Why thinking that you’re a great writer can actually stop you writing altogether
Procrastination is something that happens to many writers. But did you know that thinking that you’re a great writer (or that writing is one of the things that you’re best at) can actually cause procrastination. I’ll explain how.
Firstly, this is happened to me lots of times and many other people as well. You’re not alone. First you have to know how to recognise the signs. Giveaway signs are if you think things like the following but are struggling to pick up a pen:
♦ You have the best idea you’ve ever had for a story.
♦ You don’t enjoy you day job and think you’d be great at writing instead.
♦ You see success at writing as a way out of your current problems, it will make you richer, get respect, have more friends etc.
♦ You see success as writing as something that will finally give your life purpose.
♦ You just KNOW you’d be a successful writer if you truly put your mind to it.
The problem here is that you’ve set expectations WAY to high for yourself. In your imagination shortly after you send off your first draft you’re going to published and then will come lots more money. You can finally quit your day job and do something you enjoy doing 24/7. You’ll receive letters from fans and your family and friends will be impressed.
Realistically, another part of you worries that this won’t be the case. Maybe you aren’t a good writer? Or maybe becoming a good writer will take a decade or more of hard slog to accomplish? Or maybe you’ll write a fantastic novel but publishers will reject it anyway, lots of good books have been repeatedly rejected by publishers and never seen the light of day.
These two parts of you fight a bitter mental conflict inside of you. This conflict stops you from actually picking up a pen because once you do you will find out whether your dreams will come true or not. If you don’t pick up the pen then you can be safe in the knowledge that you would be a good writer if you only put your mind to it.
This is the reason for your procrastination. It is you trying to protect your own ego. You trying to protect the part of yourself that believes that you are a good writer. For some people this may be something that they are really holding on to. When their boss treats them badly at work or their family disrespects them they think to themself “I’ll show you, I’m going to be a famous author one day.” It’s easy to understand why if your life isn’t going great you might want to hang on to that easy dream instead of putting it to the test by actually trying to accomplish it.
“I must write perfectly.”
This is impossible. Nothing is perfect and by thinking like this you are setting an impossible task for yourself. A task that can ONLY end in failure because you’ve set the bar so high. Who wants to start a task that you can’t succeed at? Not me. Lower the bar by allowing yourself to be perfectly human and make mistake just like everyone else. This will make it easier to get started.
“Writing is so important to my life.”
If you want to write you have to let go of the belief that being a successful writer is the only thing that gives your life meaning. That belief will leave you frozen and unable to work. You have to look on the bright side about the rest of your life. Think of all your family and friends that love you and remember that whilst your life isn’t perfect you weren’t brought up as a child soldier either.
What’s the worst that could happen?
You’ve spent the last however many years of your life NOT being a successful author. If you write every day for the next year and everyone tells you that you’re terrible at it, then you’re still not a successful author. So the worst that could happen is basically that your life stays the same and you’ve been coping pretty well with it so far. In fact if you discover that writing isn’t for you that’s actually a good thing as you’re a step closer to discovering what IS for you.
This sort of expectation procrastination happens to most writers from time to time. In fact, it happens to most people. The key is to realise what you’re experiencing and then to combat it by accepting that you may fail or fall short of where you want to be and that’s ok. You’ll learn more and enjoy life far more if you try and fail than if you never try.
This article is based off ideas from The Now Habit one of the best books on procrastination ever written. If you’re struggling with these issues I do recommend buying and reading the whole book. I’ve read quite a few books on will power and procrastination and this is the one that really made an impact for me. Other books had actually made the problem worse by reinforcing my internal conflict. The Now Habit almost magically makes that internal conflict disappear. I naturally want to work instead of struggling against myself.
You can buy the paperback book or get the Kindle version at the link below and stop procrastinating and start working right away.