Writer's Block and Procrastination

David Trammel's picture

I've had a bad case of writer's block this past month. Maybe not a block to writing as just not having the "get up and go" to do it. That's why this article caught my eye.

Why procrastination is about managing emotions, not time

"According to traditional thinking – still espoused by university counselling centres around the world, such as the University of Manchester in the UK and the University of Rochester in the US – I, along with my fellow procrastinators, have a time management problem. By this view, I haven’t fully appreciated how long my assignment is going to take and I’m not paying enough attention to how much time I’m currently wasting on ‘cyberloafing’. With better scheduling and a better grip on time, so the logic goes, I will stop procrastinating and get on with my work."

"Increasingly, however, psychologists are realising this is wrong. Experts like Tim Pychyl at Carleton University in Canada and his collaborator Fuschia Sirois at the University of Sheffield in the UK have proposed that procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time. The task we’re putting off is making us feel bad – perhaps it’s boring, too difficult or we’re worried about failing – and to make ourselves feel better in the moment, we start doing something else, like watching videos."


Some interesting information in the article, but I especially liked the end suggestion:
"“When someone finally recognises that procrastination isn’t a time management problem but is instead an emotion regulation problem, then they are ready to embrace my favourite tip,” says Pychyl.

The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate, “make your focus as simple as ‘What’s the next action – a simple next step – I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?’”. Doing this, he says, takes your mind off your feelings and onto easily achievable action. “Our research and lived experience show very clearly that once we get started, we’re typically able to keep going. Getting started is everything.”

See also this article about "pre"-crastination.

How to be more efficient: stop ‘precrastinating’

Mickey Spillane wrote about his writer's block. He would finish the novel and then just not be able to write anything for months on end.
Then, while he would be lounging on the beach with a cold one, his accountant would call and say "Mickey, you're running out of money."
Miraculously (so he says) the writer's block would vanish.

Perhaps you need the right kind of motivation!

Teresa from Hershey

(Admin note: Moved to this thread)

In my experience, the cure for writer's block and procrastination is a deadline. Editors were put on this green earth to force writers to write. Where there is no deadline, I need to create one. Internal motivation I find quite inadequate. To finish my novel I had 3 good friends as readers. Each week they relentlessly whined and complained until I came up with the next chapter for them to read. In order to finish the editing process I have promised 2 writer friends and also my neighbour a finished version in a fortnight. I think all of this helps especially for the type of person who will always try to meet external expectations (me) and then, who doesn't appreciate a constant audience for their work?
Agree also with Theresa - running out of money is also an excellent motivator. Is motivating me no end right now:)

I have been meditating on why I procrastinate and yes, indeed, I came to the conclusion that it is an emotional issue. The emotions may vary and they seem kind of slippery, but that is what it is. Also I find it ties into my pack-rat tendency. I procrastinate about making decisions about what to do with my stuff and find the decisions are often too difficult and I put it off until I am swamped. Sometimes I get the urge to purge and if I act swiftly, don't look too hard at the stuff and just get rid of it (thrift store usually) I do ok. However, if I try to get thoughtful or discerning about it, I bog down and then very often I just quit.

I recently had an encounter with the local code enforcers and realized some stunning losses as I was forced to clean up and decided that I needed to really work on this problem. Trying to get a handle on the emotional issues through meditation seems to be helping, but it is still a struggle.

Kay, that sounds like a really unpleasant situation for you, being forced by an outside agency to move things on. I imagine that in itself has produced a lot of emotional pushback against getting rid of further things. Knowing why something is a problem is good, but doesn't always get me all the way to resolution, I find. Do you have friends or family who could help you with this particular task? I know when I had to downsize my possessions by half to move to my current small house I found that talking it out with another trusted person as I handled all that stuff gave me a lot more clarity than if I had done it by myself. Sometimes just acknowledging out loud the place that thing had held in my life allowed me to let it go and move it on to someone else.
All the best with a difficult process.

alice's picture

Another person who struggles with clutter here, so just sending sympathy, Kay, that does sound tough.

I tell myself 'when in doubt, throw it out' all the time. I don't always because when I do discard an item, a year later I need it.
Most frustrating.
Yet at the same time, secondhand stores are loaded with goods, just not the RIGHT ones.

Reading Adam Minter's book "Secondhand: travels in the new global garage sale" was disheartening and encouraging at the same time. (My review is elsewhere in Green Wizards). No one wants your stuff and there's plenty more where that came from so what do you do?

I buy less, a lot less, so it doesn't come in the door.

Teresa from Hershey