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quick procrastination fix (do a birthday gift)

quick procrastination fix: do a birthday gift

(4 min read.) I came up with this quick procrastination fix for a really good reason. I NEEDED it. I’ve needed to overcome procrastination on almost every writing project in my entire life. The strategy below is my best weapon.

(Real talk, I used it to get this blog post done.)

If this tip doesn’t work for you, you’ll still come away knowing one of my private secrets. Plus, you’ll see living proof that even if you procrastinate, you can end up quite f*ckin’ prolific. I certainly have. But even after writing for decades and reading like 300 books about how to throw it out of my airplane, procrastination is my co-pilot.

Procrastination is my Co-Pilot

Procrastination is the (seemingly) voluntary yet (explicitly) undesired delay of an activity or action. In scientific terms, procrastination is a behavior driven by dopaminergic modulation in your limbic system. In real terms, if you WANT to write, but you somehow you just… you know. You clean the kitchen. You call a friend. You do a little more research. You get on Wikipedia and become the world’s greatest expert on the history of scrimshaw. You get on Netflix and become the world’s greatest expert on Visually Stunning Dystopian Thrillers With Strong Female Leads Who Wear Curtain Bangs.

Baby, that’s called procrastination.

It’s my hobby. It’s my passion.

If you procrastinate, some of it is probably anxiety that you can manage and control (I did and I do.) But did you know scientists have studied twins and found that procrastination looks to be about 46% GENETIC? That’s not a willpower problem. That’s not discipline, work ethic, or confidence. It’s DNA: nature’s thug! Recent lab science about procrastination increasingly shows (2019, 2018, 2017) that some of us were lowkey doomed in the womb.

Even if you got lucky in the genetic mix, you’ll end up procrastinating sometimes. It’s a natural part of writing. Like (sincerely) when a flower needs to be in a bud for a while before it can bloom. You’re fine. It’ll be fine.

How to Overcome Procrastination

So okay, it’s fine and perfectly natural and it’s gonna happen. But procrastination is not fun and it can wreak havoc on your career and on your earthly peace. So, let’s get this f*ckin’ sorted.

When procrastination shows up, here’s my favorite thing to do:

Pick someone. (Someone you know in real life.)

Now.

Get out of your own navel and get into making something this specific person will love.

It’s not your masterpiece.

It’s their birthday present.

You are writing for them now.

This thing you wanna write?

Like your best lasagna, you’re making it to serve to this person.

Think about ‘em for a moment. What are they like? What stuff do they like? Just focus on this person. Peep their photo in your phone, maybe read the last email they sent you; act like a bloodhound getting a trace of the scent.

Can you catch some of the vibe you feel when you’re around this one, real, specific person?

(Please don’t text them or something right now. You’re about to write. You can ping ’em later, after you’ve written.)

So, you’ve got this person in mind.

Now, try writing.

FOR THEM.

Not for you. Not for your “creative expression” or self-actualization or whatever. You’re doing generosity. You’re doing birthday present. It’s not about you. (This framing shift is wonderful for mood and lethal to anxiety.)

How to Pick the Right Person for this Quick Procrastination Fix

Okay, I find it most helpful to choose someone who’s slightly intimidating. Someone I know a little bit, maybe an acquaintance I admire; someone who it would feel really good to impress. But it has to be someone who fundamentally GETS something about me. We share a sense of humor. Or a sense of style. Or a sense of values. Or a hope for what the future can become.

You want to pick a person who makes you feel hopeful about being understood.

But who doesn’t fully understand you yet.

Basically: someone who inspires you.

If there’s no-one in your life like that, it’s okay to pick a celebrity or public figure. Your favorite musician might be a good choice. Just, like, they need to be alive. Don’t pick someone dead.

The person you choose may never read/see/hear the thing you’re writing. That’s not important. You don’t need a guarantee. What’s important is that there’s a POSSIBILITY (however remote) that through a wild chain of fate, they could someday see this thing.

Don’t fake it.

Make it possible for real.

If this feels too goofy, it’s okay to pick someone close to you who’s actually gonna read your work. It’s okay to write for your best friend. It’s okay to write for your non-estranged twin brother.

Personally, that doesn’t motivate me. Those people already love me. I’ve already won. Why would I keep trying? I like to write for someone a little farther away. Someone aspirational. That’s my advice. You don’t need to have a crush on them, but it probably helps.

All writing is desire. The desire to connect. To communicate. To belong with each other. To share a telescope in a way that bonds us forever. “Can you see what I see?”

It’s a lot easier to focus on doing that (instead of doing the dishes) if you have someone in mind that you’d like to bond with.

(want a quick mindset shift instead? try write like you drive.)

xo, megan

Thanks for giving this a few minutes. I hope it felt supportive.


Writing coach Megan Cohen is a white cis woman with soft femme hair. She wears black but stands in front of a wall covered in brightly colored brainstorming post-it notes. She smiles with closed lips and warm eyes. Her skin is amazing even though she's middle-aged.

I’m a f*ckin’ friendly writing coach.

Let’s see what an hour with me can do for you. Get treated with honesty and respect. Bring your work-in-progress, your goals, or your frustrated blank page. Sliding scale; no ongoing commitment; just an hour to work on your writing. See me in a private zoom to put my 20 years of experience on your side.

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