We’ve all shared tips on how to write every day and how to fight that devil, procrastination. Or in other words, how to nip our laziness in the bud. Laziness is indeed a real thing, but often when we think that that’s exactly what our problem is, it isn’t. It’s overwhelm. Beating ourselves up with a whole lot of self-recrimination doesn’t help either. Feeling bad about yourself in general isn’t going to give you a fabulous boost of creativity or spur you to action. More than likely you’ll just spend the whole day playing Candy Crush and then top off your day eating piles of pizza while pondering your uselessness as a writer and in general. The secret to avoiding this is to know your real enemy.
We’re all very similar. All day long most of us are inundated with reasons to fail at whatever it is that we’re doing. We have lots to do as well as our writing. Family responsibilities, marketing, day jobs, and the list goes on. Then when we do sit down to write we freeze right up and not a single word comes out. A few angsty minutes staring at the blank screen, and then hello pizza, TV, and self-recrimination.
Next time this happens to you, before setting in motion the usual procrastination-busting sequences like clearing up your work space and forcing yourself to just dive in to any first sentence, take a deep breath and have a look at whether or not you have reason to feel overwhelmed. Then be kind to yourself. Break things down. Go slow. One sentence at a time is fine. One word at a time. It’s a common human behavior when faced with something that doesn’t seem doable to freeze and do nothing at all. You have your fight or flight instincts which are quite common and discussed often, and your freeze instinct fits in with them. These days in the modern world where we don’t often have to physically defend ourselves or run for the hills, many of us find those instincts coming into play on an emotional level and often wreaking havoc with the way we live our lives. The freeze instinct can be just as damaging as the punch or run. Often when what faces us seems frighteningly undoable by us, instinct tries to save us with the old immobilize and ignore. No matter how much we want to write, we just can’t seem to start.
A good exercise here is to realise that it’s a feeling generated by inappropriate fear blown out of all proportion. Be kind to yourself and accept that the fear is reasonable to you though, and then stay right where you are and let it come. Don’t head for the pizza until the anxiety goes away. Consider that even though you might write something not particularly fabulous it won’t be the end of the world. Writing nothing will never expose you to be a rotten scribbler, but ask yourself if the stress levels of staring at the blank screen and the extra poundage from avoiding it are worth it.
Accepting that you feel overwhelmed either by the thought of writing, or the enormity of writing a whole book in the little time that you have available, and giving yourself a little imaginary hug is a great step to getting words on paper again. If you can only write two words an hour, give yourself kudos for trying rather than self abuse for the teeny wordcount. Often tough love is not what’s needed when the story won’t come out. Try a little bit a self sympathy instead, and just do the best that you can. Recognise that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. You’re human. That’s a lot more conducive to being able to write than calling yourself lazy.
7 thoughts on “When Words Won’t Come”
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“It’s a common human behavior when faced with something that doesn’t seem doable to freeze and do nothing at all.”
So true, Tess!
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BTW, have you been in touch with Jo lately? Can’t seem to get hold of her.
I only see the occasional post but nothing else. I sent her something via e-mail a long while back but haven’t heard anything. I always think she might be having difficulties with her connection but yes, you’re right.