The Things We Do Instead of Writing

With no papers due and no pending deadlines for any of my writing projects, I find myself unmotivated to write on a regular basis. Even when I sit down to write – pen in hand or keyboard under finger – I start to create this long imaginary list of other things I should be doing. Soon, it’s too late for me to write, or I’m too tired, or I want a break after doing said list of things. There are some very specific things that pop into my head that prevent me from being a good writer and actually writing. I know I’m not the only writer out there to do this.

One of my professors commented that, anytime she has a book to write, she suddenly remembers that she has dirty dishes in the sink, and that her floor sure could use a mopping, and man, when was the last time she vacuumed? We all have our little ticks that prevent us from doing the writing we set out to do.

The holidays, for example, easily break up our normal routines. Even if you have a normal writing schedule, it’s hard to stick to it with the obligations of the season. It’s hard to say “listen, family/wife/kids/friends, I know we’re supposed to be opening presents right now, but I really have a writing schedule I need to stick to. It’s not that you’re not important, it’s just that if I break my schedule it might be really hard to get back on it. You understand, right?” The answer to that would probably be no.

Unless you plan to give your family disappointment for the holidays, you should probably not use writing as an excuse to skip out on the festivities.

For me, most of the gifts I give during the season are handmade or homemade. I love to crochet and bake cookies, and both activities tend to occupy my hands and my mind so soon writing is completely pushed out of there. Even after the holidays, my brain is still in crochet mode – I’m working on two bags and one hat, at the moment, instead of my poetry or my short stories.

And then when I start to put the crocheting away my brain starts to go “when was the last time you made a delicious homemade meal for yourself?” or “Man, we could really do some laundry today and extend our yoga routine to make up for all of the deviled eggs we ate over the holidays.” or, my favorite, “I think we should reorganize our entire room and bookshelves. That will only take about a week.”

It’s not that any of these tasks are bad or unnecessary in my life, but I know I’ll get so distracted by them I won’t dedicate any time to writing. That’s my flaw. But recognition is the first step in restoring the balance I had in my life before the holidays and getting back on track when it comes to my writing.

First and foremost, I have to see all of my triggers that keep me away from my work. Crocheting, check. Cooking, check. Cleaning, check. Next, for me this works at least, I set up a dedicated schedule so I have time to do all of these things to satisfy my compulsive drive to do something other than write. I also set aside some dedicated time to writing, and I’m sure to reward myself with a movie or a book or a t.v. show or that delicious home-cooked meal (if you’re curious, I’m planning on making black bean flautas with avocado dipping sauce tonight) after my allotted writing time.

This way, I get back into the habit of writing before school and work begin again so I can keep that habit throughout the school year when my time is more occupied than it is right now. I know that if I don’t break the habit of distracting myself from my writing now, I’ll have no hope of it later. So, if you’re like me and the holidays and extra free time have distracted you from writing, stop procrastinating and set up a schedule to help you get back into the habit of writing on a regular schedule.

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