Do laundry you’re behind on. Call the dentist. Respond to that important email.
These are the kinds of things that give me that itch of the mind. You know what I’m talking about. That nagging feeling that happens even though no one has said anything to you. It is you nagging yourself.
When this happens there’s only one thing to do and that’s get it done. Whatever “it” is. I won’t be able to get in the zone for my writing or even relax for the evening if I don’t take care of it. I can try to ignore it, but by the end of the day/night I will not have much to show for my writing and I certainly won’t feel relaxed. So, I must get it done.
Here’s the kicker though, all writers (or really I should say everyone) deals with some sort of procrastination. There’s a fine line between clearing the mind of that nagging feeling and procrastination. Cause, let’s face it, writing is work. It’s enjoyable work, but it’s still work. It still calls for one to be actively engaged in their thinking. Slacking is unfruitful, so you can’t be lazy about it. Since it is work, procrastination surely happens. The trick is to know when you need to get things done so your mind is clear and when you are tricking yourself into thinking you should get X, Y,or, Z done as a form of delaying the more important work. I will never find the time to write. I must create the time to write. Managing these two things is part of the process.
Now the question is, how do you know which is which? Unfortunately I can’t really tell you. It’s an individual quest full of observing your own patterns, habits, excuses, biases, and various emotional/mental states. I have discovered a few things that help me know if I’m clearing my mind or procrastinating the work. Maybe by sharing some of mine it will get you thinking about what yours are.
- Have I put it off for several days and it still creeps up with a feeling of anxiousness? That’s an itch of the mind.
- Do I suddenly feel like I have so much to do but don’t know where I should start, then pick a random thing to work on? That’s procrastination.
- Is someone else depending on that thing getting done? That’s an itch of the mind reminding me to be dependable.
- Am I touching base with various friends and family through text or facebook under the guise that it has been a while and I want to see how they are doing, but don’t have anything specific to say? That’s procrastination.
- Does something have a due date on when it needs to get done? That’s an itch of the mind.
- Am I filling my writing hours with good things that I should/want to do for myself or others? That’s procrastination. The things I am doing aren’t bad, but the time of day I am doing them is, this is how I know I am delaying the work.
There are more, but this gives you an idea of how I am able to differentiate between what I need to do before I write and procrastinating the work.
The great thing is if you can tell the difference, you can do what must be done but then take a deep breath, recognize you are procrastinating and get to work.
For me, half the battle is sitting down and writing the first sentence of the day. I did it today, I’ll do it tomorrow too…as long as the laundry is done.