Zen Habits : The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
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“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” ~William Faulkner
Post written by Leo Babauta.
Writers procrastinate on writing so much that the term “writer” is probably a misnomer. We should be called “putting things off-ists”.
Why is it so hard to focus on writing for most people? Or other creative work, for that matter?
It seems no matter our best intentions, it’s our lot in life to put off writing by checking email or Facebook or Twitter, doing other busy-work, chatting with someone, anything but the actual writing.
I’ve figured out a few things that work. It’s my writer’s rehabilitation program, and I offer it here to all of you in hopes that it will help:
- Set a writing block. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to write a blog post or book chapter today”. You have to set a block of time. Even just 10-30 minutes. Let’s say 8-8:30 a.m. — this is blocked off on your calendar, and you make sure nothing gets in the way of that.
- Create accountability. Tell someone else you’re going to start writing at 8 a.m., and will do nothing else at that time but start writing. Promise to pay them $50 if you don’t, like my friend Maneesh does.
- Clear distractions. Just before your writing block, turn off the Internet. Use Freedom or some other Internet blocker. Or unplug your router and give it to someone, instructing them not to give it back for 30 minutes. Close all programs but a text editor or a distraction-free writing app like WriteRoom, OmmWriter, or Byword.
- Notice your resistance to starting. Let it go, and focus on just getting started. All you need to do is write the first few words — don’t worry about writing more than that.
- Imagine you’re talking to a specific friend when you start writing — what would you say to that friend about this blog topic or book chapter?
- Notice the tightness you feel as you start. It’s tension, not wanting to do this, wanting to do something else. Let it go, relax, enjoy the writing.
- Watch the urge to go do something else. Watch, don’t act. Let it arise, then go away. Now go back to writing.
Bonus step 8: Relax, enjoy it, do it for the pleasure of the writing, not for the productivity.
These are small steps, but they work. Now get to writing.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” ~Margaret Atwood