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This blog was featured on 05/02/2019
10 Ways to Make Procrastination Work for You
Written by
D.L. Gioe
May 2019
Written by
D.L. Gioe
May 2019

As a writer, putting words together makes me come alive. But some days, it’s just not happening. No matter how much caffeine, sugar, ritual, or will power – it seems the schedule and all the forces of nature and the cosmos are determined to intervene. Procrastination’s power pulls all of us off our virtuous courses now and again. When you hear its siren song, sometimes it’s okay to give in. Just a little. But don’t just flip on the tube. Make procrastination work FOR you. 

I strike a deal with myself: I can slack on the writing, so long as I’m doing something that advances my broader writerly ambitions. Luckily, one of the things I love about being a writer is that there’s an almost infinite number of things one can do to keep step with the drumbeat demands for progress while still cutting yourself some slack. Here are ten tried and true ways that you can give yourself breathing room from the page that plagues you while still moving forward:

10. Set the mood for your work.  

Create an aesthetic with visual reminders of key elements to your WIP. Make a playlist that captures the tone and gets your creative juices flowing. Find a candle that smells like the setting in your Work In Progress (and then light it each time you sit down to write – it will help bring you to your work, and I’ve heard, it can be helpful for getting you back to that mental space if you’ve got to go back to do some revisions on it after you’ve already switched to another project). 

9. Journal.  

It’s writing but without the pressure. Up to you whether to free write for a set time or if you want to journal about something in your WIP that’s hanging you up. Q&A with yourself, especially written out long-hand, can be a powerful tool – and you’ve got written proof of your genius ideas later.

8. Diagram your plot.  

Whether with a storyboard and several specific steps (a la Save the Cat by Blake Snyder) or rough sketches that look like something you might have made in geometry class (Venn diagram anyone?), look at your story from another angle. 

7. Research.  

Remember that scene in Little Women where Jo March is trying to determine in which hand one carries a rapier for her story? The details are important and at least some of your readers will know them. Thorough research can make or break a scene. Luckily, these days your internet search engine can bring more than you ever imagined to your desk (or couch, or bed – no judgment). 

6. Hit the library.  

Because not everything is online. Or you may need to check out books. Maybe audiobooks so you can listen to a book while you’re doing one of the other things presently distracting you from your writing? (Multi-tasking – yay!) While you’re there, check out the titles in your genre. Talk to the librarians about what’s hot in your field, or simply enjoy being in the presence of other book nerds. 

5. Find an agent. 

I know, I know. If only it was that easy. Even if you’re at the start of your WIP, you should have a running list of agents you’d like to query when your work of genius is completed. Get lost in Query tracker and Manuscript Wish List, or take the time to see which agents repped books you love in your genre, and then take a look at their online submission guidance to see if you’re on the right track. 

4. Write a review of a book or article that you liked.  

Not only do positive reviews help other authors, but by thinking critically about what appealed to you in someone else’s work you learn more about the craft. Plus, networking. 

3. Write a blog article. 

You don’t have to have your own blog. There are lots of larger blogs that seek guest authors. So pen a little something and see if you can’t get your name out there. Establish yourself as an expert, or simply have a little fun with some flash fiction. Like with journaling or writing a review, it’s all about getting better at stringing words together. 

2. Connect with your virtual writing tribe.

The ether of the interweb weaves us closer together, so that solitary writers need no longer be lonely. Highlight your achievements on your social media. Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram to grow your writing community, find inspiration, seek empathy, or just share a laugh. 

1. Read!

It’s one of the best parts about being an author, isn’t it? Read widely in your genre. If you’re afraid that reading in your genre right now may mess with your WIP, fear not! You also need to read widely in other genres to get fresh, new ideas. To synthesize what’s out there in the collective unconscious and distill it into your genius voice. There’s also always craft books. Don’t forget all those good magazine articles on writing and publishing. And the blogs…. In short, read all the time, in all different formats. If you’re not writing, the best thing you can be doing is reading. 

A version of this article originally appeared on The Space Between (http://thespacebtwn.net/2018/10/07/10-ways-to-make-procrastination-work-for-you/) in October 2018. If you liked this piece, please check out The Space Between, and spread the word. 

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