Writing a Book

8 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing

  1. Schedule your writing sessions
  2. Use visual aids to sketch out your plot
  3. Write your blurb
  4. Set short-term goals
  5. Treat yourself
  6. Get some air
  7. Be ruthless with distractions
  8. Remember it’s not the final draft

Alright, let’s get something out of the way first–we both know you’re here to procrastinate. That’s fine. No judgment here. Let’s make a deal – we’ll list a bunch of things we think helps dampen the urge to procrastinate, and then you’ll get back to your writing. No extra detours, no more articles. So without further ado, here’s how to stop procrastinating and start writing your book!

Enough procrastination, let’s get to it!

So let’s get started! Few activities are so intensely associated with procrastination as writing. Whether it’s writing up a report for work or school, writing that email or DM to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or just getting started on that book you’ve been meaning to write; our brains just don’t seem to go along with our ambitions when it comes to writing.  Blank pages staring you down, the ominous spectre of editing creeping around in the back of your mind. Not to mention that the act of writing involves baring your thoughts to strangers, which can be an intimidating prospect for a lot of people.

All in all, writing can be scary, so we tend to avoid doing it. As such, we thought it might be useful to share some tips on how to overcome that urge and postpone your procrastination session in favour of writing!

1. Schedule your writing

Many aspiring writers are under the impression that the key to a good writing session is a benevolent bolt of inspiration from above. For the lucky few who can conjure those regularly, that may very well be true. For most of us, however, the key is simply good old-fashioned persistence. Making writing into a habit will not only result in you writing more and better, but a consistent writing routine will also be far more likely to trigger those moments of electric inspiration that all writers are chasing.

How you schedule these writing sessions is completely up to you. They can be as long or as short as you like or have time for. You also don’t need to set any goals the point is that you do it regularly.  This may mean writing for 15 minutes every morning before work or setting aside an hour on weekends to work on your book project. Only manage to write a few lines? No worries, the important thing is that you make it a part of your routine and stick to it.

It’s all rather like going to the gym. You really don’t want to at first, but once you’re done, you feel a lot better. And over time, you’ll also notice that you’re getting stronger, or have more stamina. It’s the same with writing. After a few weeks or months of regular writing, you’ll find that you’ll be able to make better use of those 15 minutes before work (for instance) than you did a whole evening of writing before.

2. Use visual aids to sketch out your plot

Whether you’re a mindmap enjoyer or a timeline enthusiast, using diagrams to visualize your story is a great way to ease yourself into writing when the urge to procrastinate hits. Granted, it’s not quite writing, but it’s not really procrastination either. Once you’ve finished your plot outline in front of you, you’ll have been processing your story for long enough that slipping into actually writing it should go relatively smoothly. Plus, you’ll have a great tool for counteracting any writer’s block you might experience later on.

3. Write your blurb first

We’re big fans of the “blurb first” method of writing here at Bookmundo. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The very first thing you do when starting a book project is write the blurb. The idea is that this method will help get you thinking about your story in its entirety, rather than just diving into the details and risking getting bogged down.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from trying this even if you’ve already started writing. In fact, if you find yourself procrastinating, there’s probably a reason for it. This could be anything from you not enjoying working on a particular chapter, to feeling less than confident about a certain plot point, section of dialogue, or even just the overall direction of your story.

Writing the blurb allows you to take a step back and evaluate if your story is actually working. Does it sound interesting? Is there a clear conflict or hook to draw readers in? Are all the main characters and their motivations properly introduced?

This is a great way to clear your mind and get your creative bearings, and thanks to its low barrier to entry, this is a great way to stop procrastinating on writing.

4. Set short-term goals

So you know how we just said you don’t have to set goals if you don’t want to? That’s still the case. Nevertheless, some people find it helpful to set short-term goals when they’re trying to make writing a habit. For example, depending on how far along you are, you could aim to write a chapter a week, or perhaps a certain number of pages a day. It’s all up to you, and there’s no such thing as too little or too much. This is about finding a flow that complements your lifestyle and motivation.

By setting yourself short-term goals, you give yourself something tangible to work towards and can track your progress. It also helps break down the daunting task of writing into smaller, achievable chunks.

Another benefit of setting short-term goals is that it creates a sense of accountability. When you have a specific goal in mind, you are more likely to follow through on your writing habit because you don’t want to let yourself down. Just think of how Duolingo’s adorable mascot Duo tries to get you to do your language lessons every day!

Short-term goals just happen to be a great segue into the next point. After you complete some of those short-term goals you set, it’s time to:

5. Treat yourself

Parks and recreation gif

Most of us probably do this already. We allow ourselves a certain snack after hitting the gym, a glass of wine after work, you name it. Well, why not introduce a similar reward system for yourself when writing? Much like working and working out, it’s an activity that requires discipline and dedication, so there’s no reason not to extend the same reward regimen to it. As you know, it’s much less attractive to procrastinate if that also means postponing that tantalizing reward you give yourself for completing the task at hand!

6. Get some air

If your situation allows for it, we cannot recommend this enough. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, either with your head overflowing with thoughts or completely devoid of them, go for a walk. Your brain is a bit like one of those outboard motors with a rope start; a bit of movement can really get the machinery going. Don’t ask us how – neuroscience is not our strong suit.

Nevertheless, whether it’s the change of scenery and the impressions that come with it, or simply the act of walking itself, a stroll will often dampen the urge to procrastinate and may even get your creative juices flowing!

While we suppose you could argue that going for a stroll when you should be writing is, in itself, a form of procrastination, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

7. Be ruthless with distractions

The time where one could blissfully sit at a Parisian corner café hammering away at one’s typewriter without being subjected to countless distractions is long gone. We’re expected to be reachable 24/7. But how often are we actually contacted about something truly urgent? Think of your concentration as a bucket full of water. Each piece of communication technology at your disposal is a little hole in that bucket. Your phone, social media, even your internet connection (depending on your discipline) is slowly but steadily draining your concentration bucket. So, to minimize the risk of procrastination, you’ve got to plug those holes–by unplugging your router.

We know, we know. Perish the thought. What if that cute barista finally texts you? Well, it’s probably a good idea not to seem too eager anyway, and you can always blame your delayed reply on the fact that you were busy writing your very own book, i.e. a killer conversation starter.

“But I need the internet to do research for my book!” you might say. Well, in that case, we suggest splitting writing and research into two separate modules. Do research one day, and spend the next day writing based on that research (offline!). Besides, even if you desperately need to fact-check something, there’s no hurry. Just leave a placeholder and come back to it later. After all, you should also:

8. Remember it’s not the final draft!

If you’re at all serious about your book, then you will be spending just as much time (probably more) editing your manuscript as you did writing it. So if the fear of messing up is what’s making you procrastinate, don’t worry – you’re going to mess some stuff up no matter how good of a writer you are. That’s what editing is for. That’s why editors are a thing.

In other words, your first draft is by no means the end of it, so there’s no need to put it off for fear of not doing well enough. Just focus on getting words onto that page for now, whether they’re good or not. Often, you’ll find yourself stumbling upon new ideas while doing this and end up writing some decent material.

Much of the time, the first draft of anything is going to leave something to be desired in terms of quality. Learn to accept all the products of your writing sessions, even what you consider subpar–you will be able to polish it for as long as you need to, after all. That’s part of the beauty of writing – unlike spoken words, there’s no need to get it right the first time around.