Procrastination

I believe that procrastination is always caused by fear – not laziness. I’ve always really wondered with what ears we hear our inner voice. That’s assuming that all of us humans operate pretty much the same way and have these little guys yammering away at us all day long about one thing or another. I’ve also always wondered why my particular inner voice is sometimes as harsh as it is. I think that that little nag in your head that says things like – Why on earth would you think you could write a book? Why are you such a lazy sod? You should have written two thousand words by now – slacker! You’ll always be mediocre, because you never finish what you start – because it’s trying to protect you from failure, ridicule, and pain.

Most of our fears and general weirdnesses really do stem from our childhood. Thank you Dr Freud. Our parents generally (with even the most loving of intentions) plant the biggest seeds. If you don’t get A’s you’ll never get anywhere in life. I won’t even mention those parents out there who don’t have the most loving of intentions – they’d create some pretty nasty inner critics. Our school teachers plant more seeds. Stop making excuses – climb that rope – learn that equation, or you’ll FAIL! Or our peers – children growing up can often be hurtful little guys. You don’t get picked first for the team, and therefore you’re not good enough. That little voice that resides in you remembers every single one of these terrifying painful things, and wants to protect you from feeling the future pain of failing horribly. And of course, the best way not to fail is never to try. So that loving, caring, worried little terrorist will stop you any way that it can.

You’ve just had an amazing epiphany about what comes next in your book. You excitedly zoom over to your computer, load up your work in progress, read the last paragraph, and suddenly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s utter garbage. Then that brief period of time when your mind goes absolutely blank, and you can’t even remember what your epiphany was. Now your turgid inbox, or the pile of dishes that need to be washed seem much more important to get to doing. Creativity nicely replaced with mundane, safe things. Before you know it you’re parked on the couch watching reruns of Friends, eating three thousand calories of Doritos in one sitting, and accomplishing nothing at all. Job done. No book will be written. No readers will scoff at you. You will not ever feel those sharp, icy tendrils of rejection in your soul. You will never have an epic fail. You’ll never know if you’re any good at what you know you’ve been called to do because you’ll never do it. Well done little inner voice guy.

Every writer will cope differently with this protective critic. Personalities are different – with some the voice will win every time and nothing will be accomplished, and others will squish it on arrival and finish their books at record speed. Some people agonise about how they are perceived. They worry about hurting feelings or offending people. Some people couldn’t give a continental, and write away without worrying about any sort of reactions. But for those of us who listen to the voices within, and creative souls spend a lot more time than most inside their own heads anyway, those paralysing little criticisms are impossible to avoid. The thing to do is to realise what they are, stare them down, and let them know that you know that they’re lying.

You’re not mediocre or untalented, and you don’t leave everything you start unfinished just because someone back in the forgotten mists of your life told you so. The fact that you actually have a work in progress means that you’ve already accomplished something totally unique – not many of the billions of people on this planet will ever get around to writing even half a book. So when you freeze, staring at your computer screen, unable to think of a single word, before heading off to the television, have a quick little look inside, and sooth your little protector with the truth that you can do anything you want to do. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has said or thought of you in the past. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past – everyone else has too at some point or another, or if you fail again in the future. All that matters is that you trust in your own ability, grab your desire to write your story, and just go right ahead and do that. This is your life – it is finite – there are no guarantees – it’s important that you do whatever you feel driven to do, regardless of the outcome. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You’ll have written a book. 2014-08-31 10.14.19 ab

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45 thoughts on “Procrastination”

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Ah good, another excuse not to get on with my latest project…only joking – since the post is written my Jo Robinson there is absolutely every justification to procrastinate for a few minutes… I would just add that this applies to eating healthily.. I refuse to use the word diet since it is totally misused…but the same emotions are in play everytime we start yet another fad ‘diet’ we are convinced will not work and so lose heart after a week or so… great post Jo and one that applies to so many areas of our lives…

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  2. There are many things to like in this post. Perhaps the best sentence is:
    “Most of our fears and general weirdnesses really do stem from our childhood.”
    I fully agree with your statement, without any anger and bitterness towards parents, educators and peers. This is the way it is. We grow up surrounded by expectations, criticism, mockery, and our own little inner voice that too often tells us to be careful.
    Writing demands a certain form of courage. First,very practical because putting words on a paper or screen is tiring. Then, because as soon as these words are out, others will read them and give opinions about them. So it is only natural to be cautious. Yet as you write toward the end of your post, the worst thing is that you have writtten a story or a novel. And that in itself is something to be proud of. Looking forward to reading you again soon.

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  3. ,,,people are “LUVVIN’ THIS’ , because it’s a remarkably accurate reflection of how things do happen with us occasionally, but hpefullythe inner Muse(s) overpower the wee critical voices… small wins garner the entire battle 🙂 great post, m’Lady, Jo..:)

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  4. I remember reading Screenwriting by Syd Field. He calls that procrastination resistance. It comes at a point when we are close to finishing a book and we are subconsciously reluctant to let it go because we have become attached to it and fear not knowing what to do next. Therefore, we find or make excuses to put it off. We usually do this by deciding to do household chores, washing up, shopping or any other thing that distracts us from that most important thing – writing and finishing that script or manuscript.

    I remember Ernest Hemingway saying that the hardest part of writing a book is finishing it.

    It is good knowing that I am not the only one who feels that way. The good news is when that book finally gets written it is not the compliments or criticism that follow that matter but that feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have finished a major undertaking. Not many writers make it that far. Thanks for the reminder and pep talk. It was much needed here. 😉

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    1. That is so spot on! I think that’s probably why some books suddenly become series – we can’t say goodbye to our loves. And also that feeling of accomplishment when you finally do write that last sentence – not much can compare to that well deserved pride.

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  5. Straight to the heart writing, Jo. Thank you so much for putting this together for us all. It speaks volumes and will help and benefit so many people who read it. Yes, we all get down when life isn’t good for us, but remembering your words will, I’m sure, help so many people not just with the writing but with so many other problems life brings us.

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    1. Thanks to you Hugh, for the very wonderful way you put that. We’re all so very similar after all is said and done, and it’s nice to know that we can give each other a little boost now and then when we need it. 🙂

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      1. Oh, so very true, Jo. I’ve been truly amazed by just how many wonderful people, like yourself, there are on WordPress who write some amazing posts aimed at helping others. It’s such a great way to build a blogging community and certainly makes me think that it’s about time I repaid these writers back by offering some written advise and guidance as well. I’ll have to get to work on giving that thanks back very soon.

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