Ten Top Tips to End Writer’s Block Procrastination

How to get your written work done on time.

Posted Jun 18, 2010

Is writer's block a catchy phrase for procrastination on starting and completing written work? Mostly yes! But writer's block has a different tone than writing procrastination, which is putting off priority writing assignments or delaying writings that are personally valuable for you to do.

A writer's block suggests you have an emotional barrier that prevents the written expression of your creative thoughts. There is the unwritten poem, novel, or Hollywood script. A solution is waiting for the arrival of muses to feel inspired. This amusing mental distraction is an example of procrastination contingency-thinking. You make writing contingent on something that may never happen. However, when the "block" is procrastination, experimenting with writing can lead to creative insights quicker than waiting to feel inspired.

Writing is normally more procedural than creative. Most day-to-day writing is to record and convey ideas, tell stories, give direction, describe, inform, persuade, express new visions, and so on. Procrastination comes into play in many ways. Writing a performance review or a progress report where there is no progress, can feel disquieting and stressfully get shelved.

Procrastination is a nemesis for many whose profession includes written work. Without deadlines and "taskmaster" editors, many reporters and journalists would keep procrastinating on starting and finishing their articles. A sub-group of lawyers who avoid essential writings can put their client's interests in jeopardy and their licenses at risk. Indeed, you can find people in different professions and stations who have reports to write and who delay them.

What may cause writing procrastination? If you view writing as arduous, frustrating, or ego-threatening, you may "automatically" sidestep the writing. Writing procrastination may start with a whisper of negative affect about the writing that moves a cascade of delays into motion. However, individual procrastination triggers for writing procrastination vary widely, such as viewing the task as too complex, insecurities about your writing abilities, the activity is not personally pleasing, and so forth.

When you face writing challenges you feel tempted to put off, you meet the never-ending conflict between writing or engaging a familiar diversionary procrastination waltz. Diversionary actions may include crawling within yourself and worrying too much about what you are not doing.

If you put off writing as long as you can, and you want to turn over a new leaf and start scribing scripts, here are 10 quick tips:

1. Look for your procrastination trigger. A complex form of writing procrastination can have different combinations of triggers including inertia, a natural tendency to avoid something you see as unpleasant, performance anxieties, self-doubts, intolerance for uncertainty, perfectionism, and not wanting to do something that may be arduous, unpleasant, or lengthy. As you examine your writing procrastination motivation, cope by pushing yourself to write.

2. Adopt a reasonable perspective. If you expect that writing should come easily, but written words don't come so easily, what supports your belief that "writing should come easy for you?" Whenever you find a contradiction between fantasy and reality, prefer reality.

3. Prepare to think independently. If you make your global self-worth depend on others' judgments of your writing, you may delay until you believe you have a guarantee for success. To counter this form of procrastination thinking, shift gears. Think about what you want to accomplish. This can take your focus off possible rejection fears. Then, ask yourself how you can express your ideas through writing to further your positive goals that involve writing? By focusing on what you are doing rather than on how others may or may not think, you will likely create a better product.

4. Map your cognitive-emotive-behavioral writing procrastination process. Tune into what you tell yourself about the writing assignment. How do you feel? How do your emotions affect what you do? What do you do to avoid the writing task? Use this information to start a cycle of positive change. For example, can you identify and punch holes in your writing procrastination thinking? What first step can you take to move from thinking about writing to the process?

5. Decide when to start, and commit to that time. You won't get far unless you start. That's obvious. State the "obvious" to yourself and this can help put the matter into perspective. Before that, commit five-minutes to create a plan: What you do first, second, third, and so forth. Include a schedule where you carve out time for each phase of your self-management writing plan. By pushing yourself to start on time, you may avoid the last minute rush and stresses that typically come at the end of a procrastination cycle.

6. To boost your motivation, set up a reward and penalty system. Identify what you like to do that is pleasurable but not time-consuming, such as reading your favorite news column. (1) After every hour of work (or other suitable time), take five to ten minutes for a planned enjoyable activity. Then get back to the writing activity until you finish. By having many small, meaningful, rewards, you play into your own human nature. People typically go for smaller quicker rewards in preference to the bigger reward that is often far in the future. Follow this path and you can get both. (2) Use penalties for procrastinating. For example, deprive yourself of something pleasurable, such as reading your favorite news column. As a support option for your reward system, write out a contract that included both rewards and penalties, Sign it. Perhaps have someone you know counter-sign as an added incentive to start and finish. This reward system yields a triple reward: A. You have short-term rewards at each phase of the writing process; B. You avoid a penalty by writing, and that is rewarding; C. You finish with less strain and more of a gain and that is rewarding.

7. Expect inertia and prepare to meet that challenge. If you experience inertia, refuse to collapse. If you con yourself into thinking you "can't" break through inertia, could you break through inertia one time for $1 million dollars? Would the feeling of resistance prove too much? If you can break through inertia under these circumstances, then why not apply the same energy to gain ground in both starting and finishing your writing task?

8. Distinguish between "can't" start and "won't" start thinking. Can't implies that an action is outside of your capability. Is it really true that you can't start? Can you start but won't because you perceive and believe the writing project is difficult, uncertain, time-consuming, unpleasant, or other? Won't thinking is a reason for optimism because this thinking is changeable.

9. Plan for re-writes. Completing formal writing tasks typically involves developing ideas, paring them down, and repeating this "draft" process until the work is in good shape. Through revisions you gain control over the shape of the content and of your written expression.

10. Rather than view yourself as stuck in a writing procrastination rut, focus on the free-will component of writing. William James, the founder of American psychology, once wrote less than he wanted and lamented this situation. Following reading the work of the 19th century French Philosopher, Charles Renouvier, James had an epiphany. Renouvier described free-will, or the power to choose one path when you might have chosen another. James thought he could choose a different way, did so, and got much more self-directed written word done.

For more guidance on how successfully to combat anxiety, click on:  The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety (Second Edition)

The section on self-regulation training in chapter six of End Procrastination Now gives you another angle to meet both your learning and writing challenges. If you want to know more about the book, check it out at:End Procrastination Now

(C) Dr. Bill Knaus

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