I sympathize with anyone who has a January editorial deadline, because there are so many December distractions. These last two weeks of December are probably the busiest time on our calendars. No matter how we celebrate Christmas (or don’t), there is so much to do as another year draws to a close.
And even when we’re caught up and the schedule is clear, we’re often too tired to do anything more than pour a glass of wine, collapse on the couch and maybe reminisce a bit in front of the fireplace. It’s not a good time to expect creativeness to emerge from our depleted minds.
If we’re staring at a deadline, however, something has to make its way from brain to page. At that point a glass of wine is more likely to put us to sleep rather than stimulate thought. So what to do?
My recommendation is to first commit to the task, kick procrastination in its derriere, and carve out a block of time, preferably a minimum of an hour, to work on your manuscript. Set a specific starting time, write it large on a sticky note and plunk that somewhere obvious, like on the fridge, your bathroom mirror or the television screen … or on the cover of the book you’re tempted to pick up in isolated moments. (Trust me, that book will become the worst procrastination or escapist mechanism around, if you let it.)
When the allotted time arrives, spend the first five or ten minutes in preparation:
- Open a window, stand in front of it (or stand outside the patio door) and do three or four minutes of exercise in the cold air – jumping jacks, jogging on the spot, knee bends, or just deep breathing and stretching if fitness isn’t your thing. You may be breathless and shivering when you’re done, but you’ll have increased the flow of oxygen to your brain.
- Hit the kitchen and collect something that will provide more stimulation. For me it would be coffee or chai tea, but a few sugar candies to suck on (or c.h.o.c.o.l.a.t.e) would work, too. As much as wine seems to be a popular choice for some writers, this is not the time for alcohol. While acting as a temporary stimulant, it’s actually known to be a depressant.
- In your writing place of choice, set a timer for fifteen minutes and settle down to write. Even if you’re not feeling inspired, write anyway. Keep writing until the timer sounds.
If you’re anything like me, at that point you’ll look at what you’ve written and toss it into the virtual garbage can! But persevere.
- Set the timer for the remaining thirty minutes and carry on writing. You may be starting from scratch again, but I’m willing to bet my second chai latte that the quality of writing will be respectable and you’ll finish your session feeling encouraged. In fact, if time permits, you might just decide to carry on writing. Go for it! Remember, there’s a deadline looming.
What other methods do you use to psych yourself up for a necessary stint of writing when you’re not in the mood or circumstances are helping you procrastinate?
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