I thought I’d finally done it.
I honestly believed I’d worn out all my distractions for good.
We’ve all done it — that thing where we say “just one more episode” — just one hour to “get it out of our system” — just one more day so we can “prepare to return to the grind tomorrow.”
We think it will solve all our problems. But it won’t.
I thought that once I finished season 2 of Jessica Jones, once I found one more datapad in Subnautica, once I finished reading another Carrie Fisher memoir (they’re quick!), I’d be ready.
Ready for what? To get back to working on my novel, of course.
You know how the rest of this story goes. You’ve lived it yourself.
I did finish all of those things. And yet, I did not touch my novel.
Because every time I checked one distraction off my list, another one hastily took its place.
This is the spin cycle too many aspiring writers find themselves trapped inside, forever tumbling through guilt-ridden entertainment when they should be writing. They’re not even enjoying it. It’s impossible to enjoy anything fun when you’re supposed to be doing work instead.
Most might-one-day-be-writers choose procrastination, the “un-fun” entertainment, anyway. Because they refuse to believe that the things that are distracting them are never going to loosen their grip.
Psychologically, there are always things going on underneath the Netflix and the gaming and the reading. Usually it’s self-doubt so crippling it leaves people unable to do even the things they want to do, but sometimes it’s fear, or anger, or just our annoying frenemy Anxiety Without A Cause.
But how do you expect to face your emotional turmoil long enough to wade through it and claim your spot in front of your keyboard if you can’t yank yourself away from the things that used to be fun, but are now quite unfavorable?
You will always find another method through which to channel your procrastination. If it’s not Jessica Jones, it’s Subnautica. If it’s not Subnautica, it’s Carrie Fisher’s literary legacy. Maybe for you it’s chocolate cake, or nerdy podcasts, or a semi-enjoyable physically demanding activity of your choosing.
There will always be something.
Your quest is not to seek an end to your current method of distraction in hopes that road will somehow lead you back to where you’re suppose to be (working on your novel, or whatever).
Your objective is to let the distraction die. Kill it, if you have to.
No, but seriously, if you can’t pull yourself away from the TV, you have to pull the plug. If you can’t quit the game, you have to shut down the console. My point is, while extremes are not always the answer, in some cases, they are your best-case scenario.
You don’t have to keep things unplugged forever, so to speak. Just until you’ve met some kind of daily quota, or you’ve proven to yourself that you can watch one episode of Show X without having to watch five more in the same sitting.
If a detox is what you need, then do it. Or ask someone else to help you do it.
Whatever your distractions are, they only control you because you let them.
You can write. You can do it without getting distracted.
They’ll still be there when you’ve done your work. And you’ll have a lot more fun indulging in them without that “I shouldn’t be doing this” guilt ruining the whole thing.
As a recovering chronic procrastinator, trust me when I say: the hard work is worth the fun you get to have when you check something that’s actually meaningful off your list.
No more excuses. It’s time to write.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.