Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Personal Strength of Initiative - Overcoming Procrastination and Writer's Block

A lot of people ask, "How do you overcome procrastination?" 

People know what they have to do. They sit down to do it. But instead, they do something else. Something urgent. Something interesting. Something else. Anything else. And at the end of the day there's nothing to show it but regret and the melancholy feeling of lost opportunity.

A similar complaint is writer's block - the inability to move forward on a creative project. Writers claim that it's different from procrastination, that the desire is there but the creative next step is not. To the objective observer, however, the behavior looks exactly the same.

I'm not going to torture you with a bunch of intellectual analysis. I'm just going to tell you the cure up front. 

There's nothing fancy or tricky about it. The cure is simply to sit down and begin doing the work. Just start. Just do it. Even if you aren't sure what your next step should be. Like a moving train, you can't go from zero to sixty in an instant. You need some forward momentum. So just begin working, and what you do will instruct you what to do next and how to do it better. The ideas will simply begin to flow.

Two things. First, the cure may sound simple, but it can be a lot harder than it sounds. People avoid getting started for a reason.

Thing two. This "cure" really is the solution. There is no other. Your challenge is to make yourself do this one simple act of initiative, regardless of your motivations to do something else.

Help is on the way. Steven Pressfield, author of the novel, The Lengend of Bagger Vance, as well as several historical novels, has written The War of Art, a brilliant self-help book about procrastination and its cure. Whether you're writing, dieting or working on a project, Pressfield delivers straight talk about overcoming what he calls "Resistance."

I enthusiastically recommend it. It's one of those books that has such important insights that when you finish it, you think, "There are those who've read it, and those who haven't." 

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Meredith Bell said...

I agree, excellent book and highly recommend it...if you're willing to be honest with yourself and change some habits. Great post, Denny!

Kathleen Scott said...

It's true, about the writing. Sometimes I can't get the direction in my head but if I just get going, ideas start to click. One word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one book.

Steven Pressfield said...

Denny, thanks very much for the shout-out re "War of Art." I like your concept of building personal strength. I had never thought of it quite that way, but of course it's right in line with what I was writing about in "The War of Art." Thanks again and keep up the great work!

Steven Pressfield

Personal Development said...

This is the second time today that this book has come up. Hmmmm...maybe I should give it a read.

Thanks for the tips.

Now it's just time to "Git er done"


Personal Development said...

Interesting update...

I was downtown yesterday and stopped into the used bookstore (treasure hunting).

Can you guess what I found...?

The War of Art!

Gonna crack it open next week!


build a website said...

I find that when I'm stuck trying to write something, I go back and look at what I just wrote. Then, instead of moving the story forward, I take the same scenario and write it in another character's perspective. This allows me to keep "those creative juices flowing" and also develop other characters and make more than just the main character dynamic and round.

Unknown said...

Great article! I definitely agree with you about the cure for procrastination. It really is as simple as just starting to do whatever it is that you know you should be doing. Something you can do to help you even further is to make it as easy as possible to start doing it. If you have to set stuff up or get stuff ready in order to do whatever it is you should be doing, then it's going to be a lot easier to procrastinate. But if all you have to do to start is...start, then it'll be a lot easier to fight off the procrastination monster. =)

I have been meaning to read The Art of War for a while too. Thanks for the reminder and keep the great advice coming!

Natasha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natasha said...

I just bought this book at the recommendation of a colleague and had put it aside to start later - ha! Thanks for the reminder not to procrastinate on reading it!

Unknown said...

i agree....

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