Writing Ritual: The Cure for Writer’s Procrastination Syndrome

What's the point?

Alma Leaper via Compfight

I’m excited to present my cure for procrastination in my writing life. Before you read another word, let me begin by stating I spent twenty-two years in the military, so I’ve been trained to have a plan. I have some experience with packaging and organizing my life, so creating a writing schedule wasn’t a huge stretch for me. My active duty husband and I have moved over 20 times in 27 years…multiple moves is definitely a form of ritual management. Today, I’m going to share my personal writing productivity plan with you. This goes without saying, but you have to make daily writing a priority in order to establish a habit of putting the words on the page. Initially, this is not about time, it’s about the behavior of actually adding to your body of work.

Identify the problem.

Not all roadblocks to writing are created equally and most are multi-faceted. Don’t get sucked into an emotional black hole because your writing life isn’t where you want it to be. It’s okay. Admitting there is a problem opens you up to the possibility of moving from where you are to where you want to be as a writer. Writers love questions, so here’s one for you. What is hindering your ability to get the words out of your head and onto the page? Is it time, space, motivation, fear, or lack of creativity, or something else?

Space.

Write where you feel the most comfortable. When I told my husband I wanted to be a writer, we built a house with an office. It’s a beautiful space with plenty of sunlight, a view of the backyard, and the surrounding trees. But guess what, I write more words with my feet up on the living room couch in front of the fireplace. Go figure? I have a friend that writes best in the bathtub. Do what works for you. Don’t force yourself into a mold that works against your productivity.

Motivation, Fear, & Creativity.

I struggle with two of these anti-writing demons on a weekly basis. This is where the ritual kicks in. My morning starts with a two minute tension tamer breathing exercise CD and prayer. These two behaviors act as a mental and physical reminder that I am preparing myself to write. I spend 15 minutes on social media, eat my breakfast, then I sit down to write. This routine helps me to focus on the task to come-writing, not the fear of what will I write today. I’m a pantser so if I’m having trouble with a scene, I stop and take my character on an adventure. I pick a central character and take them to lunch, a meeting or back to work. You decide where you want them to go, have them interact with another person in the story, and write down their dialogue. Maybe, I’ll use the scene later or maybe I won’t, but I’m still writing. You get the picture? Don’t be afraid to write a bad scene. Writing a good story is a process. The first words you write are not the final words in the story. Notice, I didn’t have you jump to another WIP. A part of the process of becoming a prolific writer is finishing the work you started.

Goal setting.

What is it you want to change, improve or eliminate from your writing life? In my case, I wanted to write in sixty minutes intervals. Not staring at the computer screen for sixty minutes, not checking emails, chatting, tweeting or on Facebook. Set a realistic goal for yourself. I’m not going to tell you how much time to devote to your writing, but I’m going to strongly encourage you to commit to a daily word count and a timeframe to reevaluate your progress. This is a personal goal, do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals at this stage. When I admitted to myself that I wasn’t using my available writing time wisely I started with a daily writing goal of 100 words per day, every day for a one month time period. Within two weeks I was writing more than 250 words per day. There were spelling errors, grammar no-no’s, and poor word choices, but I was writing every day. The story was out of my head and on the paper. Remember, your words are your own. You needn’t share them with a single, living sole until you are ready. So, it doesn’t matter if the words aren’t perfect, get the best words for the moment on the page.

Tactics & Implementation.

How are you going to accomplish this goal? We are writers, so you have to write your plan down. Mine was posted on a sticky note on the mirror in the bathroom. What are the action steps you are willing to take every day to achieve each of your writing goals? For me, I had to limit time on social media to specific intervals first thing in the morning for a total of 15 minutes, again in the afternoon and later at night- total of 45 minutes on social media at three different intervals. If you need to share your writing plan with another for additional support and encouragement, please do so. I prefer to keep new endeavors to myself initially. I approach new challenges like an undercover agent, too many prying eyes can jeopardize my mission. Give yourself some flexibility, if a component of the plan isn’t working, change it. No summit meeting required and you don’t have to wait till a designated evaluation date.

Evaluation.

Which parts of your writing ritual did you master the first time out of the gate? Which action steps didn’t work for you or your lifestyle? Again, you own this process, you decide what stays and what has to go. Sit down, take your time, and evaluate your accomplishment with each action step. Be honest about your progress. If you missed the mark on a few goals, don’t beat yourself up. It’s your plan, adjust the game plan and get back on track. Get feedback from your family or friends if you shared your plan with them. Did you seem more relaxed, more organized, or more focused while implementing your writing ritual? When I put myself on a writing ritual my husband was much happier. No more staying up until 2 am with my character’s soundtrack pumping through the sound system. Music helps me connect with my characters, but that’s for another blog.

If you met your daily word count for the designated time frame, share it with your social media family. Spread the word and help another writer establish a writing ritual. And remember, the writing ritual is not about editing, revising, or structure, it’s about getting your story out of your head and onto the paper.