Do you procrastinate or postpone anything that involves writing or content creation?
I feel you! Even for pro writers who do this day in and day out, it’s such a common frustration.
You want to create content (blog posts, social media updates, webinars, etc.), but then… uggggh. You get distracted because your dog needs a walk. Or your laundry needs folding. Or you suddenly feel an intense urge to Google “What happened to all of the cast members from Saved by the Bell?” and read all of the Extremely Important Wikipedia Articles. Pretty soon, the whole day has evaporated. Now it’s getting late, you’ve got even less motivation than before, and while you know EVERYTHING about Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s first and second marriages, you’ve also done… zero writing. It’s the worst.
I’ve been there. I know how annoying it feels when you just can’t seem to start—or finish—a creative project that you really want to complete.
Here are some words of encouragement & perspectives that have helped me:
: Even “the pros” struggle to get motivated, too.
I’m a professional screenwriter, and I spend lots of time hanging out with other professional writers. Here’s a dirty little secret: EVERYONE procrastinates. For many writers—even NY Times bestselling authors and sought-after screenwriters—resisting the urge to procrastinate is a DAILY struggle.
I got to see Jon Favreau speak at a panel event for screenwriters. He said that when he was writing Chef, he spent most of his time browsing the Internet and avoiding the work. This is a guy who has written and directed films that have made upwards of $960 million dollars! If someone like Favreau can fall into an unproductive Internet rabbit hole, well, it can happen to anybody.
: Everyone has a completely unique “writing process.”
Some people love writing “a little bit every day.” I DO NOT. I like to schedule a handful of BIG writing days per month. When the next scheduled day rolls around, I write a TON of material in one, long, mostly-uninterrupted burst. It’s like baking a whole bunch of word-cookies all at once. This is a productivity technique called “batching.”
I LOVE batching—I even wrote a whole book about it, which you can download for free over here. But batching isn’t the right approach for everyone. You’ve got to find—or rather, create—a writing process that feels right for you.
I know plenty of people who stick with a consistent “30 minutes per day” writing routine. Other people like to write in coffee shops, but don’t like to write at home. Some people like to listen to music, and others prefer total silence. Personally, I love blasting super-epic blockbuster movie soundtracks (think: Lord of the Rings) while I’m writing, but that’s just me. You’ve got to experiment, and in time, you’ll discover what type of rhythm, setting, and experience feels good for you.
Bottom line: just because your favorite author swears that “writing first thing in the morning is always best” or that you should “definitely write every single day,” that doesn’t mean you need to blindly follow that advice. Try it out, sure. But know that your process is going to be just as unique as you are.
: When nothing is flowing, stop… and “find the heat.”
There are certain topics and issues that make you feel fiery and excited, almost like there’s “heat” building in your chest. Maybe you get fired up about interior design—you’re SO passionate about helping people to create their dream home on a budget, and you’re bursting with tips to share! Or maybe you get fired up about psychology—you LOVE showing people different ways to manage anxiety and conquer their fears. We all have “something” that heats us up.
When you feel really stuck and unmotivated with your writing, take a moment to pause, and ask yourself, “What makes me really excited?” “What makes me really angry?” “What’s something that drives me crazy?” “What’s something that I wish more people would start doing, or stop doing?”
Take a walk around the block, ponder those questions, and record a Voice Memo on your phone if you get a sudden burst of inspiration. THEN head back to your desk and start writing about a topic that really excites you. I call this: “writing from the heat.” You’re writing from a fiery, passionate place… which means the words will flow much faster, and your writing will be emotionally charged and exciting to read.
: Be kind to yourself. (Please.)
If someone tossed you a violin today, you wouldn’t expect yourself to be able to play a symphony, instantly, with zero training or practice. Writing is a specialized skill, just like playing an instrument. It takes time to build competence and confidence. So, if you’ve been placing unreasonably harsh expectations on yourself, try to lighten up.
I know it’s not always easy, but try to talk to yourself like a supportive best friend.
Say: “Hey, you finished a new blog post! Aw yeah!!!” not “It took you THAT long to write just ONE blog post? Ugh, you’re so slow.” Being mean to yourself doesn’t make you more creative, and it definitely doesn’t help you to write faster! Try to be patient and kind to yourself. It makes a huge difference.