It is reasonable to expect that in order to correct any problem you would have to spend time to diagnose the issue, find resources for helping, learn how to make the necessary changes, and implement the changes. For a blocked or procrastinating writer this means that several action steps are involved in addition to having the desire to write more productively. It takes time to learn how to not waste time.
Those of you who have experienced problems with writing regularly have undoubtedly spoken with others, searched out websites or purchased books about how to improve your productivity. Some of you have read the books, too. There’s lots and lots of books that contain advice about writing, and while I support the idea of buying such books ( I wrote one), at what point have you read enough? How do you know when your efforts to learn more about the problem have become an extension of the problem rather than a step toward resolution?
If you feel a sense of relief to be reading a self-help book as opposed to writing, this is a red flag. If you read reasonable, sound advice, but you don’t follow it, that is another red flag. If you are rationalizing to yourself that spending an evening reading The Artist’s Way for the ninth time, instead of writing, is not so bad because you are sort of working on your writing indirectly and at least you are not like, watching American Idol,… that is also a red flag.
Some writers with productivity problems work very diligently but get stalled in the research stage of their project. They sense there is more they need to know before putting pen to paper. At a subtler level they also sense that writing is more risky, harder work and less comfortable than doing research. This same dynamic can be at play when researching advice about blocks and procrastination.
You will never know ahead of time that some bit of advice will be useful. You have to try it and see. If you read about a strategy that sounds like it might work, go ahead and experiment with it. Working with one idea at a time seems to work best when we talk about changing habits. Clouding your brain too many thoughts about what to change is confusing, and leads to indecision and stasis. Pick an idea, and play with it – see if it helps. The step of “doing” something… anything, is what energizes the system and catalyzes the writing process.
In the comments section to this blog, one writer mentions that he realized he was reading my book to avoid writing. He decided to make a rule that reading the book would be his reward for doing the writing he had to get done. Evidently this worked pretty well, and he accomplished his writing goal without needing to read my book first.
I’ll confess here that I have hitherto been operating under the assumption that the contents of my book are what makes it useful to writers. But hey, if it also works well as an effective behavioral reinforcement reward pellet, I’m happy about that too.