This article is by Anne Marie Gazzolo.
I am a master procrastinator and gold-medal winner in the art of distracting myself from what is important. I was so daunted by the amount of notes to gather into a cohesive first draft of my new book, Chosen, about the journeys of Bilbo and Frodo, I put it off again and again. I finally started in January 2017 after I was over the worst of the flu. I had some downtime while I recovered and used it wisely. And guess what? I finished my first draft far sooner than I thought.
My fear to start— which was a fierce and roaring tiger before I began —turned out to be only a paper tiger. I actually was into my third draft before the date I set to finish the first. I finally decided this was important enough to invest some quality time, and it is out at last.
So how can you find the same time to give birth to your own ideas and books?
Set specific deadlines to finish various drafts and/or how many pages you will write or edit each day.
Honor these commitments. My brain works easier with a deadline to meet, rather than a vague ‘write a book this year.’ Give yourself particular dates you must be done. If it helps, use dates important to your story or your life. For me, I chose particular dates in Middle-earth, like finish the first draft by March 25, second by Mid-Year’s Day, etc. Once you commit yourself, your brain will figure out ways to meet your deadline and stop you from sabotaging yourself.
Get rid of distraction.
No phone within easy reach. No access to the web at the touch of a button. No “I’ll just check something for a moment for research and, oh, while I’m at it, I might as well check Facebook and Instagram.” Recognize the difference between the urgent and the important. I am still a sucker when it comes to doing the urgent over the truly important. I empty out the dishwasher, do the laundry, anything that does not need to be done at the moment but screams it must be. The important stuff, the writing, I do last. This is not the way it should be! Checking social media is urgent; it is not important. Answering that text is urgent; it is not important. Tell those likely to distract you in this way, you will not be reachable for a set amount of time. Do the important work first!
Listen to music.
Play music if that helps you keep going when you want to quit or you need some inspiration to get started.
Realize you are in a battle for your creative life.
Your enemy will pull out all the stops to stop you from achieving your dreams. It has many names: procrastination, distraction, fear, doubt. You must slay these dragons before they kill you. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. Read his masterful books starting with The War of Art to open your eyes to what you are up against it. The assaults of this most formidable adversary have already pummeled you many times before, even if you have not recognized it for what it is: a diabolic force with the sole intention to destroy you. It attacks anyone who ever wanted to do anything important. Do not let it win! Pressfield gives you the weapons you need to fight and triumph over it. He is in the trenches with you. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Show your enemy who is boss.
Once you begin to fight your foe, rather than allow it to kick you around any longer, its power lessens and your strength grows. What so easily distracted you before does not have the same pull. You are in the driver’s seat now. There were many times I just wanted to sit down and read someone’s else book, someone who had beat Resistance and published their work. But I reminded myself I had to get my own book out first. You must tell yourself the same thing.
Celebrate your victory!
You did it, you punched Resistance in its face and published your book. You may feel you barely survived a brutal boxing match. That is exactly what it is. But you did survive. Congrats and hobbity hugs! Not everyone comes through as well as you did. Now go back and start your next book because Resistance is down, but not out. But now you recognize it for what it is and you can beat it again. You must beat it again!
What ways can you or have you beat your creative enemy?
About the Author:
Anne Marie Gazzolo is the author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings, Chosen: The Journeys of Bilbo and Frodo of the Shire, and the companion piece: The Long Way Home, a collection of poems centered about a heroic quest and its aftermath. Two fantasy series and another book about lessons from Middle-earth anxiously await their turn to come out. Visit her at ofagespast.com.