What could help you have an easier time starting to write and sticking with the writing?
In the new book Willpower, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney present research that willpower is limited, in part because you use the same resource for so many different things.
Since you can’t be certain that you’ll have willpower whenever you might finally take the notion to write, writers, in particular, need to conserve willpower wherever possible.
If you have engaged in making decisions all day, in one area after another, you may have depleted your reserve of willpower and suffer from “decision fatigue.”
The authors support the view that having a writing habit helps you avoid the decision fatigue. If you have a habit in place, you won’t rely solely on willpower to motivate you to write.
Baumeister and Tierney call this a “precommitment.” Precommitment is the use of a strategy or plan to protect you from procrastination and impulsive behavior.
And you know where impulsive behavior takes you—to email, to the refrigerator, to the TV.
Raymond Chandler, who created detective Philip Marlowe and wrote detective novels and film scripts, such as The Big Sleep, devoted four hours each day to writing, or, as he says, if he didn’t write, then he could do nothing.
And he meant nothing.
Advising other writers how to produce writing, Chandler says, that during the daily four hours for writing, a writer “doesn’t have to write, . . . He can look out the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks.”
Chandler says that during the scheduled four hours each day there are “two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. b. you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.”
Baumeister and Tierney call this particular precommitment the “Nothing Alternative.” You write or you do nothing.
My dissertation coaching clients have given me some great suggestions for implementing the “Nothing Alternative.” When email, Google, and Facebook beckon, how do you follow through on your intention to write?
Here’s to precommitment!
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com