10 Ways Freelance Writers Stop Procrastinating And Start Writing Again

by Anne Wayman

Is there a freelance writer, even a hugely successful one with multiple best sellers who hasn’t procrastinated writing? I doubt it.

Obviously, the truly successful writers don’t do a whole lot of avoiding putting words on paper, but I think it happens to all of us.

Here are eight ways I stop putting the writing off and get back to work:

  1. Take a short break. It’s amazing what taking a 10 or 15 minute break from writing can do. Although I sometimes use computer games for this I find walking away from the machine seems to work better. That might look like a cup of coffee on my deck, a specified time on the couch with a novel or taking a 30 minute walk around my neighborhood.
  2. Drink some water. If I’ve gotten even a little bit dehydrated, my mind slows down.  A glass of water or even two can restore my energy, which makes the writing go better. Much as I love coffee, for this I find water works best.
  3. Bookend with someone. Bookending is one of my favorite tips for getting writing done. I simply call someone, often, but not always, another writer and tell them I’m going to spend the next x amount of time on a particular writing project – like the one I’m procrastinating. Then, when I’ve done what I said I call back and report that. Or, if I don’t, I call back and report my failure. It works talking to just the answering service too.

  4. Take a longer break. When I’m procrastinating it’s often because I’m tired, drained and a bit burned out. If I can take a day, or half a day, or even a couple of hours off, doing something I like to do other than writing, I usually find I can get back to work.
  5. Force yourself to write a single sentence. It can be horrid, but when I open the file and force myself to write a single sentence on the topic it often breaks open the stuckness behind my procrastination.
  6. Change where you’re writing. Sometimes I’ll move away from my office and into the living room or out on the deck with my iPad and write there. The change of scene can work wonders. I don’t like writing in coffee shops, but many of my writer friends tell me switching shops can help.
  7. Switch to writing by hand. Even though my handwriting is awful, grabbing a tablet of yellow paper or a notebook and starting to write by hand can serve as a way to stop procrastinating. Apparently the mind works differently when we write by hand than when we type. Making my mind work differently is exactly what I need when I’m procrastinating.
  8. Make up a song about what you should be writing. Yes, I can sometimes sing my way out of procrastinating. I don’t want anyone to listen to my off beat, out of tune la la la I’m procrastinating song. Miz Tiz, the cat who shares my home, doesn’t seem to mind. Again, I think I’m changing the way my mind works, or as some say, changing my state. Try it. You may be delightfully surprised.

  9. Call another writer and talk it through. Calling another writer who has time to listen can help., Usually I spend no more than a minute whining, then I describe how I’m stuck or procrastinating. Often just he act of speaking it gets me started again.
  10. Decide on a reward if you write x pages. Planning a reward when I get x words or x number of pages, or the project drafted often gets me writing again. The reward might be a shopping trip, calling a friend, having a cup of coffee, a walk, a nap, reading a novel – almost anything. I simply bribe myself into working.

How to you stop procrastinating?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West December 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

#4 for me totally. I had articles due and was doing everything I could to avoid them. This past Christmas weekend I spent two days doing exactly what I wanted to do, then on Monday I was able to finish and post them. And it spilled over into today, also. :)
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Helenee December 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

#6 and 7 are definitely working for me.
Sometimes, especially when I want to write fiction, I act or, better yet, I record myself. I mean, I get up, pace around, talk and joke to myself – and I’m very glad noone is around to see me :D :D :D
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Elizabeth West December 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I do that too, Helenee, especially if I’m working out a conversation between two characters. Doing dishes or mowing the lawn is a good time to do it. The latter means I can talk as loud as I like since the mower drowns me out, LOL!
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Bill Swan December 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

Singing? I’ve tried talking my way through a block, but not singing.
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annew December 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

lol, Bill, try it. Might work.

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margiewrites December 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

“Force yourself to write a single sentence.”

I have to do this all the time. “Just write a freaking sentence, c’mon!” I have to tell myself. I also find it helps to start highlighting from my interview notes what quotes and information I’m going to use in my article, then start copying and pasting them into my article doc. Once I get going on that, I am warmed up enough to start trying to weave in my own words and ideas in between.

Starting is always the hardest part.

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Cheryl Reifsnyder December 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great tips–I wouldn’t have thought of singing :). I will have to try checking in with another writer; that would be motivating and not so difficult that I’d procrastinate it, too.
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annew December 21, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Yes, when bookending that’s usually all I do… say I’m bookending, state what ever it is and move on…

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