Writing or Nothing

Today I am employing a writing tip I heard long ago, from a variety of sources: If you want to write, don’t give yourself other options. Tell yourself that you can sit at your computer or pad of paper for as long as you want, and you don’t have to write, but you don’t get to do anything else either during your “writing time”. You can’t throw in a load of laundry or check your email or text your friends. Your choices are: stare at a blank screen/page, or write.

Eventually, you’ll start writing, because of course it’s way more boring to just sit there than it is to entertain yourself through sentences you create and thoughts you put into words. In fact, this morning I was procrastinating like crazy. I kept checking my Google Calendar and staring off into space, twiddling my thumbs and trying to make excuses to get out of it.

When I remembered this advice, I immediately closed my other browser tabs and put my phone across the room and said to myself: “you’re sitting here until it’s done or you run out of time, one way or another.” And wouldn’t you know it that within seconds I had started typing?

Our tolerance for boredom is very low. And while that’s probably maladaptive in general, it’s quite a helpful tool when you’re trying to make yourself stick to your good habits and get things done. When we think we have options, we’ll take them. Any excuse suddenly becomes a good one.

When we have fewer options, we’ll always choose the lesser of the evils. Just make it so the lesser of the evils is the behaviour you actually want to do, and you’ll find yourself doing it far more often than not.

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