Dealing with laziness in writing can seem like a hopeless battle.
Most people just tell you to grind through it, but that doesn’t really help. Thankfully, I’ve figured out a better way.
Here’s how to overcome laziness in writing:
You overcome laziness in writing by unearthing the hidden drivers of your lack of motivation, resolving unprocessed emotions, tapping into habit loops, and leveraging boredom and motivation triggers. Moving your body, eating healthy, and redefining your self-image can also help.
Those strategies are easy to list, but they require a bit of explanation so that you know exactly how to apply them in your life.
Here are 10 helpful tips for overcoming laziness as a writer.
1) Ask the Really Hard Questions
To overcome laziness in writing, you must ask yourself some hard questions.
I say, “hard” because they might feel uncomfortable. In my own life, laziness is almost always a message.
It’s a symptom of a deeper root problem. To dig out the root, you have to get your hands dirty. You need the right tools.
Questions, especially hard questions, can help.
Ask yourself hard questions like:
- What is your purpose in writing?
- Why do you want to write?
- Is it because someone wants you to write? If so, why should they get to make you do what they want?
- Is writing just a hobby or is it a passion for you?
- What, if any, excuses are you making?
- Do you want to write or do you want to be a writer? (There’s a difference)
- What excites you about writing?
- What lights you up about your current writing project?
- What is holding you back from writing?
- What can help motivate you to write more and show up every day? What do you think that will look like?
- How can you remove self-sabotage (or at least minimize it the best you can) while still being honest with yourself about your fears and motivations?
- How much time are you willing to put into writing?
- If you’re not putting in enough time or effort, why not? What would it take for you to do that?
- What do you stand to gain by creating your best work?
- What is your end goal in overcoming this laziness and putting in the necessary hard work on a daily basis?
- What could convince you to quit writing?
Answering these types of questions allows you to be real with yourself.
You can excavate obstacles you didn’t even know existed and tap into hidden reservoirs of motivation.
Occasionally, you may even find that laziness is not the problem. You just don’t feel inspired by your writing project. You may need something bigger, bolder, and braver.
2) Know Your Laziness Type
There are three main types of laziness in writing:
- The Busy Writer
- The Unstructured Writer
- The Zero Attention Span Writer
Your laziness type determines how you cope with laziness in writing.
Once you know your type, you can take specific action to overcome your laziness. What’s your type? Are you a busy writer, an unstructured writer, or a zero attention span writer?
Read the definitions, identify the type that resonates with you, and take action.
3) The Busy Writer With No Time
If lack of time is your biggest obstacle, you’ll have to get rigid with clocks and calendars. Scheduling your writing time is going to be super important.
Try to write in the morning. Your writing energy is usually highest in the morning (but not always). If you must write later, try to do it right when you get home from work so that your brain isn’t too exhausted or distracted by chores or television.
However, you know yourself best.
Write when your energy is highest and block out as much time as possible on the calendar.
Tell other people in your household that you hope to reserve this time exclusively for writing. Ask for their support and you’ll probably get it.
4) The Unstructured Writer
This laziness type means there’s a lack of discipline in your life.
So, you need to establish routines.
If you’re serious about writing, there are some tools that will help you do this.
Write out a daily routine for yourself and then try your best to stick to it. Ask a friend or partner to hold you accountable.
Reward yourself, punish yourself, or both. The key is to find what works for you.
For example, say you want to write every day before turning on the television or scrolling through social media.
First, wake up and write for an hour. Then, make a nice breakfast and enjoy it with your favorite beverage (coffee, tea, or orange juice). Turn on the television and watch a show while you get ready for work.
In this example, your food and TV show serve as the rewards. Use whatever rewards (or punishments) motivate you.
5) The Zero Attention Span Writer
If you get bored easily, this is probably your laziness type.
You can split your project up into smaller tasks or micro-projects. Then, complete one micro-project at a time.
Write every day, even if it’s just a paragraph or two. When you’re in the thick of your writing career, sometimes there can be days when you don’t feel like writing and will probably need to lower your daily writing expectations.
You can also work on several projects at once so that you bounce back and forth between them depending on your daily (or hourly) mood.
Or, you may want to give yourself a bigger, more compelling goal.
When I feel demotivated, I remind myself of an emotionally gripping vision like paying off all of my debt or living on a tropical beach in the future.
6) Address the Hidden Reason for Laziness in Writing
The hidden reason for laziness in writing is often unprocessed feelings about a topic, scene, or character.
Sometimes these feelings are so hidden that they aren’t even recognized.
The “hidden reason” is a phrase I’ve taken from Julie Cameron of The Artist’s Way. She has a book and workbook for getting out of your own way and releasing your creative potential.
It’s a wonderful tool for writers who have trouble getting started or who want to stop procrastinating.
To process your feelings:
- Identify your pleasurable and painful feelings
- Accept all of your feelings (instead of pushing them away)
- Give yourself permission to feel your emotions (without judgement)
I go through periods of time almost every year when I don’t want to write. Almost 100% of the time, I’m dealing with unresolved emotions.
Once I address the feeling, suddenly my motivation to write returns.
7) Tap Into the Power of Habit Loops
I’m obsessed with stacking healthy habits in my life. That’s how I started running 5k races, completed several published books, and launched multiple websites.
I learned most of the strategies I use from this book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is much easier with the power of habit loops.
What is a habit loop?
Habit loops are the building blocks of almost all recurring actions. They consist of three parts:
- A cue (what triggers you to do something)
- Routine (the actual habit)
- Reward (what makes it worth your while)
To apply habit loops to overcoming laziness in writing, here’s what you do:
When you feel lazy (the cue), experiment with different routines (take a nap, go for a walk, watch a motivational video) and rewards (sleep, connection with friends, a sense of urgency).
Play around with different routines and rewards until something works.
You can even try the routine of writing 150 words about a lazy writer.
8) Apply the Seinfield Method
Comedian, TV star, and producer Jerry Seinfield offers a brilliant way to get yourself to write.
I call it, “The Seinfield Method.”
Essentially, he locks himself in a small, boring room with nothing to do but write.
There’s not even a TV to watch or internet to browse—nothing that would distract him from writing.
Because there is nothing else left for Seinfield to do, he writes.
It’s a simple, boring strategy that actually works.
I can testify to this tactic. When I’m bored, I find that I eventually start writing. Not just me, though. Bestselling author, Neil Gaiman, agrees:
I think it’s about where ideas come from, they come from daydreaming, from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there…
The trouble with these days is that it’s really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment…it’s really hard to get bored.
I’m much better at putting my phone away, going for boring walks, actually trying to find the space to get bored in. That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say, “‘I want to be a writer.” I say, “Great, get bored.”
How do you apply this tip?
- Create a boring space
- Remove all distractions (TV, phone, games, books, etc)
- Don’t allow yourself to do anything but write
9) Create an Ugly Room
Daniel Coyle, the author of The Little Book of Talent, says that top performers practice in ugly rooms. What he means is that ugly, old, or messy spaces seem to create more top performers than brand new, state-of-the-art spaces.
This strategy checks out in my own life.
I’m much more motivated in an environment that reminds me of where I want to go, instead of one that lulls me into the comforting (but false) belief that I’ve already arrived.
It’s a subtle environmental cue that keeps me motivated when I don’t want to write.
How do you create an ugly room?
- Don’t buy the most expensive gear, desk, or writing equiptment (Read my recommended list at the end of this article).
- Fill your writing space with reminders of where you want to go (your vision).
- Remove anything from your enviroment that is TOO comfort-inducing (Comfort is a good thing, but too much comfort can perpetuate laziness).
10) Set and Fire Motivation Triggers
You can also use classical conditioning to set and fire motivation triggers.
First, select a trigger. It could be a special object, a word, a gesture, an image, a song, or anything else that you can easily use to activate your motivation.
I recommend a short, simple (but unique) word or an object like your computer.
Second, conjure up the emotion you want to feel because of the trigger. Concentrate on this emotion for up to 60 seconds until you feel immersed in the emotion.
You can speed up this process by remembering times in your life when you felt super motivated, charged up, and inspired.
Third, when you reach a high point of emotion in your memory, “fire” your trigger. Say your trigger word, make your trigger gesture, or focus on your trigger object.
Finally, repeat the first three steps a few times.
I think it took me around 10-15 repetitions to associate my trigger with an emotion.
How do you know it worked?
Take a short break after running through the steps. Then, test the trigger. Simply “fire” the trigger and see if you feel more motivated. If your trigger is your computer, then go to your computer.
If you feel motivated, you successfully connected the trigger with motivation.
If you don’t feel motivated, go through the four steps until you do. You can also experiment with different triggers. Sometimes one trigger works better than another.
If you want to watch a video version of how to overcome laziness in writing, this is one of my favorites:
The Best Way To Overcome Laziness in Writing
The best way to overcome laziness in writing is to combine several of the 10 methods while also addressing your sense of identity.
For example, you can:
- Figure out your laziness type
- Process any unresolved feelings
- Create a boring and ugly space
- Use your motivation trigger as the “routine” in your habit loop
You can also redefine laziness as “not motivated yet” or “pre-inspired.” It may be semantics, but the words we use to describe ourselves and our experiences can often make a huge impact on our results.
As a quick example, if you see yourself as a failed writer, you might want to quit. If you see yourself as an aspiring writer, you may get bogged down in fear of failure.
However, if you view yourself as an “undiscovered writer,” or a “professional writer,” you might feel better about yourself and more motivated to write.
How To Overcome Laziness in Writing (5 More Helpful Tips)
Before we go, I wanted to offer some basic but practical advice. Sometimes simple tips help the most.
So, here are a few helpful tips for motivating yourself to write:
- Move your body (I find that a brisk walk, a few rounds of pushups, or stretching can energize me)
- Eay healthy foods (To me, motivation is the result of holistically caring for my body)
- Use story prompts (Read 300+ prompts)
- Stimulate your brain (I write more when my brain is fully functioning and engaged with a project)
Final Thoughts: How To Overcome Laziness in Writing
There are no hard and fast rules for overcoming laziness in writing. What matters most is if a method works for you.
For me, tools really help.
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