Overcoming Procrastination


Chris BatyReading another great book this week, "No Plot? No Problem!" by Chris Baty (pictured right), founder of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month Competition. Every November, more than 100K writers around the globe try to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month. There are daily pep talks, "write-ins" with fellow NaNoWriMos, an online regional database to locate other participants, and a certificate upon completion.

Sound a little crazy? Maybe it is. But there are far crazier things in life than writing a novel in a month -- say, writing a novel in 10 years.

I tried it last year; but life, fate, and my crazy roommates conspired against me. I don't think it's a farfetched idea at all, it's certainly quite doable. But there are quite a few things that need to be in place to create a favorable environment for Nano-ing and writing in general. What's great about his book is that it is written for people who have a lot on their plates -- like school, work, and family -- and live in an internet culture that creates these overwhelming and nonproductive sucks on your time (something that Anne Lamott and Stephen King don't take into account at all, likely because they're old school).

Chris offers tips on how to prioritize your writing and deprioritize time sucks like web surfing, washing dishes, and hanging out till all hours of the night. There's this great little tool, called a Time Finder, for figuring out what things you can do without. For a whole week, you keep a daily log of your activities, noting how long it takes you to do them. Then you go through with a colored pen at the end of that week and categorize each activity as REQUIRED, HIGHLY DESIRED, or FORGOABLE. Once you do that, you cut out all the forgoable activities (and highly desired if push comes to shove) for those four weeks and voila -- you found the time you need to write!

I always feel like I don't have enough time in the day, so this Time Finder seems really amazing. I certainly do waste a certain amount of time every day which, taken together, I could be using to enormous good. At the same time, one thing that Chris finds is that your down time becomes enormously productive as a result of getting your writing done. Spending time with friends, the sunrise, even a slow walk in the park seem more enjoyable.

And I can vouch that this week, writing at least a couple of hours every morning has been very good to me. I find that I'm far less irritable with other people because I'm getting my own work done and I can really be present with them because I'm not thinking about what I didn't get done.

I hope the process of finishing this book will help me finally put to rest this issue I have with prioritizing other people's commitments over and above my own, giving generous amounts of valuable time away -- in a sense, giving myself away. To that end, I have officially instituted a moratorium against working on other people's projects at present, so I can commit fully to my book.

Will let you know how well I stick to it. ;)

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