This month, we're looking at "procrastination" on the blog and in the newsletter ... as I know it's a huge struggle for a lot of writers. If you missed the first blog post in this series, you can find that here: aliventures.com/three-common-writing-fears.
We tend to see procrastination as a negative thing: something bad that we do, despite our best intentions. We might have a pretty murky idea about why we procrastinate. Are we just lazy? Are we self-sabotaging?
I think that procrastination can arise for a whole lot of different reasons, but in every case, it's important to see that your procrastination serves a purpose.
Whether you're procrastinating in a big picture way (you're "busy" all the time but never get round to starting your novel) or you're procrastinating during time you could be writing (you're posting on Facebook or mindlessly scrolling through questions on Quora), there's a reason for that procrastination.
I think those reasons normally come down to one (or more) of these:
If you think about it this way, procrastination makes a lot of sense:
When you're worried that your writing isn't very good and that if anyone read it, they'd laugh at you or pity you, then it's completely understandable that you find yourself making excuses to avoid putting words down on the page.
When you're knackered after work, it's completely understandable that you end up procrastinating – you're struggling to find the energy to write (and your brain might desperately want and need some down time).
When you feel that your writing isn't valuable or worthwhile – that you should be doing something "more productive" instead – then it's completely understandable that you put off writing in favour of doing something that seems to have more immediate worth, like cleaning the house.
In many cases, I think all these difficulties and worries can combine to make it really tough to carve out time for your writing and to sit down and focus when you do have the time to write.
I'm not pretending that these are the sorts of struggles you can solve overnight.
But I would encourage you to spend a few quiet minutes today thinking about why you procrastinate. Perhaps one of the reasons above is at the heart of it ... or perhaps there's something else that seems to be holding you back and putting the brakes on when you try to move forward with your writing.
Here are three truths you might like to think about, too. (If you find it hard to believe they're true for you, here's a trick I use: imagine you have a friend just like you – or think of a writer you're friendly with – and ask if you'd believe these things were true for them. If you would, ask yourself whether they could be true for you as well.)
#1: Whether or not your writing is currently "good enough" doesn't matter, because there's only one way it's going to get better – by writing. (If you feel that only good writers have the right to write, take a look at #3.) Most fiction authors, too, will tell you that their first drafts require a lot of rewriting to make them publishable.
#2: It's good and important to have downtime and breaks from writing and from everything else you do. There's nothing lazy or unproductive about reading a novel, instead of writing more of yours, or watching some TV, or doing some craft or colouring. You need time to creatively recharge – daily.
We're going to take a closer look at writing energy – what boosts it, what drains it, how to manage it – in an upcoming series in a couple of months time.
#3: Your writing is worthwhile. It doesn't matter what you write or who will read it: a journal that only you will ever see, fanfiction that will never make money, erotic novels that you wouldn't dream of showing to anyone who knows you, highly literary poetry that will have a very limited print run ... all of these things are worthwhile. (Even if they weren't, you'd still deserve to have time to write – it's something you enjoy and
something that makes you happy.)
On the Aliventures blog next Monday, we're going to take a closer look at how to make the time for your writing even when you feel that other things are more important, and in next week's newsletter, I'll be sharing some specific (and gentle!) ways to stop procrastinating and start moving again – without guilt-tripping yourself or trying to summon up the energy for some Herculean effort. Stay tuned for those, straight to your inbox. :-)
(If you don't receive the weekly blog posts to your inbox and would like to, just let me know and I'll set that up for you.)