By Riyad A. Shahjahan
Consider this: You’ve got your summer plans in place. You know your writing task for the next 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or one hour. You are about to write or amidst writing, but a tremendous urge takes over you to do something else! These urges range from: checking laundry, watching a quick episode of TV, making a quick phone call, to reading some more. All before you write! Or, amid writing, you feel the pull to check a reference, facebook, or email! In short, you want to do everything else but work on the section you planned to or are working on.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! Kerry Ann Rockquemore calls this your resistance sparking up and your body guard speaking.
But then you ask, “How do I get myself back to the writing task?” Here are five ways to reframe and return back to writing that work for me.
1. Use a writing ritual
A writing ritual, like a two-minute meditation right before or during writing, guides me gently back to the writing spirit within. It calms the tsunami of distracting thoughts and decreases my embodied urges to be elsewhere. By practicing a writing ritual, I have become more patient and mindful of what I am doing NOW. I’ve written more about this elsewhere.
2. Keep a writing journal
A writing journal helps me interrupt, pause and defuse from thoughts, and bridges my focus back to writing. Often, when I feel ambivalence or inadequacy, fear failure, or work on a challenging section, my distractions become super loud. Hence, it is normal for me to focus on email, quickly check social media, or do any other tasks but write because I want to run away from these unpleasant feelings. Writing in a journal allows me to observe these distracting narratives and name my limiting beliefs. Through journaling, I have learned to be gentle with myself, and be more compassionately curious to internal narratives. In short, a writing journal is a valuable way to reframe the process, when the writing bodyguard kicks in.
3. Develop concrete writing tasks
I have a hard time starting writing when I begin with vague writing goals. For instance, a goal like “begin section x” is not very helpful. What does a “begin section x” look like? How do I know when I’ve begun a section? Does it entail brainstorming three main points or drafting one sentence, a paragraph, or one page? Instead, “I will write two paragraphs on section x” is much clearer and easy to observe when it’s done. Articulating specific writing goals helps me focus on an intended task. Lofty and amorphous goals breed distractions. So, evaluating my writing goals and making them more specific reminds me that indeed it is doable.
4. Use a timer
A timer is my writing buddy. Setting a timer for a short block of time (e.g. 10 or 15 minutes) forces me to maintain focus because I know time is ticking. A small block of time also builds momentum to accomplish something very concrete (i.e. one paragraph, or three sentences, or edit two sentences etc). Then I can always choose to build on what I have planned for in a future block of time. A short writing block helps me transcend my initial inertia. In short, the timer is an important accountability buddy that reigns me back to writing.
5. Reward yourself
Writing is hard work. Sometimes the only way to get through it, particularly with the hustle and bustle of summer, is planning for a treat whereby we award ourselves after completing a certain task. It could range from as small as a nice walk in your neighborhood, having ice cream, or watching a movie, to as big as a full body massage! Writing treats can vary based on the size of the writing goal or degree of challenge (For more on why treats are important and the kinds of treats, check out the link).
As we navigate writing, we can sustain our productivity by developing a compassionate and gentle spirit with ourselves (Kerry Ann Rockquemore, 2016). We worked very hard during the academic year, hence it is normal for our bodies and spirits to resist writing during the summer. Our spirits need healing and affirmation. So hopefully these daily tips will help you attain some peace during your writing process. Wishing you a wonderful summer of blissful writing.
Photo taken by marygreenlees