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Cheryl's Musings: Anti-procrastination

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road



I read an article recently in The Writer magazine that suggested keeping a writing "treadmill journal" to track writing progress. The concept is that a writer is like an athlete training for a marathon. We need to track our progress so that we know what's working and what isn't. I've been keeping this treadmill journal for about a week, and I admit it's been useful. It keeps me honest! When I plan to write for three hours, from 9-12, I'm more likely to notice when procrastination sneaks in. If it's 9:15 and I'm still checking e-mail, I can do something about it.

The unexpected benefit is that it keeps the problem areas in my work at the forefront of my mind. For ex., when I wanted to rework the second scene in chapter 1, I wrote down the specific scene and plot problem the day before. The scene tumbled through my head for the next 18 or so hours, until it was time for me to work on Juggling the Keystone again--and when I sat down, the words poured out. I'd been wrestling with the darned scene for 3 days!

So here's my daily anti-procrastination method, borrowed from "Want to be Productive? Start a 'treadmill' journal" in The Writer, April 2007:

  1. Record the date and time.

  2. Write down how long I plan to work. (Today: 5 hours)

  3. Write down what I plan to work on. (Today: freelance story edit, eczema research, and a website rewrite/edit. If I'm lucky, I'll have a little time leftover for Ch. 2 of Juggling the Keystone, but freelance work is top of my list today.)

  4. After I finish my writing time--Record how it went. (For ex., "Stuck on scene 2 transition" or "Fabulous!" or "Ouch. Need more sleep so I can keep my eyes open.")

  5. Record my writing plan for the next day, including what I plan to work on, the amount of time I'll spend, and when writing is on my schedule.

Although I haven't stuck to it perfectly, I've found it helpful. It helps me to commit to a specific time--avoiding procrastination. It helps me to focus on a goal, so I don't get sidetracked (or procrastinate!) It also helps me to recognize successes and needs.

My favorite aspect of this practice, though, is that it keeps the writing top of my mind, so my subconscious continues to work on it even when I'm away from my pen and notebook. So...if procrastination strikes down your best writing time, you might want to give this technique a try!


PS--Bad news for the day is that Windjammer--a line of small sailing vessels in the Caribbean--is going out of business. (That's the pic above.) Now, if you're looking for a way to procrastinate, I can't recommend anything better than a day on the Caribbean sea...but you can no longer procrastinate with Windjammer. Sigh.

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