There’s a little stinker that sneaks into my life sometimes and hangs out in the corner of my mind, stealing my creativity.
And now that PiBoIdMo has provided amazing inspiration for finding fresh ideas and coaxing them into stories, I feel him lurking there again, trying to distract me from taking the next step.
He’s a clever thief and shape-shifter, and sometimes his name even changes.
On any given day, his name could be …errands, laundry, dishes, email, internet, TV, kid-activity-shuttle, homework monitor, gift buyer, holiday decorating, volunteering, car repair, home repair, toddlers, dinner, dog walking, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…
But the name that most people know him by is:
And if Procrastination is constantly lurking in the corners of your creative place too, I hope to help you block him out!
I think of Procrastination as my time thief. He poses as life’s daily minutia, unexpected interruptions and distractions, and the multitude of excuses that feel like they are “Must-Dos-Right-Now.” He will keep you from continuing on your story journey… if you let him.
The trick is…not to let him. But how? How do you fit consistent writing time into your daily life?
I’d like to pass along a few tips to keep your creative mojo fresh, and hopefully, Procrastination-free.
1. Attitude and Expectations
I once heard a wonderful author compare life’s interruptions to a game of “Whac-A-Mole.”
Great description! And as I thought about it, I discovered that I was waiting for a time in my life when those moles would keep to their hidey-holes, and provide me with some free time to write. But as Dr. Seuss says, The Waiting Place is “a most useless place.”
Once I tweaked my expectations and attitude about life’s craziness, I stopped making its ups and downs my excuse not to write. Decide to make time to write. You’ll be amazed at the joy it brings and how your stories start coming together in ways you never imagined.
2. Track Where Your Time Goes
This is an interesting experiment: For 2-3 days, keep a log of what you do. Jot it down every hour. Then examine where most of your time is going. Is it going towards something worthwhile? Is it something that you value or will be glad you did a year from now? Are there moments when you could let go of a little web surfing, Facebooking, volunteering, etc. to schedule some time to grow your stories?
3. Goals and Rewards
Writing a complete story can seem overwhelming, which is sure to make Procrastination come calling. Break it down by listing small goals to work towards each day.
- Today I’ll write about or draw possible characters. I’ll ask them questions.
- Tomorrow I’ll write or draw potential actions and obstacles.
- The next day I’ll play with fun word combinations, etc.
Once your daily writing goal is finished, your sense of accomplishment will be a real motivator! But you might consider a reward as well – your favorite recorded show, some Facebook time, chocolate, coffee…
I like to make a pact with myself that I cannot have my “reward” UNTIL I have finished my daily goal. For example, I am not going to eat that delicious snack-sized Snickers bar until I finish working on the next two stanzas of my rhyming picture book. I know it may sound a bit crazy or like I have “parenting issues” with myself. But it really does work for me. Try it – it might work for you too.
4. Schedule Writing Time
Take yourself seriously. You are a writer/ illustrator. Ask your family for the time and space you need to pursue your stories.
Then SCHEDULE time for your writing. Put it on the calendar and honor it like you would a doctor’s appointment. Turn off the email, internet, TV, and phone if possible.
Before my children were in school, I hired a babysitter once a week for a block of time, and went to Panera to write. It was a delicious, productive time—and my first book, THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL, was written there. Panera holds a special place in my heart, as it was also the place where I received the email from GP Putnam’s Sons expressing interest in my story. Woo-Hoo!
But Panera also brings me to the 5th tip:
5. Go Somewhere Else to Write
If I am not making progress on my stories, it is usually a sign that I need to get away from all the little things that Procrastination tempts me to do. He rarely follows me into that corner booth of a coffee house, if all I bring with me are my ideas, a notebook, and my favorite writing pen.
I’ll leave you with a quote from From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg:
“Ideas drift like clouds in an undecided breeze,
taking first this direction and then that.”
Help your lovely, drifting ideas tell you which direction they’re going, by giving them the time they deserve (and not letting that sneaky thief whisk it away.
And speaking of thievery, I couldn’t help but “borrow” this cartoon from Facebook for my office cork board. It makes me laugh each time I look at it, but it’s also a good reminder.
Laura Murray is a children’s author, former teacher, and mom of three mischief makers. Her rhyming picture book, THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2011), received a starred ALA Booklist review, was chosen as Washington State, Florida, and Kentucky Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee, and has inspired a forthcoming sequel entitled THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE ON THE FIRE TRUCK! (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2013). She loves writing picture books with funny, mischievous characters, and middle grade adventure/mysteries. Please visit her online for printables and teacher’s guides at LauraMurrayBooks.com.
Laura got the opportunity to meet Mike Lowery, the book’s awesome illustrator, and have him sign a few copies of THE GINGERBREAD MAN LOOSE IN THE SCHOOL after its release. Please leave a comment to win a first edition (includes a poster) signed by both the author and the illustrator, as well as some fun Gingerbread Man SWAG! A winner will be selected in one week. Good luck!