Action and the procrastinating writer
Do you believe in writers block or do you believe that we just make excuses for not writing? And if you think that we just make excuses, why do you think that? What are your strategies for procrastinating?
I was having a conversation a few days ago with a friend about why she wasn’t writing. She knew what her book was about, why she was writing it and how she would use it once published. She told me that she was excited and passionate about her message and the content, but for some reason she couldn’t write.
It got me thinking about beliefs and patterns of behaviour and how these either stop us or motivate us towards taking action. I took a good look at myself and some of the people that I work with and I have been reflecting on some of the most common areas for the procrastinating writer.
Fear of failure
Many very successful people with lots of amazing content and a truly inspirational message won’t put pen to paper because they are scared of failure. They don’t have a crystal ball, yet they believe that the book will fail. Typically everything they have ever done has been brilliant and this ‘new thing’ that could be read by lots of people has the power to expose them as frauds. So if it never gets written or published – how can they fail?
Fear of success
A great many people say that they want something, yet go out of their way (unconsciously) to procrastinate so that it never gets finished or started. In doing this they don’t have to step out of their comfort zone and really show how fab they are.
I wonder why we are so scared of playing big – where does that come from? Probably childhood. I’ve thought a lot about my scripts. My father used to say you can do anything you like – until you get caught. He of course was referring to being ‘naughty’, however recently it struck me that I took him at his word – I do believe I can do anything and I used to self-sabotage a lot. Consider the phrase ‘until you get caught’. Somehow implying that I might just be found out to be a fraud. What scripts might you have around failure and success? Why do they come from? Do you have a phrase from childhood that might be lurking in your recesses?
The way we like to work
I like silence and space. I like fresh, new and exciting – different ways to do things. I am visual and kinaesthetic. Because of this I know that I have to chunk things down and look at how I do things in lots of different ways. For example when I outline a book, I have to walk the outline, use post it notes, mind map, turn it to a workshop outline and I have to take time out so that when I come back – it is fresh, new and exciting. What if you were like me – how would you motivate yourself to get started? What activities would you add to your writing strategy so that you did a) get started and b) finish what you’ve started?
Where we work
If my environment isn’t right, I can’t focus. Simple. I’ve already said I like silence; I also love to write in bed, I hate hot, noisy coffee shops. What about you? How can you create your environment so that it feels like you are having the best back massage ever (or whatever floats your boat)?
If the project seems too big, we often get into overwhelm. When this happens to me I simply break it down into smaller chunks. I often write or edit books by blogging the content (creating a different way of looking at things) and then chunk it back up into the bigger picture. I have also learned to be brutal when I write too much. It never gets deleted, it may have a use, but I have learned to focus on the message and answering the questions for that chapter. How can you get from big picture to detail or detail to big picture?
These are just a few examples; I bet there are many times you have procrastinated over your writing. All I ask is that you make a note of what you do and then consider why? Where are your patterns and the beliefs that lay beneath them? Then ask yourself how can I break that pattern or learn to work with it?
Only you have the answers, a coach or friend, who is great at asking good questions and really listening, can help you to see where your ‘problems’ lie. Remember when you get feedback to reflect and accept what others might say or expose as positive criticism.
I also have another solution… Get a journal and start writing, not your book of course, more about why you aren’t writing it. I wonder what you will discover that will help you to take action and move you from procrastinating writer to productive writer?