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On February 18th, 2021, I had the privilege of chatting to the procrastinator-defeater that is Jacinta Noonan of https://platformbe.com/.
Here’s the low down
Full disclosure here, Jacinta and I have been close friends for over twenty years. She was even with me on my first ever ‘Release the Book Within’ course, after which she completed and published her first book, My Perfect Weight. Believe me when I say that she is a wonderful writer with a lot to say. Having trained as a Life Coach (now specialising in adult ADHD), an executive coach company trainer, a school teacher, and wielding a psychology degree, Jacinta has achieved highly despite being a serial procrastinator. Last week she joined me to discuss some of the tricks she’s developed over the years to deal with that nasty monkey that sits on your shoulder and tells you to do the washing up instead of writing. Here are eight things I learned:
1 – ADHD is a struggle of scattered efforts
“The thing that gets in the way of my writing is that I have a thousand ideas at once,” Jacinta explains. For many writers with ADHD, sitting down to write a blog on a topic can set up a domino effect. “One thought will trigger another, that itself births another, and another after that, with tangent building on tangent until you end the writing session no further than when you started,” she explains. Despite having enough material to fill four or five posts, the focus is so scattered that little of the original idea is left intact.
2 – This scattering sets up a cycle of doom
This non-productive productivity encourages negative thoughts as you berate yourself for not staying on track. As we all know, misery loves to replicate itself, setting impossible standards of perfection that make you even more upset when you fail to meet them. These fast and raging thoughts continue to swirl around until you’re overwhelmed and mentally exhausted by them, which makes it difficult to pick up the pieces and find a way to continue the project, let alone start a new one confidently.
3 – But with the right techniques it is possible to go from “scattered to focused” (Jacinta’s tagline)
When working with clients, the first thing Jacinta does is find out what is triggering their procrastination. If the problem is not knowing where to start, she guides them towards making a roadmap. If their goal is too big, she teaches them how to break it down into more viable chunks, such as writing one chapter or one anecdote over a day. If they suffer from imposter syndrome, then she stresses the importance of our unique subjectivity. Sometimes believing that “you’re enough, your voice is important, and the way you come at a topic is all that’s needed.”
4 – Discipline matters
However, if a client dithers about whether or not they are ‘in the mood’ to write, then Jacinta has less sympathy. “It’s a job,” she says, approvingly quoting Stephen King’s famously stern approach from On Writing, “you sit down and write every day. […] If I’m a bus driver I don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Well I don’t feel like being a bus driver today…’” Discipline is a muscle that must be constantly exercised to stay in shape, and often motivation is less important than habit. “Committing, and then staying with your commitment,” is a tough principle to follow, but writing something, even if only for ten minutes at a time, will ensure that the cumulative effect of your writing eventually adds up to a finished project.
5 – Unfortunately, there isn’t one solution to procrastination
After all, if there was, who would be unproductive? Jacinta is careful not to make sweeping statements about things like support groups, stressing how “some of us work really well alone, and others need the accountability of other people.” Some experiences of bad feedback can shatter our confidence for years to come, so we cannot let ourselves be pressured into environments we aren’t prepared for. Whilst Jacinta finds that feedback helps her craft her work, and the weekly meetings ensure she has a constant pattern of deadlines to motivate her, she stresses how solutions must be unique to your needs. There’s no point beating yourself up if you hear of someone else’s success through a technique that just doesn’t work for you.
6 – “What is my why?”
When faced with a crisis over her current book, Jacinta came up with an elegant solution by asking herself, “What is my why? Why did I want to write this book? Why do I want to say this? Why does it have to be said?” The effect was one of instant clarity as the question forced her to return to the core of her topic and find whether or not its importance still rang true to her. It is a simple question, but having the bravery to confront it honestly can cause a great boost in confidence and motivation if the ‘Why’ holds up, or else help us cut our losses and move on to a new project if it does not.
7 – Take your writing seriously
“Kids, commitments, partners, volunteer work, our boss nagging at us, cleaning the house – all of these things can get in the way,” Jacinta points out. “I think a lot of us do not give ourselves permission to write.” Writing (at its best) often feels so wonderful that it can be tempting to tell ourselves that it isn’t really work, but it is, and we need to have the confidence to make both ourselves and others to respect our writing time, with all the responsibilities and requirements that this entails. Keep telling yourself that “I am a writer,” claim it as part of your identity, and eventually the energies of that procrastination monkey can be redirected into your work as a simultaneously serious and fun activity.
8 – Sometimes, procrastination can be good
Jacinta’s final point provides an unexpected, but insightful twist on our discussion. “Sometimes procrastination is a good thing. If you’ve ever noticed when you’re stuck and you go do something practical […] suddenly, what you’re working on has had time to bubble around as you ponder and think,” she says, explaining that your creative self continues to process ideas in the background, often offering a solution by the time you return to the desk to write. Of course, the trick is that you have to return to that desk, but if you do, then a little procrastination can be forgiven. We are only human after all.
I want to thank Jacinta for talking with me. The complete video of our conversation can be found here, and her blog can be found here.
This post has been collated by our intern, Charlie Wellings, who is helping us to produce more content to inspire your writing.
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