Gwynn and Ruth are on vacation for the next couple of weeks. So we’re bringing back a couple of our favourite Top Drawer topics to share with new readers and to nudge long-time followers. This week is Gwynn’s January 2016 post on writers’ procrastination. Come on. Admit it. Who hasn’t delayed getting BIC (Butt In Chair)?
When people ask me, “What’s the biggest barrier to finishing your novel?”, I tell them, “Lack of writing time.”
And indeed, the demands of life often—in fact, usually—trump the ability to set aside writing time. Yet when I look back at my life and the things I’ve accomplished, I realize that somehow I’ve always “made” time for the things I really wanted to do.
At various times I’ve wanted something badly enough that I’ve worked three jobs at once as well as studying part-time by correspondence; I’ve negotiated deals to allow me to fast track programs over three years rather than five; I’ve run several businesses at once, often going months without a day off, working till 2 a.m., or driving three hours one-way for a one-hour speaking opportunity.
So what does that say about my writing? If I can’t find the time to write, does it mean that I don’t want to write?
If I’m honest with myself, the answer is probably “yes”.
Yikes! How can that be? I love words and language. I love books. I love stories. And I have a story to tell, one that occupies my mind constantly, one that I think is important enough to be told. So how can the answer be yes?
It’s yes, because I’m afraid. It’s yes because the pressure I put on myself to write something meaningful is so great, that it is safer to not write anything at all. When I plan and dream and “write in my head”, I’m not opening myself up to judgement, to failure, to rejection, to mediocrity, or even to the pressure of success. I don’t have to risk anything.
Time is not the problem
So it’s not time that is my barrier; it’s the inability to risk, the fear of taking that step into the unknown, the unwillingness to “do it anyway”. It’s a hard thing to admit. It’s an even harder thing to overcome.
My logical mind knows this and has all kinds of practical things to do to combat procrastination, but the answer ultimately lies in my emotional mind. Until I am emotionally ready to write, there will never be enough time.
Name it to turn it
So what can I do? Tackle the real problem. Tackle my emotional fear.
In any recovery program, recognizing the problem is always the first step. In this case, I need to recognise that time is not the problem, but not writing is. Time is not the problem, but not allowing myself to write badly and thinking negatively about what I write is.
The first step
So, I will re-name my fears as affirmations and post them where I can read them often. This will help train my emotional self to think differently.
- I can find time to write.
- It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write often
- I can always re-write, but just getting it down in first draft is the most important thing.
It’s a small first step, but an important one. I’m glad I’ve taken that small step. Wish me luck.
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there procrastinating and blaming it on lack of time. Anyone else have this problem? Post your experience and advice in the comments below.