Procrastination and writing go so well together. Like peanut butter and jelly, followed by cookies and milk. But just like too much of a good snack, waiting till the last minute to write can produce an unpleasant side effect: the very strong potential for indigestion and that "Why did I do this?" feeling.

So what do you do when the fires of a writing deadline are licking at your heels? First, don't panic. That's a guaranteed way to wipe out any creativity or organization that you may have going into the process. Trying to force a panicked mind to write is like trying to force a kid to eat some strange, smelly vegetable. It's just not going to happen. As a result, you end up staring at that dreaded blinking cursor, unable even to remember your name.

Instead, sit back for just a minute and take a breath. And I don't mean that metaphorically. Really, take a breath. And then another one, and another. In through your mouth, out through your nose. Do this for several seconds, and you'll feel much better.

Then just start putting ideas on the screen. Anything goes--words, fragments of sentences, even random thoughts. What's important is to defeat the empty-page syndrome, where you feel absolutely helpless, frozen in place and unable to move forward.
Remember: There is no rule that says you have to write your piece in order. You don't have to start with writing the title, then the first paragraph, then the second and so forth. Go ahead and write a paragraph that will be in the middle of your piece, if that's what's on your mind and is flowing at the moment.

In fact, you might be best off writing your title and even the first paragraph after you've written everything else. By then, you'll know what your piece is really about, and you can give it a title and opening paragraph that fits. A note on that: Although you don't need to actually write  the first paragraph at the beginning, you'll need to at least decide on your thesis--the main idea of your article--before you do too much writing so that everything will be cohesive.

Finally, finish strong. Even though you may be sick of your article by the time you're done writing, it is so worth the time to take a second look at it. But let it rest for awhile, if you have any time at all to do so. Close the file and don't go back to it for an hour or so. Do something else in the meantime: work on another project, take a snooze, go for a walk.

When you go back, read your article calmly and deliberately. Don't just skim. Look for missing words and spelling errors that your spell checker can let through. Make sure you've put in any pertinent contact information.

And then ... let it go. That can be the hardest part, but at some point you have to put in that final period and send the piece off. Don't belabor the moment. When you've done your best, hit "send."

Then go have some cookies and milk.