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Passionista Principle: “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” ~Don Marquis
Early on in my life as a writer I felt blessed whenever I was in the company of writers and they discussed writer’s block. You see, lack of something to say is not a problem that I ever have, whether on paper or in person. However, you shouldn’t hate me yet. The writing gods no doubt sought to counter that blessing when they afflicted me with terminal procrastination.
I can procrastinate for hours and as any freelancer or entrepreneur can tell you, when you work for yourself your to do list never ends. So the danger is not that I am off golfing or shaking my groove thang when I procrastinate. I am doing very meaningful things that must be done at some point, just not when a deadline is looming.
So just for you, here are five Abiola tested, Abiola approved ways to beat the procrastination bug. After all, a spell of procrastination seizes like a virus. Why not treat it like one?
If you have not yet read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron get it immediately. The biggest gem in this book of gems is the assignment of morning pages. Morning pages are a stream of consciousness writing exercise that you do immediately upon waking. For 20 minutes you let your pen fly across the paper with no mental editing. If you don’t know what to write, write that, “I do not know what to write” until you think of something. Write down every thought or blip that crosses your mind.
In that vein, free-writing is a great antidote for the procrastination virus. Make it fun. Let yourself off of the hook and say, fine. I will free-write for the next 20 minutes and then I will do my assignment. You have now Jedi Mind-Tricked yourself. Your thoughts are flowing; your words are loose. A great guilt-free time is had by all.
2. The Storyboard Cure.
You are procrastinating because you are either dreading the task of writing itself or dreading the outcome. For example, the 6 year old inside of you may be saying, “Gee, if I don’t hand in this article, then no one can tell me that it’s bad. I can live in a safe limbo of not knowing, or remaining un-judged.” Or the 6 year old inside you is kicking the wall going, “I don’t wanna do my penmanship homework. It’s boring!”
You can cure your procrastination by appealing to the bratty child. The Storyboard Exercise is the equivalent of handing that inner brat a lollipop. This is the perfect assignment for breaking procrastination or writer’s block on a fiction project. You’ll need a board or piece of paper, glue, scissors and access to photos from magazines or the internet. Your goal is to create a visual of the world of your characters. If you draw, that’s great too.
For example, my debut novel Dare is set in a sort of hyper-real version of Harlem, New York City. The Harlem in my novel is glossy, shiny, and upscale and so are the characters. For the Dare storyboard I cut out photos of beautiful high rises, gorgeous clothes, environments, people who look like my ideas of my characters and I glued them together on the board in cliques and scenarios to match my story ideas.
This was so much fun and I didn’t feel guilty because it was a different way of working on my book. Things that the character would eat even made it into the collage as well as words that evoked a sense of something in the story. You can be literal or figurative. After working on the collage leisurely over a half day—photos, dialogue, stick figures and bits of cloth — I couldn’t wait to get writing as I now knew my characters in a more visceral way.
This is also a perfect assignment for those trying to write fiction. You can either ask a friend or writing partner to help you with this exercise or you can do it alone. This is more play for the 6 year old inside of you, but it also is a key exercise that allows you to get to know your characters deeper.
The Acting Assignment is that for an hour or more you must pretend to be one of your characters. You take actions that the character would take, make gestures, speak and even interact with another character if you have a friend willing to play. Afterwards, write down a journal entry as your character about what you just experienced, then switch back to writer mode and write the story of what just happened.
4. The What if Cure.
Give yourself permission to write badly. Tell yourself that this is not the actual assignment but more of a brain lubricant to get yourself going. If your story is set completely in the fashion world of Milan say, hmmm, what if the characters went camping. Tell yourself that you will write 5 pages of the unlikely scenario for the fun of it. You never know what might come up with the pressure off.
5. The Surrender Cure.
If all else fails take the day off and come back tomorrow. Remember that writing is the path that we chose because we enjoy it. Let yourself off of the hook and release the stress. You are closer to where you need to be than you think. You are not surrendering to procrastination, you are surrendering to yourself.