On Procrastination and “Writer’s Block”

“Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem…isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you’re procrastinating on as passing weather, you’ll realize that your reluctance about working isn’t something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and act anyway.

It is illuminating to note, here, how the daily rituals and working routines of prolific authors and artists–people who really do get a lot done–very rarely include techniques for ‘getting motivated’ or ‘feeling inspired.’ Quite the opposite: they tend to emphasize the mechanics of the working process, focusing not on generating the right mood, but on accomplishing certain physical actions, regardless of mood….Such rituals provide a structure to work in, whether or not the feeling of motivation or inspiration happens to be present. They let people work alongside negative or positive emotions, instead of getting distracted by the effort of cultivating only positive ones. ‘Inspiration is for amateurs,’ the artist Chuck Close once memorably observed. ‘The rest of us just show up and get to work.'”

Oliver Burkeman, from The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

“You have to try very hard in order not to create at all.”

Geoffrey V. Carter, from “Writer’s Block Just Happens to People” in Bad Ideas About Writing

“No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

Why then, is writer’s block endemic?

The reason we don’t get talker’s block is that we’re in the habit of talking without a lot of concern for whether or not our inane blather will come back to haunt us. Talk is cheap. Talk is ephemeral. Talk can be easily denied.

We talk poorly and then, eventually (or sometimes), we talk smart. We get better at talking precisely because we talk. We see what works and what doesn’t, and if we’re insightful, do more of what works. How can one get talker’s block after all this practice?

Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure.

Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

[…]

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.

If you know you have to write something every single day, even a paragraph, you will improve your writing. If you’re concerned with quality, of course, then not writing is not a problem, because zero is perfect and without defects. Shipping nothing is safe.

The second best thing to zero is something better than bad. So if you know you have write tomorrow, your brain will start working on something better than bad. And then you’ll inevitably redefine bad and tomorrow will be better than that. And on and on.”

Seth Godin, from “Talker’s Block”