Ramping Up to Writing: Dealing with Procrastination

by Corina Koch MacLeod 

@CKMacleodwriter

SARK’s micromovement wheel

For anyone who suffers from writer’s block, timed writing is an effective technique for overcoming it – if you can actually find a timer, sit yourself down, take a deep breath, get your pen or fingers in the ready position and hit that metaphorical start button. But what do you do if you have a difficult time setting yourself up for writing? Will you do almost anything to avoid getting down to work?

Take heart. Most writers face the same struggle at one time or another. Many of them work at home with abundant distractions. Drab everyday tasks begin to look inviting when there is a blank page to face – there is always dish to wash, a floor to sweep, or a social media site to get lost in.

Why Do Writers Procrastinate?

What’s going on? Why do procrastination and writing often show up together? I think that every writer – novices and professionals alike – know that writing is hard work. Beginning means that you’re committing to a process that will occupy a reasonable chunk of time and a great deal of effort and discipline. However, distracting yourself with seemingly purposeful tasks (yes, that dishwasher does need emptying at some point), only delays the inevitable. So what’s a writer or a student of writing to do?

Make Procrastination Work for You

SARK, author of Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper suggests that writers need to create space for procrastination in the writing process. Rather than ignore the need to procrastinate (and then feel guilty by falling prey to it), writers need to find a way a way to make procrastination work for them. Her tool, humorously named the Micromovement Wheel of Delight, enables writers to identify and capture those tasks that help writers ramp up to writing. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify your writing project. Record it in the middle of the wheel (see the image above).  
  2. List five or six tasks, or “micromovements” that relate to your writing project between the spokes of the wheel. This is key. Tasks like taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn or texting a friend do not relate to your writing project. Sharpening a pencil or doing a quick Google search on the writing topic do. Each task must be on topic and should take no more than five minutes.
  3. Pick any task and do it. Micromovements are small. Anyone can commit to a two-minute task. Continue until all the tasks are done. You are now closer to completing the writing project. If you have completed a wheel but you haven’t finished the writing project, create another wheel with six more tasks to complete.

Make it Manageable

SARK’s approach to dealing with procrastination acknowledges the psychology of the writer. Writing is a monumental task, yet every monumental task can be broken down into tiny movements. Writers can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment as they knock off those smaller tasks – all of which are designed to chip away at the bigger task. By thinking in terms of micromovements, you create, well, movement. Movement in the right direction.

You can use SARK’s micromovement wheel for nearly any task that seems too big to consider right now. If you learn to think in micromovements, you’ll have a valuable tool for conquering procrastination in all areas of life.

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