Writers can be difficult people, uniquely stubborn to work with.
Alas, I love writers. People have accused me of being a writer for quite some time, and the truth is… I like to consider myself one, in fact.
But here’s the shady truth: amidst a writer’s nest of convoluted personality quirks, many are also truly expert procrastinators.
There can be many justifications for a writing project taking a long time to finish. Writing can be difficult. Plus, it is a solitary endeavor, so no one will know when you are working slowly or when you are simply avoiding doing it.
Lurking behind one of the nastiest excuses to avoid writing is the fear that a writer has nothing worth saying. Faced by the fear of writing something mediocre, they flee the scene. At best, they spend a moment at the keyboard before walking away or finding something else to distract themselves.
It would be far better to take the risk. What’s the worst that could happen, after all?
Discern whether your beliefs are really just an excuse to procrastinate
People seldom embrace their negative personality traits. It’s possible to enjoy time spent procrastinating, though things seldom pan out that way. Generally, we do not choose to procrastinate — it chooses for us. We accept procrastination’s faulty logic as if it were our own.
This logic keeps us stuck in loops. One of the biggest ways people rationalize their procrastination of writing:
“I don’t have anything to say right now.”
Ah, well, that seems reasonable. With nothing to say, it would be silly to write. How could it be good if there’s nothing to say?
And who wants to read something about nothing?
At this point, the writer may conclude that it is downright considerate of them to abstain from writing. By not writing, they are saving their readers the horrible burden of having to read their empty words.
Let it be known: No, they aren’t procrastinating. They’re being saintly.
I have experienced this, which is why I have discerned it as a pattern. It’s not something that happens to any one writer. We are all prone to do it.
But beneath the apparent logic lies the truth: this is simply an excuse to stay stuck.
Stuckness isn’t original. It also isn’t the final truth unless you choose to accept its faulty logic.
If you stick with stuckness, nothing much will happen. It’s safe to stay stuck, but it’s boring.
Something interesting can happen if you:
- Recognize that you might be procrastinating.
- Don’t take your excuses at face value.
- Feel beneath your rationalizations. What else is happening for you? What else do you feel? Shift your focus away from thoughts and into emotions.
- Get in touch with what compelled you to write in the first place.
It happens all the time — a writer wants to write and will even make it so far as their desk, everything prepared and ready to go for another writing session… and then they’ll find themselves stuck, left with no words on the page and only this empty rationalization to show for it.
It’s silly, because only a few moments ago… they wanted to. They still want to. Some part of them wants to write and they aren’t letting it happen.
It’s OK to resist the writing process. You don’t have to be in complete agreement at all times.
Do this instead: Be a witness to your inner struggle. The struggle is OK. For a few moments, check in with the struggle and see what it has to say. Just don’t let the struggle take any action. You haven’t decided to stop or resume writing. You’re just taking a pause to check in with yourself.
It’s so simple! So simple, in fact, you might not be convinced that it can work.
So, if you want, you can continue to choose the safety of rationalizations that excuse you from writing. Even though this “logic” is not even true. The only way that you will be guaranteed failure is if you fail to take any action.
It’s possible to be confronted by this fear whether you are beginning something new or even if you’re in the middle of something you feel very comfortable with.
It doesn’t matter. The point I want to emphasize is that the statement isn’t true. It’s just an assertion and it doesn’t matter.
What matters is your urge to write.
It may be a strong urge and it may be very subtle. Maybe it feels like just a little itch somewhere in the soul.
What matters is that you get in touch with the feeling.
After all, what are you afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen?
What if you did it anyway?
What if you followed through? What if you let your desire to write lead the way, even when you aren’t sure whether you have anything to say?
In my experience, I am apt to actually write better when I am faced with the fear that I do not have anything worth saying. Sometimes fear is actually a desire to make discoveries. It just takes the courage to engage the process.
Which is better?
- a bland recitation of something you already know
- a spontaneous, bold, reckless, heartfelt passage
Yep. If you chose the second one, you are correct.
Once you are in touch with the feeling, let it rip. Do your worst. Allow yourself to write.
You may find yourself inclined to push back at this advice because you don’t want to make yourself write.
It’s an invitation. Nothing needs to be forced. By writing, you are merely following through on the urge that already spoke to you.
Actually, the procrastination is trying to do all the forcing. If you listen to your rationalization and stop yourself, you force yourself to disregard your feelings and stop writing.
So, let all your feelings coexist. Then, you have a choice: Honor your urge to write or cower away in fear.
From this standpoint, you could easily rationalize from the argument’s other side: So what if you don’t write anything really amazing? At least you’re actually engaging what is actually happening, flowing with what you truly feel.
The procrastination only offers something you have seen before. Why accept that unoriginality? Why take those lame beliefs at face value and let them live your life?
You have an urge, an itch, a curiosity. A sense of wonder and play, maybe frustration.
Nobody knows yet.
That’s for you to discover. Find out by engaging the process.
Don’t worry if you feel like you have nothing to say. Lean into the feeling and see what emerges when you press yourself towards your edge.
All you have to do is be willing to write when you believe you have nothing to say.
Just do it anyway. Press through that and see what else is there.
I will promise you that there is much more. Rationalizations are only a crust on the surface of the truth that is you.