Peter Cook (Dudley Moore’s long-time comedy partner) was once cornered by a man at a party who said “I’m writing a novel”.
“Really?” replied Cook. “Neither am I.”
Why is that funny? Because everyone gets it.
Almost everyone has experienced procrastination. How many of your school friends – and this includes your grad school friends – completed homework at the last minute? How many of your current friends are still writing the same novel or screenplay?
After researching writer’s block since 2003, here’s the nine-word version of what David has learned:
What’s important nearly always gives way to what’s immediate.
Bill wants to write a novel, and today he’s checking his email. Melissa wants to quit smoking, but one more pack won’t kill her (yes it will). Pat’s a perfect parent, truly devoted to the kids, but Pat hasn’t written a will or bought enough life insurance. This is what we call Motivational Ambivalence.
So if procrastination is human nature, is there a way we can do better?
Sure. Based on research since 2003 including interviews with professional screenwriters, we’re confident there is. Here are three ways to get more done:
1. Know that there is nothing wrong with you. Wanting to do good things makes you a good person. Not having completed all of them yet does not make you a bad one. Being called a rude word like “lazy” by a parent or grade-school teacher doesn’t make it true. You’re old enough now to think that over. If you have the desire to do something important, please go do it.
2. Recruit a buddy (think of them as a “sponsor”, if you like). Find someone who genuinely cares whether you achieve your potential. David frequently takes on this role for clients, sometimes every day for months. Here’s your secret trick to make the buddy system work: agree on deadlines you can both take seriously.
3. Physically get away from distraction. Take your pad to a coffee shop, a library or a park and work on your project there. You see students doing this because it works. Don’t waste time thinking you “shouldn’t have to”: that’s an excuse. There are professionals who can’t work in their home offices (we’re writing on the patio right now). There are composers who have to leave their own studios. There are people who install parental controls on their own computers to prevent random web surfing. This is what effective people do. Join us.