How to Break Writer’s Block: Staggered Procrastination

I am almost always writing. Between my day job, which consists of writing content for 8 hours every day; my personal fiction projects; drafting materials to play D&D and other RPGs with my friends; and creating updates for this site, I am frequently tackling a few dozen writing projects at any given time. 

I am also almost always dealing with writer’s block on at least one of those projects — if not most of them. A lot of people that I’ve talked to have expressed their frustration with writer’s block and shared their methods for breaking through the mental wall that keeps them from being able to create whenever they want. In a desperate attempt to follow their successes, I have tried myriad methods for demolishing my writer’s block; but to no avail. 

In this frustration, I ended up coming up with my own solution for how to break writer’s block — I call it “staggered procrastination.”

Wait, so what does that even mean?

I think that my writer’s block, like a lot of people’s, is fueled by procrastination. I have ideas for stories, blogs, and other content, but I have trouble making myself sit down and put those ideas into a consumable format. 

This struggle is only compounded by easy access to social media and other distractions — especially during the current quarantine (this blog, for instance, was probably delayed by at least a day thanks to Animal Crossing and The Wire). It’s all too easy to procrastinate on important assignments, which leads to a growing backlog and cancelled projects. 

I decided to try to weaponize my procrastination, rather than simply bemoaning my proclivity for delay. It’s much easier to work on a project when you can convince yourself that you’re supposed to be doing something else, I’ve found. Rather than procrastinating on drafting campaign notes by scrolling through Twitter for half an hour, I turn to another project — this blog, for instance — and use that to procrastinate. You see, it helps me trick my brain into actually getting work done, while still allowing the creative juices to flow. When I start to get burned out temporarily on a piece of content, I can jump to another and see if I’m able to punch out something worthwhile. 

This doesn’t eliminate writer’s block and procrastination, of course, but it can help you break through the blocks and get work done on important tasks. 

Here’s how it works:

I do my writing in Google Docs — so I set up different Chrome profiles for my different groups of projects: professional work, personal writing, and content for this blog or ongoing tabletop games. Then, I make sure that I don’t have any tabs of social media or videos on any of the windows (to ensure that I can focus as much as possible on drafting and editing).

Start writing. When your mind and attention starts to waver — i.e., when you would normally pull up Twitter or Facebook — switch over to another window, with another profile. Let your creativity spiral onto the page (or screen, rather), then bounce to another project when that wellspring begins to dry up. 

Thus, you stagger your procrastination and get more done, on more projects, in less time. 

What are the drawbacks?

Well, this strategy certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, it might not be for anyone, besides me. So that’s a main potential drawback. 

Secondly, this system works best when your projects aren’t pressing. If you are on a tight deadline, it’s not going to be very helpful to bounce back and forth between your different stories, blogs, or what have you. 

Finally, it can be pretty disheartening if you are working on longer projects, like novellas, novels, or multi-thousand word articles. Sure, getting work done is better than not, but it’s less satisfying to bounce between content like a literary grasshopper when your staggered procrastination is only leading to completed paragraphs, rather than completed stories. 

Like I said, this strategy might not work for you — but I’ve found that it’s what works best for me. Give it a shot!

Let me know in the comments how you deal with writer’s block!

Header image by Lukas Bieri

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