What’s the absolute worst thing a writer can do? No, not write Weekend at Bernie’s 3 on spec, but that’s a good guess.
The worst thing a writer can do is NOT write.
What if I were to suggest that whatever unnecessary reason I have for not writing is based in fear? Now, we’re not talking about normal, healthy fears like being afraid of bears, fire, poisonous snakes and spiders,
or clowns. What we’re really talking about is self-centered fear, which boils down to:
- Fear of losing something I’ve got.
- Fear of not getting something I want.
Based upon your unique circumstances, it can be easy to spot one or both of these as you relate your writing to personal goals, financial goals, relationships, security, recognition, etc. But these fears never seem to stay as they are, they much prefer to fuel things like anger, insecurity, worry, inability to concentrate, and my personal favorite (and one that seems to plague many creative types)… procrastination.
Aah, yes, “Why put off until tomorrow what I can put off until the day after that!” — the battle cry of any good procrastinator. What masquerades as laziness is nothing more than inaction fueled by unrealistic fear of the future related to what I want to get or don’t want to lose.
My friend Pete has a great way of describing the reality of procrastination:
“You still have to do the thing, but now you get to worry about it too.”
I just love that. So simple. And if that phrase — which clearly exposes the insanity of procrastination — was enough to make it stop happening, this article would end right here. But sadly, knowledge of the problem is not the solution.
The interesting paradox is that it seems I need to be free of procrastination to write, yet the only way to get past the fear is to write.
A real catch-22.
So, if action is the solution to a problem that clouds my judgment and only lets me see inaction as a solution, what then?
Since there are endless ways people use to bypass fear to take action — ranging from motivational to spiritual — I’ll just share one that is specifically related to writing…
Create Accountability – Here are a few examples:
I set goals for writing that must be broken down into daily, bite-sized morsels because that’s what I was taught. I was also taught that goals must be SMART (Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). “I’m going to write a screenplay.” is NOT a goal. “I’m going to write 3 pages a day for the next 2 months.” IS a goal (which can be broken down even further).
- Accountability Tools
In the Screenwriting on the iPhone article, I put the Streaks app first because none of the others matter if I don’t write. That Streaks app on my iPhone home screen, with it’s numerical notification of how many days in a row I’ve written, is always staring me in the face. Simple. Effective.
- Writers Group
At the end of each Writers Group meeting on Wednesdays, we agree on what material will be ready for the next meeting (or the Tuesday before if it is to be reviewed before the meeting). I hate not keeping my word because it makes me look like an asshole. How’s that for motivation?
My default setting can still sometimes be the desire to put things off, but I’m able to use tools to get to work and invariably come out the other side feeling relief from a job well done. The more I practice these, the more I write, and the less procrastination can rear its ugly head.
So, next time you find yourself sitting on the couch watching Who’s the Boss reruns wondering why you’re not in the other room working on that Weekend at Bernie’s 3 beat sheet, you might try asking yourself…
“What am I afraid of?”
… as you drag your butt off the couch to go write.
“Procrastination is the thief of time.” -Edward Young