Writing Your Best Self – The difference between procrastination and writer’s block
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at my computer clicking my fingers over the keys, waiting for something to come from them. My brain is filled with thoughts that aren’t organic. I constantly click over to social media and I wonder when people will start to realize I’m a fraud. I tell myself that I’m not a writer — I’m a person who has to force the words from my brain in a way that tricks my readers into thinking I am. However, this is the plaque of procrastination — this is the dreaded writer’s block.
I’m not a pro at defeating the procrastination monster, nor do I have all the answers on how to defeat writer’s block. However, I know the feeling, and I know what’s helped me to push past the struggle. As writers, we can’t force the creativity, but sometimes it’s good to examine ourselves and what can help us get focused and inspired.
Ask Yourself What You’re Missing
When your brain is fuzzy and you’re having trouble concentrating, take a minute to take inventory of your basic needs. If you’re hungry, tired, sick, or emotionally exhausted, maybe those are the root causes of your inability to concentrate. Try eating some healthy foods, taking a nap, helping yourself feel better, or focusing on your mental health before forcing your body to run on empty. Writing might not be a physical workout, but it’s a mental workout.
If you’re battling writers block and procrastination, ask yourself if you’re missing something vital which might be the root of the problem. For some, getting a good night’s sleep with the aid of white noise has made all the difference in their concentration while they are awake. For others, herbal tea is a great way to help them feel alert and present to write. While some people feel the most creative when they are experiencing mental health struggles, it’s the opposite for others.
My distractions are social media, chores, warm weather, and my animals. If I’m experiencing writer’s block, I need to work hard to eliminate the distractions that can keep me from reaching some inspiration. Sometimes my issue isn’t writer’s block; it’s procrastination itself. My distractions are the tools that help me to take procrastination to the next level!
Breaking the cycle of procrastination is all about self-control. Write down your distractions and then brainstorm ways to defeat them.
Each person is different, but it’s helpful to pinpoint what is distracting you from productivity or inspiration and eliminate it.
- The Forest extension: For social media distractions, I use the Forest extension — a tool that keeps me from certain sites for a block of time while growing a tree of productivity. If I open a social media site anyway, my tree dies.
- Rescheduling: For chores and distractions that stem from my responsibilities outside writing, I make sure those things are taken care of before I write, or make a list of what to accomplish after my writing, etc. I schedule my day so that those things are done and I can write without worrying about them.
- White noise: White noise not only helps people sleep, but it also helps to remove distracting sounds — or distracting silence — when trying to work. If you want to hear noise but a television or music is too distracting, white noise is a great alternative. You can also try certain types of classical music or study playlists on Spotify.
- A closed door: Many writers swear by using a closed door. It helps those outside the door to know you’d like not to be bothered, and keeps your mental state from wandering outside the door as well.
- Communication: It might be hard to explain to a pet that you need to concentrate and they are distracting you, but you can communicate that to friends and family. Don’t be afraid to let others know when you need to focus.
Find an Emotional Trigger
When it comes to seeking creative influence to jumpstart the writing process, it’s useful to find the emotional trigger that helps your writing.
When writer’s block is killing my productivity, I listen to music, read someone else’s work, look at a painting, read old journals, listen to a podcast, read articles, look at old photos, or read old conversations. This is a balancing act, as sometimes feeling emotionally exhausted can be something causing your writer’s block, but sometimes it’s helpful to tap into those emotions in order to keep the creativity flowing.
Artists keep their emotions, heartache, and experiences close in order to utilize the inspiration that flows from them. Just be sure you’re not tapping into something too painful. However, I’ve found that finding the things that trigger those emotions in a helpful way can help jumpstart my creativity and kill my writer’s block.
Experiment With Schedules and Flexibility
There are a ton of strategies for overcoming issues with writer’s block. You can try to organize yourself more, walk away for a bit, keep yourself on a deadline, or just write until something happens. However, you’ll never know what works for you until you start experimenting. For some people, making a schedule, staying organized, and sticking to a deadline is helpful. Take an hour and make yourself sit there for that hour to try to write — maybe your brain will react and give you something great.
On the other hand, maybe you should experiment with flexibility if your schedules aren’t working. If nothing comes and you’re just wasting time, give it a break. Go outside, do something else, and don’t even try to think about writing. Maybe your creativity will surprise you while making lunch. The point being that whatever you’re doing might not be working. Maybe you need different things at different times. Experiment with both and see which gives you the best result.
What is the difference between procrastination and writer’s block?
One tip for getting through procrastination and writer’s block is to understand the difference.
- If you’re procrastinating, you’re avoiding the task.
- If you have writer’s block, you’re really trying to focus, but nothing is coming.
Are You Procrastinating, or Is It Writer’s Block?
The line between the two is grey, but they are separate issues — even if you experience both at the same time.
If you’re procrastinating, you might be:
- avoiding sitting down to write
- making excuses
- pretending to work
- intentionally delaying.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, you might be:
- burnt out
Understanding the difference will help you to fix the problem, and one isn’t any worse than the other. Feeling nervous or inadequate can cause both procrastination and writer’s block. Procrastination can cause writer’s block and vice versa. Ask yourself which you’re experiencing and why. This will help you to use the other tips provided depending on what the problem is.
Whether you’re experiencing writer’s block or procrastinating, the end result is the same: You’re not writing.
I tend to feel both at the same time. When the problem is procrastination, I know I need to follow a schedule and get organized. However, when the problem is writer’s block, I know I need some flexibility in order to allow my creativity to find me. Each issue requires different tools.
As writers we start to think that if we can’t write, there’s something wrong with us. Are we even real writers? Of course we are. Take a step back and remember it’s a matter of working through it, just like anything else.