Productive Avoidance

May 4, 2017
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You want to write, you’re prepared to write, you look at your blank computer screen, and you think of something you need to do because it simply can not wait.

  • Your e-mail In Box must certainly contain an extremely important note you must attend to immediately.
  • The dryer buzzer just sounded and you don’t want the sheets to wrinkle.
  • The lawn mower can’t go another day without an oil change.

Productive avoidance. Things you find to do instead of writing. Things that:

  • Appear to be important tasks to which every responsible adult would tend to immediately.
  • Allow you to finish quickly and feel the rush of accomplishment.
  • Are simply too critical to put off another moment.

Things like:

  • Alphabetizing your spices.
  • Returning a library book that’s not due for two weeks.
  • Sweeping the garage.
  • Planning next year’s lawn care.
  • Anything you can label as critical to your day.

Any things that are not writing.

So how do you put off putting off? Here are some suggestions.

  • Acknowledge you have a serious case of productive avoidance. Say it out loud. Own it. And remember that every writer uses productive avoidance to hide from that empty blank computer screen at one time or another.
  • Lower your immediate writing goals and reduce your stress. Instead of writing 10 pages right now, write two or three or one. Sip rather than gulp.
  • Turn your ideas into rough notes. Turn your notes into an outline. Turn your outline into a rough first draft.
  • Write for as long and as many pages as you can. Have a Nike moment and Just Do It.®
  • Take a moment to remember why you write. Reconnect with the wonder and creativity of writing.
  • Remember that writing is a process. Don’t expect perfection from your first (or 12th) draft. Enjoy the process of better and better, enjoy surprising yourself with that truly wonderful sentence, enjoy and celebrate creating even if it’s only the perfect word, the just-right sentence, or the powerful paragraph.
  • It’s what you do.

From Quit Whining Start Writing: A Novelist’s Guide to Writing by Tricia L. McDonald

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