This may come as a surprise to you, but you’re a very motivated writer.
I know this because I’m super avoidant when it comes to writing, yet I’m still able to coax my mind into writing, especially when I have no idea where to start.
And you know how the cliche goes—if I can do it, so can you.
Look, I’m not one for hacks and shortcuts, but if we writers need anything, it’s the solution to procrastination, because God knows I need to stop washing and re-inking my fountain pens whenever it’s time to write.
So this is where I divulge the tactics that actually work for me. Through them, I’m able to I fill up the WordPress editor, word by word, until I get something barely publishable.
And I’ll take ‘barely’ over ‘nothing’ every day of the week. Especially if it’s a Tuesday. Because that’s publishing day.
But don’t take my word for it. Try them yourself and see if they help.
1. Write a list
Bullet points, numbers, roman numerals, whatever your preference, they’ll help you get your thoughts on paper.
We’ve explored how writing letters can actually persuade your mind to write under the guise that it’s not actually writing. It’s how you sell someone an MLM subscription by saying it’s not a pyramid scheme.
That’s why writing lists work. Because with the article, you’ll need prose, and flow, and images, and facts, and the list (heh) goes on.
Substitute all that with bullet points and you’ll find yourself coming up with the actual meat of the story. You can then marvel at yourself for your prowess in crafting skeletons which you can slowly flesh out.
It’s the lowering of the stakes that helps your mind focus on the facts, without the pressure of having to ‘sound good’.
Want to take things one step further? Scroll down to the comments section below and type—in comment form—what your article’s going to be about. Seriously. Do it. Because I read every comment and will be able to provide you the moral support you need.
Then, if you so choose, don’t click on the Post Comment button and instead copy-paste into a text editor of some sort. Voila! You now have a couple of paragraphs to serve as the premise of your article. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Worst case scenario is that you can treat this practice as a warm-up. Then go ahead and write an actual list.
Too long, didn’t read: Use bullet points instead of paragraphs to get to the meat of your story.
2. Sort out your life
The above list aside, I need to know, do you have an actual to-do list that you haven’t gotten around to clearing? Maybe your messy kitchen has plagued your mind for a week now, or your dog’s vet appointment is due.
This is where some procrastination from writing is merited. Go ahead and check off the task that’s bothering you for the day, because sometimes it’s worth addressing life’s issues so that you can have a clear mind at the blank page.
Sure, sometimes that would mean not having enough time to write, because maybe you have too many fountain pens to wash and re-ink, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just shows you what you need to do in life, and how you can make time for more writing.
This is why the early mornings pose such an allure to busy writers—it’s the best part of the day to pursue your goals before all the world’s worries come knocking on your door.
So go ahead and deal with whatever life has for you. Because there’s nothing better than having undivided attention for writing.
Too long, didn’t read: Clear your mind for writing by ensuring that you don’t have pressing matters to attend to (such as bills or an expectant boss).
3. Do your time
So now you have undivided attention for writing. What are you going to do with it? I’ll tell you. It’s time to do your time.
Think of it like a video game, where your HP only heals when you’re on friendly territory. And you better think of the blank page as friendly territory, even though some of you may see it as hostile.
Once you have more time and can sit at the keyboard with impunity, we now have to focus on staying there. That means no standing back up to admire your fountain pen collection, and definitely no revisiting your to-do list. Also, don’t think I don’t know the loopholes you’re planning to take, because ‘research’ does not factor into this time.
This method is pretty simple. You’re going to sit at the blank page, and you’re going to write. Failing that, you’re just going to do nothing. You may squirm, or feel the impulse to check your phone. Stop that. You need to be here, now. It gets easier to deal with the pain. I promise.
If you need the help of mental imagery, simply picture yourself gaining power every second you sit before your word processor. Collect enough power points (it could be minutes, hours, days) and you’ll automatically convert them into words on page.
Don’t believe me? Try it. There’s a reason why Neil Gaiman does this exact same thing.
In jiu-jitsu, we call this mat time, and there’s no way you can fake mat time. The only way to improve is by being on the mats. It doesn’t matter what colour belt you wear, the moment we spar, the truth will come to the fore. There’s nowhere to hide, unless of course you avoid mat time completely.
It’s the same for writing. Your output is connected to the cumulative time you actually spend at your word processor/notepad/cave wall.
So don’t lie to yourself. Do your time.
Too long, didn’t read: Be honest with yourself and actually spend time writing (or at least attempting). You’ll be amazed at what you can do as long as you don’t cave and start browsing YouTube.
4. Water your plants, snowflake
I first devised this method as the ‘water my plants’ technique, but I would later learn that it’s actually known as the Snowflake Method.
What is it, you ask? In its simplest form, the Snowflake Method simply involves coming up with a word or phrase. Then you expand on that. Then expand on that. Then ex—you get the picture.
Let’s try this: think of a word related to your article. Is it ‘productivity’? No? How about ‘motivation’? Still cold? Oh, I know. It’s gotta be ‘procrastination’ isn’t it? That’s what you’re doing now, after all.
Okay, so we have our word. Now what is it about procrastination that you’d like to write about? Is it how terrible you feel when bingeing on my posts while not writing? Or is it the sick feeling you get when you catch a glimpse of your reflection in the monitor while your hundredth YouTube video is loading?
Don’t worry if it showcases your warts too much. It’s authentic, and the more authentic, the better. People love authentic.
Now that we’ve established our premise, let’s talk angle. Do you want other people to relate? Or do you want to figure a way out of this cursed affliction? Write that down.
Once you have a few sizeable paragraphs, pick another word or phrase to expound on. Do that enough times and you could end up with a book. That’s what the Snowflake Method was created for anyway—novels.
Too long, didn’t read: Start with a word. Expand that word into a sentence. Turn that sentence into a paragraph. Repeat.
5. Debate yourself
You know how they ask you to understand both sides of an argument so that you can debate a point better? Try doing that for your article.
Because if you’re procrastinating from writing said article, you’ll have tons of reasons why you shouldn’t write, right? So list down all your concerns:
- People will think this topic is stupid
- The solutions are all gimmicky
- Even if they like the techniques, my anecdotal experience doesn’t exactly lend itself to credibility
Why is this useful? Because lists help, remember?
Another reason is that you’ll might actually learn something from your own replies. Replies that will help spice up your article. So your list could end up looking like this:
- People will think this topic is stupid. Not unless I write it for a specific avatar.
- The solutions here are all gimmicky. That’s why I’ll need to throw in some cheesy analogies to distract them from this fact. Fountain pens sound good.
- No credibility. I’ll namedrop someone famous like Neil Gaiman. Boom. Instant credibility.
One more benefit of poking holes in your article is that it frees you from being too attached to your story, allowing you to take a more objective approach.
Too long, didn’t read: Argue against your story. Writing the counterpoints is actually a whole lot of fun. Plus, it helps you argue better points.
6. Draw with words
I don’t mean actual drawing, writing as if you’re doodling words onto the page. Do you like how ‘hullabaloo’ sounds? Try shoehorning it into your article. Or write an entire paragraph without using the word ‘and’.
Do funky stuff like that. Doodling is playful, and so should your word-doodles be.
Writing drills like this can also result in words you can actually use in your article. Try this: pick a paragraph or story, then rewrite it for a totally different reader avatar.
For instance, how would I structure a story to best appeal to a mother of two in Europe? And how would that change if I were to instead write for someone who specialises in old movies? You’d bet I’d be reading up on motherly challenges and silver-screen lingo respectively.
And while we’re at it, who do you think I wrote this article for? I’ll give you a hint: it wouldn’t sing to you if you’re not primarily a WordPress user, or if you don’t enjoy writing.
There are tons of ways to doodle-write (I also call it sketch writing), but rewriting the same piece for a specific avatar is a skill that will carry over into other digital marketing pursuits. So get to ‘drawing’.
Too long, didn’t read: Pick a paragraph or article. Rewrite it for different reader profiles. See how your content changes. And keep things playful, like a doodle.
In the end, it’s all about growth
I should let you know that I’m in the ‘write every day’ camp. Don’t wait for inspiration, always show up, be a professional, yada yada.
But I also appreciate the little things that help us writers get by, like having a 250-word daily target, or rewarding yourself with ice-cream for every chapter (not recommended).
Sometimes we need to finesse our way into writing, and other times we have to take a hammer to the keyboard. Either way, we need tools, and the more we have, the better our chances of dealing with whatever obstacles the writing gods decide to throw our way.
So here’s my toolbox to you, in hopes that you’ll see something that you can keep for your own. May you benefit from these little gimmicks that I sometimes use to coax myself into writing.
But whatever you do, you leave my fountain pens alone. Because I’m keeping those for myself.
Just because you don’t get my fountain pens don’t mean that you can’t get more exclusive goodies in my newsletter. So give me your email address for more content like this.