I hoped it was because I had contracted for a couple of educational books in topics I wasn’t interested in. Don’t get me wrong. I was very grateful for the work. It just wasn’t fun. And no matter how “creative” I tried to be, it felt like I was writing term papers for kids.
Was It That Simple? No
So the first thing I decided about the sabbatical was that I was going to put serious writing time into an unfinished novel. I still loved the story, although it wasn’t a commercial topic. I wanted to write it anyway.
So that’s what I did. Did that solve the problem? Well…no.
I couldn’t get started. And when I did, I couldn’t stick with it. This happened day after day. And it became painfully clear that I’d never recover my love for writing unless I was actually writing!
I Am NOT Blocked!
I refused to think I was blocked. Saying “I have writer’s block” always sounded like a cop-out to me. But whatever I chose to label it, I wasn’t writing. And the first week had slipped by already.
Then my friend sent me an email about overcoming procrastination. The procedure was for tackling business tasks you don’t want to do: filing estimated taxes, cleaning your office, developing proposals, and the like.
But the procedure intrigued me because it dealt with changing how you think. And changing my automatic non-conscious thinking has been the most helpful thing I’ve ever done in many areas of my life. So I applied her procrastination technique to my writing.
You may find the technique too simple, or even silly. (I did when I first read it.) But I’m going to pass it along here, just in case. It worked for me, and it might work for you too.
Overcoming Procrastination Tip
Here’s the step-by-step procedure:
- Think of something in your work day that you need to do that typically drains your energy or causes you to procrastinate.
- Notice your self-talk before, during, and after the dreaded event. (e.g. I don’t want to do this, this is so boring, what a waste of time, I can’t do this, what’s the point of this?)
- Now get curious. How could you reframe that event so that it becomes positive? (e.g. I’m so glad to be a writer, I’m blessed to have a good imagination, I have something to say that will entertain/help/encourage people, my writing skills improve with every project, I’ll feel like a real writer when I’m done, this is what I was created for, etc.)
- Before, during and after you accomplish the writing, take three deep breaths and remind yourself of the reasons you feel good about what you are choosing to do. (NOTE: I started small, just writing for ten minutes each time.)
- Imagine that the writing goes smoothly and effortlessly and has a positive result.
Did It Work?
The email my friend sent me said that if you practice this approach at least three times in a row with a work task, you could expect significant change in performance, attitude and energy.
I noticed a more positive attitude came first. (I suppose that happened because I realized I wasn’t honestly blocked.) The performance increased second. (I started writing longer than ten minutes at a time within a couple of days.) I can honestly say I felt better in both those areas after using the technique three times. The writing energy didn’t increase until a week had gone by. (I had been sick right before the sabbatical, so that might have been partly why.)
I didn’t keep using the technique after the blocked feeling passed (except when I had to do a different writing-related task that I didn’t enjoy, like filing self-employed taxes.) But any time that the writing felt stuck or I was just tired, I found that reading those statements aloud before, during and after the writing did help get my head back on straight.
In order to love writing, we have to be writing. If you’re stuck, this simple technique just might do the trick.