We all have them...those moments when no matter how hard we try, we just can't focus the way we need to in order to get a writing project off the ground. Perhaps we are worried about how the final outcome will turn out, or that the project is too large or daunting to take on, or that we saw or heard someone else do it better and we are intimidated. Whatever the reason, one thing is true: no project ever gets easier by putting it off, particularly when it comes to writing. I have found the following tips work well for me in getting new writing projects underway:
1. Eliminate distractions as much as possible:
In this age of e-mail, cell phones, and blackberries, it's easy to be interrupted. The best thing to do is shut off all your gadgets for a given length of time (preferably a few hours at least), and go into a quiet room alone. Make sure the television and any other potential distractions are in another room. Sometimes, just sitting in silence or with a little quiet music can really help you feel creative and motivated.
2. Break projects down:
If you are daunted by a large project, try breaking it down into small pieces. If you have a book projects, for example, coming up with chapter ideas and then working on one chapter each day, is a great way to sort the project into manageable parts. If you are writing an article, come up with an outline, a list of people you are going to interview, and a workplan for finishing sections of the piece in phases.
3. Start with just a few minutes:
I love going jogging, but don't always feel like getting out there initially. Almost always, once I start running I get into a good groove and don't want to stop, as evidenced by my running the New York City Marathon twice! The same is true with writing-- just try for half an hour or so, and pretty soon you'll forget what time it is and what other activities you could have been doing instead.
I am a firm believer in the mind/body connection, and have always found that exercise such as bike riding, running, yoga, or playing tennis - whatever you enjoy - really helps you concentrate and sit still enough to focus on a project. A few minutes goes a long way.
5. Read inspirational material:
Years ago, I read a great book of short stories by Perry Klass, called "I'm Having an Adventure." I was so inspired by the book, that I wrote 12 short stories over several weeks, one of which won a contest. This was after having written only one or two in my entire life. Something in the book really resonated with me and gave me my own ideas and inspiration. It's up to you to find your muse, whoever it is, and read as much as you can of their writing. This will in turn inspire you.
Now it's your turn. Do you have any great tips that have worked for you to avoid procrastination?