What gets you in the mood?
Writing rituals are surprisingly important to me and I always forget that until I try writing without first going through a number of them. A ritual is anything that gets you into the mindset that you are now going to sit down and produce x number of words or pages. This is what you’ve contracted from your muse, and now that the creature is a faithful visitor you have to come through on your end.
My first ritual is to clear the decks. As I may have mentioned, I write in my laundry room/pantry so I don’t have a lot of room. And I’m messy. So my first order of business when I’ve finished one project and I am starting another is to clear everything to do with the old project from my desk. That means copy edited bits, critique group notes, mail, research materials, everything gets put away or recycled.
When the desk is clear, I put on a CD. I tend to “use up” CDs by writing to them. If I try to reuse, say, Lucinda Williams’s West to jumpstart a new writing project, the earlier project would bleed over; it was like getting interference. So I would move on to something else. A collection called Christmas Adagios is a favorite of mine; I’ll play it in July if I have to. I can always write to Ave Maria.
So I have my ritual. Cleaning, music, writing. It establishes that I’m serious, and I’ve created the headspace I need to work.
So when is it procrastination? Well, when I clean some other part of the house other than my desk. Or fold laundry, or take a walk, or get a cup of tea, or sit down and check my email or play a game of Minesweeper (which, by the way, I took off of my computer).
Research can be procrastination, which is why I tend to research in books, not on the Internet (except for a quick fact check); if I’m reading I expect to be away from my computer. Market research can be procrastination. Getting a bit too nitpicky about the music until I find the right one, that’s a favorite of mine.
The key to avoiding procrastination is simply to establish a ritual. Make it a strong one, then try to do it every time you sit down to write. A lot of writing is muscle memory anyway. See, it is like an exercise program!
Anyway, now I have a desk to clean off and some music to dig up. Happy productive writing!