The simplest answer is fear. Fear of putting yourself and your writing out there. Fear of having someone say something negative about your characters, your prose, your poetry, your scene, your setting, your choice of words, the list goes on. When we write we expose our deepest selves to criticism that is, understandably, scary. However, writers are storytellers. We have a deep need to expose that part of ourselves and share our thoughts with the world. The trouble is most of us are also afraid of rejection. So we procrastinate, telling ourselves we will wait just a little longer to sit down, just a little longer to finish that novel, just a little longer to complete that final stanza. It avoids the possibility of rejection, but it also prevents achievement, and triumph.
There is another reason we procrastinate. Often times we find ourselves lacking conviction and self-discipline. Yes, I said it. We lack conviction. You might be thinking I’m crazy. You want to write, how can you lack conviction? It’s easy actually. You want to do it, but are you doing it? The difference is this, to want something is passive, to do something is active. The difference between a published, successful author and someone who has never published is action. The published author took action. They wrote their book, they applied to publishers (or self-published), they DID something. Wanting, wishing and hoping do not write novels. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own heads that we forget we have to just take action. You can learn so much from just getting that draft done. Even if it is awful, failure is how we learn.
Now for the toughest part. Say you have mastered your fear and taken action, you decided to write. Now comes the task of mustering the self-discipline to sit down and GET IT DONE! It’s so much easier to turn on Facebook, Twitter, the News, a video game or open a book and peruse. How many of us spend hours on Pinterest seeking inspiration when we should be writing? I know I’m guilty. Self-discipline. It is critical to success as an author or in any career. I struggled with this, a lot, every single day. I found cleaning to do, clothes to wash, websites to browse, things to research or just wandered aimlessly in the house avoiding my novel. So how did I fix this?
I chose to take action.
I reached out to other Authors on LinkedIn and asked them how they dealt with procrastination, and self-discipline. We commiserated. Most of us, including the published authors, said they still struggled with it. Over the conversation I reached a conclusion, most of the published authors had an agent or editor checking in and keeping them on track. Another author and I decided to try the Accountability Buddy system by starting a Google Group. (See here for a general description of Accountability Buddies: http://susangregory.ca/accountability-buddies-–-how-to-make-it-work ) We started on March 7. The principles and idea are simple:
Positive Support and Feedback
Every day when we are not working full time or otherwise occupied we post our goals for the day with regards to our writing. This can be a research goal, a chapter, a scene summary list, anything and everything that pertains to your writing and goals for it. We started very modest, my first post on March 7th went like this:
My goals for today are:
1) Read Mission VI in Novelist’s Boot Camp (Great book by the way)
2) Write the 3rd scene in my novel where the secondary character discusses plans for protecting the princess in dangerous territory with his second in command.
3) Write new blog post on the use of horses in the 1300-1400s for Scribe Scribbles.
4) Transfer handwritten scene to word document.
At the end of the day I posted again, this time stating what I had accomplished or not accomplished and briefly analyzing why. For March 7th I wrote:
This provided me, not only with a tangible result and accomplishment list for the day, but also gave me a chance to reflect on what I could have done differently that day to improve my output. Other days were not so good. But having my writing buddy there, waiting to see my goals and accomplishments helps motivate me. It gives me an extra kick in the pants through the day, the nagging at the back of my mind that says you have to do this or you will post at the end of the day that you have accomplished nothing.
We have both seen improvement since starting this Accountability Buddy system. We are both more positive toward our writing, excited to post our goals and more motivated during the day. Even if you do this with someone who isn’t a writer, it could be a friend who has a challenging job with goals to meet, I urge you to give it a shot. The honesty about your accomplishments or lack thereof is key. You only hurt yourself if you lie but when you take action together with honesty and positive support, you soar.
So in conclusion, although I do still struggle with procrastination and the development of self-discipline I have discovered that I must take action in order to progress. I decided. I asked for help. I took initiative and and started the google group. We help each other to stay on track and reach our goals. We took action and continue to do so. That’s what writing boils down to, taking action to tell your story or stories to the world.
Procrastination is easy. Writing is hard. If you want it badly enough, take action.
May the Words be with you!