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.