Firstly, apologies to those of you who received the beginnings of this post a couple of weeks ago. I was halfway through writing it when my cursor got over-excited and sped over to the 'publish post' button before I had a chance to stop it! I've only just got round to finishing it as I've been really busy with work and the Easter holidays and...procrastinating. Which is what this post is about.
Getting down to it
If you're anything like me then you start your work day raring to go and with excitement at all the things you're going to get done. You get the kids off to school, finish the breakfast washing up, make a coffee and sit down at your laptop, feeling motivated and ready to get started.
If you're really like me you'll then spend the next hour getting all those absolutely non-urgent things out of the way: checking social media, catching up on the news, having a go at the Guardian online crossword...you know, all those really vital things. Anything, in fact, that isn't actually the stuff you're supposed to be doing, even though your 'to-do' list is, by now, shouting at you to at least cross one thing off it before you think about stopping for lunch.
And it's not even that I don't want to do my work: once I get going I know that I'll enjoy it and it will then be just as hard to stop at 3pm for the school run as it was to get going in the first place. It's just that I find it so hard to start.
Free your mind with free writing
Or, at least, I used to find it hard to get going. Since my discovery of free writing, the art of writing without conscious thought or judgement, I am able to get stuck in to that ever-growing list right from the get-go, without feeling the need to tit about on the internet for all those valuable minutes first.
Free writing is an amazing tool that benefits people in so many ways. It teaches you to over-ride the conscious mind, the bit which thinks and calculates and judges. It lets your subconscious mind - the bit with all the imagination and creativity - run riot and clears your head of all those tangled thoughts that are racing around up there.
I'll do another post about how beneficial free writing for your actual writing skills another time: but for the purposes of beating procrastination free writing is a massively welcome addition to my toolbox.
Pick a prompt
Now, as soon as my laptop is ready to go, instead of clicking on that dreaded Firefox symbol I open a Word document. I pick a writing prompt (I've got a huge list saved but if I don't fancy any of them there are SQUILLIONS available via a Google search), set my timer for 10 minutes and just start typing. I don't think about it, I just type. Sometimes the prompt will spark a specific idea: other times a single word will lead me off on a complete tangent. Either way, it doesn't matter: writing anything is better than not writing at all. While I'm free writing I ignore spelling, grammar, sense and even whether it's any good or not: all those are barriers that have the ability to stifle your subconscious and stop your writing flow before it starts.
Once I'm in the zone, I'm away. The ten minutes goes past so fast that the alarm makes me jump when it tells me the time is up and, in that time, I'll have written around 500 words. They may not always be 500 words that will win me prizes for literature (although the more you free write, the more coherent and focused your writing will become) but they will have got my creativity flowing and I can get started on my first work 'to do' easily. My procrastinating ways have been banished (until the next day, at least) and I'm happily busy until it's time to leave the house!
If I've got a particular writing project that I'm struggling with then I won't use a writing prompt: I'll start writing about the tricky task and let free writing do the rest. I mentioned tangled thoughts earlier: free writing is excellent for sorting out what's really important and giving you answers and inspiration that you wouldn't be able to access using your conscious mind. Free writing has helped me find words that I've lost, ideas that I've been desperately searching for and filled pages and pages with text that I can then go back to and edit into something more useful.
Anybody who knows me knows how much I value free writing: it's changed the entire way I write. I am never stuck for something to write about any more: I don't spend my time trying to perfect an opening paragraph before staring at a blank page for hours, feeling disheartened and then stopping altogether. I now have files and files of stories that I have started, continued and often finished, using free writing and I get stuck into work projects much more quickly than before, thanks to its ability to open up my mind.
I love teaching free writing to attendees at my Write Freely Workshops: it's always such a great feeling to see their faces when they realise that, actually, they can write and that it's nowhere near as difficult as they thought it would be!
If you'd like to free your creativity, untangle those racing thoughts and be able to write, either for yourself or for your business, then let me teach you the art of free writing. I can run workshops or bespoke tuition sessions for you: just get in contact!