I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s no such thing as writer’s block.
I know you’re already mentally arguing with me. “Of course there is,” you’re saying. “I’ve had it,” you’re claiming. Nope. You haven’t. What you’ve experienced is the desire to procrastinate when you should be writing.
Writers just call this procrastination “writer’s block” because it sounds better—like a real (possibly diagnosable) problem instead of us just not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Writer’s block sounds fancy and kind of elitist. “Not getting my writing done” doesn’t sound nearly as nice.
What’s worse than calling it writer’s block is the advice writers receive when they say they’re experiencing it. They’re told to take a break, step away and do something else for a while.
The solution for procrastinating when you should be writing is procrastinating some more? I’m not buying that.
Here are five pieces of real advice for what to do when you’re procrastinating on your writing:
1. Put your rear in the chair and write.
The only way to overcome this procrastination is to force yourself to do the writing. You can always fix it afterward, but you can’t edit a page of nothing. Usually you’re pleasantly surprised when you discover that what you wrote isn’t nearly as bad as you thought, and the process of having written it did not, in fact, kill you.
Even if what you wrote is crap, you can fix it. You’ve written. That’s what’s important.
2. Have an idea file.
Here’s another little secret: I’ve been sitting at my desk for almost an hour knowing that I needed to blog and not doing it.
I hadn’t yet decided what to blog about today, so I wasted a bunch of time on social media. It was fun, but not too productive.
Not knowing what you’re going to write about or where to start is a common reason that we procrastinate with our writing. As soon as I opened up my idea list, I realized that I’d been wanting to write about writer’s block for a while.
Suddenly, I was excited to write. I just needed to identify an idea to motivate me. Because I assume I’ll never remember an idea, I have an entire Evernote folder of lists and clips of things I want to write about.
3. Schedule your writing to make it a habit.
I rarely procrastinated on writing when I was a full-time journalist.
I knew it was my job to go into the office every day and write. I would write something different every day, but I knew that’s what I would be doing every day for about five hours (interviews take time, too).
I didn’t procrastinate because I had a writing routine and deadlines to meet.
4. Write in your head.
Another reason I didn’t procrastinate on writing as a journalist is because I usually already knew what I was going to write when I sat down at the computer.
I would gather the information, then begin writing the story in my head, usually while driving back to the office from interviews. As a blogger, I find that I still do this. I wrote the first few sentences and brainstormed the tips for this post while I was changing the laundry.
When you think about what you’re going to write, the process is easier.
5. Write more when it’s easy.
Even as a writing lover, journalist, writing professor and blogger, there are times when I don’t want to write. Granted, they don’t come often, but they exist.
I try to be ready for them by writing ahead when my creative juices are flowing. When I think of a great idea, I grab a piece of paper, outline it and just start writing. Sometimes I type out full blog posts in my iPhone’s notes app. When the content is coming easily, I take advantage of it.
There are a lot of things you can do stop procrastinating on writing, but first you have to recognize “writer’s block” for what it actually is: It’s just you not doing what you need to do.
Then, you just have to write.