Strategies for Writers: “Just Do It.”

The Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” has been a staple of commercials and bumper stickers for years.  It’s a motivational and inspirational saying.  Yes, I might think, if I “just do it” (run a marathon, ride in a 50K bike race, swim the English Channel), I’ll be successful (healthy, acclaimed, accomplished).  Just doing it sounds good.  It sounds like a plan.  It sounds too easy to be useful.  And it is.  Sort of.

On the one hand, if I swim the English Channel, I’ll have achieved something great.  But a lot of things would have to happen before I could do swim such a distance.  For starters, I’d have to move to Europe.   I’d have to know how to swim in very cold water.  I’d have to have the stamina necessary to undertake such a challenge.  I could “just do it,” but without proper preparation, I’d be setting myself up for failure.  I’d be discouraged.  I wouldn’t want to continue the challenge as I would be unable to see a positive end.

On the other hand, Nike’s slogan can be a good motivational tool to use when you can’t seem to push yourself to get work done, work that you are prepared to do.  With challenges that we are prepared to face—–after decades of education and training–“just doing it” can help us get past those tired excuses that keep us from succeeding.  Can’t clean the bathroom?  Bite the bullet, and just do it.  Can’t get the bed made?  Suck it up, and just do it.  Don’t want to grade 20 student essays?  Just do it.  The act of doing can often motivate you to finish an unpleasant task.

We use all kinds of excuses when we avoid writing.  Here are a common five excuses (this is adapted from’s list of 10 Top Reasons We Don’t Exercise).

  • You don’t have the newest, fastest, shiniest computer (software, hardware, peripherals) on the block, and you can’t write until that’s rectified.

Get over your bad self, and get to work.  You don’t need the best and fastest computer equipment to write.  You need a pen/pencil and a piece of paper.  Don’t let this tired excuse of outdated equipment keep you from succeeding.  Just start putting words on paper.  Just do it.

  • You want to write but you have to take care of kids, family, students, and community.

We all have other commitments.  We are all busy.  But you must carve out time for yourself to get the writing done.  You have coffee each day?  Have it at a local coffee shop where you are not distracted by those other commitments.  Make a decision about what you will do and how it will happen.  Then, just do it.

  • You can’t make a commitment to stick to a writing schedule.

Commitments are difficult to keep, and you have to work at this every single day.  Your writing time is sacred time.  It cannot be disrupted for common, everyday events.  Even if you can only commit to 10 minutes a day, commit to those 10 minutes.  If you need to, use a timer (like the one Natalie suggested a few months ago).   Just do it.

  • You are distracted (by Twitter, email, television, new apps at the iTunes store).

This one is easy:  just turn off the distractions.  Leave the iPod at home.  Put the phone in your bag and leave it there.  Use TiVo or the DVR to catch those television shows you can’t miss (but how many times have you already see those Law & Order episodes, anyway?).  You know what distractions you face.  Deal with them.  Just do it.

  • You don’t want to do the hard work of writing.

There is no way around this one.  Yes, writing is hard work, and no amount of procrastination will make it any easier.  However, writing is hard work that will get easier the more you do it.  Writing isn’t something we learn once and then we are forever at ease with the process.  It is ongoing, and it is tough.  Exercise has a similar correlation:  the more you exercise (swim, for example), the faster you get, the stronger you become, the more races you can win.  But in order to win, you must take that first stroke.  Pick up and pen and just write.  Just do it.

A few days ago, Nels wrote about the “Down and Dirty Article” and he uses the “just do it” mentality.  Excuses do not move you closer to your goal.  You must focus, you must commit, you must prioritize.  In the end, however, you just have to get it done.

Now pick up the pen and write.  Just do it.

In comments below, please leave suggestions about how you work through a lack of motivation in writing.  What tricks do you have that help you overcome the tried-and-true excuses?  How do you “just do it”?

[Image by Flickr user Paul Worthington, and licensed under Creative Commons.]

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