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January 6, 2012

Note - How to Stop Talking and Start Doing

I once organized a networking group for writers where folks could get together, learn from one another, and offer support to newcomers to the field. While there were a handful of published authors among the group, the majority of members were not. I found out rather quickly that most of them enjoyed having the dream of being a writer, but never got any closer to that dream.

Excuses were plenty, mind you, but that's all they were - excuses. "I just don't have enough time to write that novel right now" or "I had to work late, so I didn't get that story started this week" or "My kids were loud, so I figured I'd just start this weekend." The only thing these dreamers were doing was procrastinating! They were putting off their dreams for "someday" when there is absolutely no legitimate reason they could not be moving forward today.

Lots of these folks floundered for months, even years, before getting the first words written. You know what they had to say after that? "Why didn't I start last week/month/year/decade?" Because they were too comfortable procrastinating.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, it's time to break the procrastination habit and instead propel yourself toward your creative dream. Here are six simple things you can do now (not tomorrow!) to get you moving:

  1. Work first thing in the morning. No matter what your medium, put in your creative effort first thing in the morning. This works because you're not likely to get bogged down with the mental clutter of daily life and burn down your fuse before you put in your YOU time.
  2. Work for 10-15 minutes only. Another mental trick! There is far less to lose when you're only dedicating yourself to a small bite of time like this, and you're much more likely to commit if the work is quick and easy.
  3. Break down large goals into smaller ones. Want to write a book? Make your goal today to write a paragraph. Yes, start that small and gradually work yourself up to loftier achievements like pages and chapters. You will build up a momentum of success that will make those larger goals easier to reach.
  4. Reward yourself for meeting your goals. So you finished that paragraph? Have a chocolate. Finished that page? Go play at the playground. Humans thrive on praise, even when it only comes from yourself!
  5. Make yourself accountable to someone else. You may not have a boss or an editor breathing down your neck for a finished product, but fear (or fear of embarrassment) can be a great motivator. It's also great to have a cheerleader on "the outside" to keep you going when you're on the upswing. Have a trusted friend agree to pester you about your progress. For an added bonus, have them hold a $20 bill hostage until you deliver the creative goods you promised.

I did every single one of these things with my "Make Something Everyday" project last year and can attest to their performance. I'm making them top priorities again with the Page a Day - 365 adventure, and I hope that you can put them to good use, too!

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