The Happy Writer, Writing Discussion

Pushing through to the end

The closer I get to finishing this novel, the trickier the demon of procrastination gets. Everything seems to get in the way, not the least of which is doubt.

Doubt comes and goes. I’ve accepted it as part of the writing process. The good writing days are fueled by creation, by discovering shiny new ideas, or ways of relating to the characters or the story. The bad days happen when I realized the story isn’t doing what I thought it was doing, or that it will never be as good I expect it to be. You know, that’s really OK too, or as Atom Egoyan put it “Don’t get depressed about not being where you want to be. This nagging feeling of anxiety is actually called ambition. Ambition is your friend.” And you know, the good writing days outweigh the bad. I wouldn’t keep writing otherwise.

But what about the flat days, the “I’ve had a long day at work”, “The bathroom needs cleaning”, or “Fringe is on TV tonight days”? Every day starts out like this for me. There’s always something I could be doing instead of writing, and sometimes there are things I do need to do instead, but I’ve devised a couple strategies to outplay procrastination.

My first go to strategy might sound strange, but I’ve heard from at least one other person that it works: I light a scented candle before I write. It’s a Pavlovian exercise. I started this about halfway through a draft, and now my brain associates the smell with writing time. It’s like a switch that tells me its time to get to work. (Incidentally, the candle I have on hand has a “Christmas garland” scent, so our apartment has smelled like pine trees and cinnamon for months)

Second of all, I’m not adverse to bribery. When I finish writing this draft I intend to hit the bookstore, finally use those movie tickets I’ve had sitting around, and those gift cards for a massage. There’s also a bottle of wine in the fridge, that’s been sitting there for more than a month. I might also whip up a new design for the blog. I am also looking forward to a break.

Just a few more days… almost there! 1.5 chapters, and one last checklist to go through.

Do you use any tricks to stay motivated?

18 Comments

  1. (Oooo…Fringe is definitely a powerful distractor. ;)) I like bribery! “You can’t go to bed ’til you get another chapter done” seems to work, heh–especially when it’s already late (I guess extreme conditions motivate me the most). Other than that…just being able to say that I’ve got the thing done seems to be my greatest motivation, the only thing keeping me from giving up altogether.

    That, and I don’t like being called a quitter, heh.

    Using candles sounds like a really smart idea. And that’s a great quote you shared, as well. I think I get depressed when I realize I’m not meeting certain ambitious goals. That’s a quote I’ll have to remember.

  2. I don’t know that I use tricks, but I like the idea of the scented calendar and the Pavlovian response. (Of course, I worry that my paper strewn desk might go up in flames… the papers stack almost taller than the bottom of the monitor).

  3. You can totally do it!! Go go go!

    Love the anxiety vs. ambition quote, btw.

    I don’t have any tricks in my bag, unfortunately. I just look at the clock, tell myself I have to write for 2 hours, and then sit down and do it whether I want to or not. By the end, I’m usually feeling pretty good, even if what I wrote isn’t.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I don’t write I usually feel worse after. It’s become a regular part of my day. That being said, the getting started is always the hardest part for me, even though I know it’s worth it 😉

  4. Yeah, no real tricks here, either. I guess that’s what my new Writing Project Progress Tracker is partly for: if I can see progress there, that’s some motivation, maybe. Now that I have some real writing time, I’ll see what I need to do to motivate myself.

    I don’t have cable, so TV is much less of a distraction. But I’ve got a couple video games that have been languishing, and have started calling my name… (Crazily, I’ve really, really had games on my brain, lately.) Maybe I can use play time as a reward?

    Good luck with this last couple chapters. Almost there!

    1. I would say that TV is one of the biggest distractions.

      Mine drowned in a flood over 10 years ago and has never been replaced. I had started two novels in the early 1990s and I finally finished both of them by early 2005. I had set my 50th birthday as a deadline, and I made it (plus, I announced the deadline on my website ahead of time, so that was motivation, too).

      If the TV had been available all that time, I might still be working on them. 🙂

      1. T. S. Bazelli Author

        It is a terrible distraction. I don’t allow myself to turn it on, or I’m done for, even if there’s nothing interesting on TV. It’s amazing how fast time can go by when you’re just flipping channels.

        Actually, we don’t subscribe to cable, but for some reason no one bothered to disconnect our apartment so despite the best of intentions, I’m not free from temptation LOL

    2. T. S. Bazelli Author

      Hey that’s a good idea, actually. Write/worldbuild for a set amount of time/words, then allow yourself game time after?

      I wouldn’t have the willpower for that though. I obsess and once I start a game, I’m pretty much done with anything else until I conquer it, which in the case of a RPG can be weeks…

      1. Pretty much the reason I’ve sworn off RPGs entirely XD … once I start, I can’t stop.

        Two “tricks” come to mind. The first is similar to your candle idea – I like to have a tangible break between writing time and whatever I was doing before. That could mean eating lunch, taking a shower, etc. Just as long as my brain has time to switch gears (it takes a while).

        The second is reading. Nothing gets me in the mood to write (or provides me with quite as many ideas) as reading.

        Good luck finishing those last few chapters!

      2. T. S. Bazelli Author

        hehe glad I’m not the only one!

        Those are also good tips. There are days where I’m tempted to take two or three showers… and yes, there’s nothing like a good book 🙂

      3. Good point… I can get games on the brain and then I’m done for. RPGs, Adventures and Strategy games all (my three favorite genres).

        At one time I was good at pacing my game-playing time, and sticking to a pretty hard limit (or as hard as you can set a limit when you’re playing an RPG or Adventure that forces you to save at prescribed save-points). But I’ve been way out of practice in pacing my game playing – I haven’t really played games now in 3 years (because of school).

  5. No major tricks have been necessary to get me writing once I established a schedule. I always start working by 11:00 so I can get on with afternoon responsibilities when it rolls around. Repetition of the daily habit sets in and it’s easier.

    To grease the process, I might hold off seeing a Netflix movie until a certain plot point is reached. Sleeping in and eating some junk food were rewards for finishing the rough draft. I guess I’m conservative when it comes to the carrots on these sticks.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      Those are very conservative rewards and I admire your ability to stick to a schedule. My biggest problem is that things always get in way of the schedule. I’d like to have a solid few hours to write in the evening but it usually gets broken up by other things.

  6. Your scented candle technique is really cool, Theresa. I might try something similar. I have certain albums I play when I write and I associated them all with the writing process, so much so that when they play randomly on my iPod I get the itch to put down whatever I’m doing and get to it ..!

    Good luck! And enjoy the break when you reach that finish line 🙂

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