off your internet connection – write now!

Whatever you’re doing, write now!

www.deborahleeluskin.comEven though I prefer to write in my studio, life happens. I write here, there, and everywhere, at all hours of the day or night. I always have paper and pen with me. I’m always ready – write now!