How to Stop Procrastinating & Start Writing That Book Inside You

How to Stop Procrastinating & Start Writing That Book Inside You

Whenever I tell a new person I’ve met that I’ve recently had a memoir published, the response is, invariably, “You wouldn’t believe my story. I should write a book, too.” And my response to them is, invariably, “Then, why don’t you?”

The gap between having the desire to write a book and actually sitting down to write one is quite large, but with some effort, it can be bridged.

Start Writing

The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is actually stopping you from sitting down at the computer. Most people procrastinate because of fear of failure. If you never do anything then no one can say that you did it poorly. Most procrastinators are their own worst critics. Putting off doing something that they have always wanted to do is their way of avoiding their own perfectionism and convincing themselves that they could have excelled if only they had the (fill in the blank) to write.

When it comes to writing, the first thing you have to do to stop procrastinating is to challenge the assumption that what you write needs to be perfect. Even bestselling and award-winning authors are never satisfied with the first drafts of their manuscripts. A professional author can write multiple versions of his or her book before ever letting anyone read it. The best way to approach this is to just sit down and spit out whatever comes into your mind. There’s time for analyzing and revising later, and you can do it as much as you want before ever sending your baby out to be critiqued. The important thing is to just get your ideas down on paper or on the screen.

If you’ve decided to write fiction, chances are you’ll need to do some research, and you can motivate yourself to begin the project by going to the library to do some investigation. There’s nothing like learning about a new world for stimulating the imagination. Make the project fun by going to the library with a friend or family member who is also doing research for their own undertaking. And share what you have learned with others who can give you ideas and suggestions for making your work stronger and more appealing.

Another helpful approach is to break your manuscript down into manageable chunks, rather than putting yourself under pressure to write an entire book.  Divide your manuscript into chapters and set yourself short term goals for completing them. Writing a book becomes much less daunting when you approach it incrementally. Perhaps you can start by writing an outline or basic synopsis of your plot. That way, you’ll have a road map to guide you as you write.

Finding the Time To Write

Many people say they can’t write their manuscript because they have other obligations and just can’t find the time. I remember reading once that when John Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, he was still working as a lawyer and wrote one page a night for a year until he had finished his book. The point is, if you really want to write, you can find the time. If you’ve got a family, you can talk to them about giving you a certain period each day when you cannot be disturbed. A supportive family will understand.

Many people also believe that they need the optimal conditions in which to work, and that absent these conditions, they just can’t produce. This is another faulty assumption. No less an author than the late Pulitzer-Prize winning John Kennedy Toole wrote his book, A Confederacy of Dunces, in his bedroom in longhand on a legal pad. You do not have to be in the perfect surroundings to write a book. And if you do have a favorite place to write, there’s no reason you can’t make yourself as comfortable as possible by arranging your workspace to please yourself.

Final Thoughts on Writing a Book

Don’t get me wrong; writing a book is no easy proposition. In fact, I once read on a publishing Web site that for every thousand people who aspire to write a book, one of them actually does it. But just think how great you’ll feel about yourself once you have a completed manuscript. You can be that one person, so start writing now!

Is writing a book one of your goals? Have you started writing it? If no, why not? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Photo by BingBing

Wendy Aron

Wendy Aron has written for publications nationwide, including The New York Times and Newsweek. She is an award winning humorist (Society of Professional Journalists) and comic memoir author. You can see her home improvement humor blog at http://theantijane.com and more of her work at www.wendyaron.com.

40 Comments

  1. Hi,

    for me, the biggest problem is, to stay tuned. In the past I often started to write down ideas, a short plot or even started writing the “real” story. But after some time I thought that my idea may not be as good as I thought in the beginning. I start to dislike my idea and at some point I also stop writing the story. The voice in my head is saying: “nobody want’s to read such a story, it’s boring!”.

    Reply
    • @maurice,

      The important thing is to turn off your internal crtic once you start writing your book. Simply say to yourself that you are not going to critique your story until it is completed.

      Best,
      Wendy

      Reply
    • I recently got serious about writing a book. I’ve wanted to write a book for many years but kept putting if off, making excuses, doubting myself, starting, stopping then starting again. But this time, although those same doubts and insecurities keep flashing in my mind trying to discourage me: “I’m determined to get down to business!” The main reason for not having started was that I didn’t believe I was a good writer, or had anything worthy enough to write about that would be of interest to anyone. I mean, in this day an age, whatever anybody wants to know about anything can be easily accessed on the computer or on all the other gadgets available on the market today. So, why write book you ask? The first reason is a selfish one: because that’s what I’ve wanted to do for several years and now, by golly, It’s time to get’er done! The second reason: is that next month I will be turning 71; that’s right. 71! The demon of doubt is whispering in my ear: “You’re too old to start writing a book now…give it up man! Stop fooling yourself!” almost every time I watch the news somebody in their 70′s has passed away. Before it’s me, I decided to get my you know what a movin’! The third and most important reason that I have been blessed with WISDOM! The Bible tells us that WISDOM is greater than gold or silver. I can attest to that: It truly is! After all these years, I have said, done, and learned many lessons about the ups and downs of life; mostly, I’m sad to say, the hard way…meaning: with Regrets! This is what feel I must warn and tell the world about with the hope of opening up some and changing some minds and avert some disasters; even if it’s just a few. Thinking before speaking or acting results in some harsh and most regrettable consequences Don’t wish me luck, pray that I follow through on this task till its completion. Thank you and God Bless!

      Reply
  2. Many people have told me I should write a book. I figured I would start blogging to see what ideas came about. It’s interesting to see how many blogs are turned into a book at some point. Perhaps that’s an idea? Or perhaps I’ll just use my blog as a training ground.

    Congratulations on your published memoir!

    Reply
  3. i’m a horrible procrastinator! keeping the writing habit is the hardest part for me. scheduling the time in on my calendar seems to work the best for me.

    Reply
  4. Wendy,

    Congratulations on publishing your memoirs! As you say, so many people want to and so few do. Like Maurice, I often start a book thinking I’ve got a great idea, only to read the draft days or weeks later only to discard the project in disgust, because it just seems so lousy at that point. I’ve also told myself before to wait until I really have something to say before I start writing. Thanks for the wake-up call so just start writing!

    Reply
  5. Wendy, the most helpful tips for me is to break down into managable manuscript. It is hard if you just sit down in front of your laptop and thinking your idea.

    I do listen accoustic music, or any slow music that there is no contain words to make me relax and release all the tension.

    Reply
  6. I’m currently listening to “The Power of One” audiobook by Bryce Courtenay. At the start the author tells how it was the first book he wrote, and because he thought no one would publish it the finished manuscript acted as a doorstop for 6 months. Finally, a person he knew picked up the manuscript, began to read it, and told him it was the best book they had ever read. With this confidence boost he found a publisher, and the book went on to sell millions of copies and was turned into a movie.

    Admittedly this is a different situation to that discussed in this article (ie Courtenay didn’t seem to procrastinate when it came to writing), but I think the story shows how anyone – even brilliant writers- can suffer from self-doubt. The key is to acknowledge the fears and doubt we may have, and then do it anyway. Start writing, because who knows what will happen? I can personally attest from my 2 years of blogging that practice will dramatically improve a person’s writing, so even if what you initially write is no good, stick with it, because you will improve.

    Thanks for sharing your story Wendy, and congrats on being one in a thousand!

    Reply
  7. Outstanding information. I have several books published and now teach my clients how to package their information in a variety of formats. The common denominator among those who get their book done and those who don’t is desire and commitment.

    When there is something someone really wants they must be willing to take steps each day to make this happen.

    There are many reasons (excuses) one may give for either not starting or not completely a book. Most of what they think are reasons are excuses.

    Think about it….When there was something you were on fire to achieve did it not become all consuming? If you are not on fire about writing a book it’s likely it just won’t get done.

    Get the fire!

    Kathleen Gage
    The Street Smarts Marketer

    Reply
  8. Self doubt is what stops me (my desire to fix that is part of what led me to this blog). I wrote a weekly newspaper column for six years and am still plagued by low self-esteem about my writing ability. Writing involves losing yourself in your own mind. Unfortunately that is also where my pessimism and negativity roam.

    Reply
  9. Congratulations on getting your memoirs done!

    Many people don’t write because they feel they’re not good at it. Once you get going, it isn’t hard. Write as if you are speaking to someone. Write from presence, and it will flow. Then go back and edit, vary the length and structure of sentences, simplify, don’t get attached to ‘beautiful’ sentences if they don’t belong, and that’s it!

    Reply
  10. So timely for this post

    I satred working on my books several weeks ago after procrastinating for YEARS with tons of excuses. I joined Christine Kloser and Lynne Klippel’s program, Get Your Book Done, for support. The other day we did a fabulous exercise many writers know about to get going and break through writer’s block…. You pick three words that relate to what you want to write about. You set a timer for five minutes and write or type as fast as you can. I did this as a practice exercise using three words they gave the us on one of the calls and the story I wrote was amazing to me. Try it!

    Cheers,
    Lorraine

    http://www.isayyesnow.com

    Reply
  11. Hi Wendy,

    I am currently writing a book myself and I got to say it really takes hard work to complete a book. On regards to the point about people complaining about not having enough time to complete the book, I find that most are actually only giving excuses. We can find time for things we really want to do. All we need to do is to shift our mindset thinking that writing the book is important and we will definitely find more time for it.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

    Reply
  12. Thanks a lot. I had decided to write a book and I’m gonna’ start with it right away. No meaning in putting it for another day.

    Thanks for this. This great motivation.

    Reply
  13. I’ve been saying “I’m writing a book” ever since before I graduated from high school. And I did. I did NaNoWriMo and successfully wrote 50,000 words. I also wrote an ebook. But there’s still more books inside of me that I’d like to get out there. They’re coming! :)

    Reply
  14. I’ve been working on a book for some time now and I think you’ve offered some great advice here. Thanks for the post!

    Sometimes all it takes it just getting it done. People who are interested in writing a novel should consider taking part in National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. You have to write a novel in a month so it won’t be the best thing ever, but at least you have some place to start from.

    And don’t forget — perfect can be the enemy of good. Getting something on to the page is just as important as writing the perfect book.

    Reply
  15. Hi Wendy, we often adjourn what we have to do, we are lack in the execution. I think most of us are afraid to fail, as you have said or we are lazy indeed.
    First, all we need to do is to find goals in our live and the reasons behind the goals.
    Thanks for the article, Wendy. :)

    Reply
  16. nice post,i also have an idea that i want to share, when i wrote my first Ebook it was just 29 pages, of course it was far from being perfect at that time but i insisted on completing it fast

    later on i kept releasing new versions with more pages until the last version which is version 9 reached 87 pages :D

    so start now and write improved versions later then send them to all who purchased old versions for free

    Reply
  17. Fantastic article! Procrastination is definitely the enemy of success. It’s easy to talk it than to do it. Perfectionism I experienced first hand. I would constantly rewrite and rewrite. Rewriting is great when you complete your project. Not when you keep thinking that what your writing isn’t any good.

    Reply
  18. I procrastinate because…well, I don’t know why. I know I have a decent enough talent to make it, if I tried hard enough and put myself out there and believed in myself. Sometimes, while I think my writing is good enough, the ideas don’t seem to be so great. I have a lot of ideas from when I was in high school and college in a notebook. I’d start so many things and never finish. Always more of a short story writer and occasional poet. Now that I’m out of school I feel like I have no imagination left. I’m afraid of failing and succeeding, of actually finishing and having to say, “Now what?” And I don’t know how to get myself out there, how to self-publish if need be, and/or if it’s tacky to just hand my stuff to someone and say, “Here, read it and tell me what you think.” And contests are almost always out because hubby and I can’t really afford $20 a month to enter a story that’s mediocre.

    Reply
  19. I want to write about my life but I’m scared that the life I finally created will be lost when they learn about my past.

    Reply
    • i think you should write that book because the fact that you think people will not like your past is the reason you should write that book. im thinking of writing one myself and i dont care what people think of it because its the truth. tony.

      Reply
  20. ummm i’m seventeen an i got so many idea’s in my head. i was wondering if anyone could help me to get started on my book i mean i have no idea where to begin with the whole publishing thing. i might sound dumb hah

    Reply
  21. write what you feel and feel what you write.

    Reply
  22. I really enjoyed reading the encouraging thoughts here. I believe all of us at one time or another have read or listened to something and said, “Hey, I can do that!” The problem is we usually don’t. We make time for the things we love in life. If you love it why wouldn’t someone else love it? How will we know unless we share it? Learn. Live. Love.

    Reply
  23. An author I admire once told me I’m a true writer. And I can sometimes write lovely little pieces. But when I try to write an actual book I get a mental freeze. It’s hard to ignore that critical voice telling me ‘why bother when so many before you have done so much better’. One day I’ll get there – I just need some gumption.

    Reply
  24. Rather than the fear of failure, my thoughts keep coming back to the most practical idea: What’s so great about living a positive life? (I am a deaf person who has lived life much positively and with lots of career struggles) Isn’t everyone doing it in some way or other? Why publish? What’s the purpose or the outcome exactly? What if it comes out as being too ridiculous? I am at a loss as to whether i should write or not. Being a professional content writer for nearly 12 years i do know i can write. But i dont know where to start and how to stop the initial self doubt…pls somebody help!

    Reply
  25. I am scared…sounds silly coming from a full time employee, mother, wife and have been called “tell it like it is” kind of gal, along with stubborn and head strong so it amazes me the amount of fear I am internalizing about writing a damn book! I am not looking at it as a career but I have all these thoughts and ideas that I should have on paper. In my heart I know would be a fun book…but there is this fear and I can’t even begin to explain what I am afraid of! What is wrong with me?

    Reply
  26. all the discussion above is true in my case …but i was trying to write a course book of computer science engg. , one thing that is bothering actually is book should be useful when ever it will publish.

    Reply
  27. I`ve got this intense desire to write a book..in fact writing is the ONLY thing I want to do. My job is just a job but writing is the only thing that gives me any joy. I`ve had the urge to put words on paper my entire life. Now however that I`ve made the mental switch and told myself I will try my hand at writing….my own inner critic has almost paralyzed me.
    Every time I get what seems like a workable story idea I get as far as a general plot idea, and a few characters and bam… It just stops seeming workable to me. I suddenly lose interest or another even better idea pops up and then quickly fades again. It`s like my inner critic, fear of failure and embarrassment just destroys all story ideas before they have time to nurture.
    I currently have three story ideas that I`m hopping between, fantasy, urban fantasy and chick lit. All three have themes important to me..but there`s no progress. I sit and worry about not writing..but I don`t know where to start on the stories and I have no idea how they should end. So I flop back and forth like a fish out of water, worry, and scold myself for being a failure. But I`m going to keep going, and keep trying. it`s the only thing I want to do.

    Reply
  28. Excellent article!… I’m already inspired to take some action right now.

    Reply
  29. I have been intrested in writing a book for quite some time now, but like everyone else I have procrastinated as well. Part of it is that I feel scatter brained as to where to start. There has always been a writer lurking inside of me for years and now it’s time to bring her to the forefront. If anyone can help me do that please respond.

    Reply
  30. I have a fantastic semi-autobiographical novel in my head, but can’t seem to make myself sit down and write it. My life experience and affinity for reading have given me a fantastic story, but I know that it must include a lot of back-story and detail; that’s where it all goes to hell. I cannot bring myself to sit down and start getting it out because there’s SO much of it! I know that I will need to edit out some of it, and it seems like “what’s the point in writing it down if I’m just going to end up throwing out, or not including, that part?” In essence, I think I’m afraid to get it all out because I’m going to have to throw away so much of it…and so much work will be required on both sides of it. Basically, 3 stories combine to complete the idea, and I’m not sure what details are necessary!.

    Reply
    • Sarah, have a read of Peter Elbow’s “Writing with Power”. If you create 100 pages over a weekend, it’s ok if you then have 1 page that you will use. The 99 pages have been part of the process. Your story and your characters will show you the way.

      Reply
  31. The biggest problem i have when i want to write a book is the fact that i have so many ideas, but everytime i get serious about one of them, i find that it reminds me of another book i’ve read somewhere else. The idea then doesn’t sound as good because it doesn’t seem original. The other thing is that i have no idea where to start, my ideas are so scattered, and the fact that I never have an ending in mind, so i become disheartened.

    Reply
  32. well i have been thinking of writing a book of my life and have put it off for quite some time now but after reading peoples comments its giving me the drive to get started thank you.

    Reply
  33. Thanks to this article, ill sit down and write the book. Thanks…

    Reply
  34. All I ever here is that my life is a number one book seller lol but I am bipolar and adhd that right there should tell you what my issue is… My mind races so much then my story gets scattered… i jump from one scene to another… Please can somebody give me advice…

    Reply
  35. Hi. What if I just don’t have the skills to write my book how I want it to be? I have this idea in my head of a sophisticated novel but the vocabulary and sentence structure I want it to have is just beyond me.

    Reply

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