This week a writer friend suggested that I blog about the writer’s age-old enemy: procrastination. Thing is, I don’t procrastinate anymore. I don’t avoid writing by doing other things. I have set times to write and I stick to my schedule, but… sometimes I still get nothing written. How come? What’s my problem?
A few months ago I thought it was The Internet. It’s so distracting! So I broke up with the Internet (at least during writing time) and that helped a lot, but I still struggle to meet my writing goals. Seriously, what gives?
Then it hit me: daydreaming.
Often when I sit at the computer during my designated writing timeslot, I zone out and think about what I did last weekend, or what I’m going to do this weekend, or where I’d like to travel, or that time I biked through Cuba, or what I’ll be in the future apocalypse (sword-wielding bicycle messenger!)… and suddenly an hour has passed and I’ve not written a word.
I’m not avoiding writing by doing other things; I’m avoiding it by thinking other things. Daydreaming is procrastination’s mental cousin!
…daydreaming now appears to be a vital function of the psyche—a cauldron of creativity and an arena for rehearsing social skills. It may even be the backbone of our consciousness. Maybe what we all need is more time to let our minds meander.
However, the article also states that people spend 15% to 50% of their waking hours daydreaming. I am most definitely at the top end of that scale, so I think I can afford to daydream a little less. Also, if I was daydreaming about stuff relating to any of the three WIPs I have in various stages of development, maybe it would be helpful. But that’s not usually the case.
I need to get my distracting daydreams under control.
So, without further ado, here are 4 things to try to thwart mental procrastination:
- Ignore the outside world prior to and during writing time. This means not checking Facebook or Twitter or the news, because if I read something upsetting, I’ll waste hours brooding over it instead of writing.
- Set my computer screen to turn off after 2 minutes. This is a visual cue that I’ve zoned out. Whenever my screen goes black it reminds me to get back to writing.
- Read a book. If after doing steps 1 and 2 I’m still daydreaming, I’ll read a book. Reading forces my brain to focus on one fantasy world (as opposed to the half dozen that might be lighting up my gray matter) and therefore calms it down. Plus, reading a book usually inspires me to get back to writing my own.
- Record daydreams. After all that, if I’m still daydreaming, I write down my scatterbrained reveries and mold them into a story. Yep, a conscious effort to make mental procrastination useful!
How about you guys? Do you suffer from mental procrastination? How do you focus your brain?