It’s finally quiet. Prime time to get working on that manuscript. But instead, you clean the kitchen and fold the laundry. When you run out of housework, you sit down and swear you’re going to write. You’ve picked out the perfect music. You’ve got your favorite beverage within arm’s reach. Your laptop’s open. But instead of writing, you’re on social media again. Then someone calls you and asks if you want to hang out. You say yes, telling yourself that writing is something you can fit in at any time, after all. It’s okay to put it off a bit longer.
We’ve all been in situations like this, where we have good intentions, but we don’t know how to make ourselves move forward. Our focus lapses. Our motivation wanes. Instant gratification gets in the way of our goals, and we’re left regretting all the time we obviously should have spent working, but didn’t. Why does this happen?
When we freeze, we encounter writer’s block. We run out of words, get stuck in a plot hole, or our characters stop cooperating.
When we flee from our writing fears, we procrastinate. We go from website to website, get lost in research, or we don’t sit down in the chair at all.
People who procrastinate are usually considered lazy and unmotivated. This can be true, but most people who put things off till the last minute don’t see it that way. Sometimes they really are too busy, and the list of high-priority items on their lists keep getting bigger and bigger. And sometimes, according to Nicole Brouwer’s class from Storymakers this year, it’s a sign of fear.
When we are put in physical danger, our reaction to that danger falls into one of three categories: fight, flight, or freeze. But our brain has the same types of reactions to social dangers. They just look a little different.
Our social fight reflexes manifest as negative self-talk and imposter syndrome. We tell ourselves our writing isn’t good enough. We say our stories will never make an impact. Why keep trying? Even if we publish our work, we’ll never be a “real” author.
What could writers possibly be afraid of? Those who have never written often don’t understand what it’s like to painstakingly put your heart and soul on a page and hand it out to be praised or criticized. What it’s like to wonder if a project you’ve spent countless hours on will catch anyone’s interest or make a difference, or if it will get lost in a sea of stories that are better than yours. What it’s like to finally finish, only to be told over and over again by the publishing world that your story “isn’t right” for them. All of these things are terrifying. Brouwer’s class taught me that our brain considers these dangers just as much of a threat as physical ones.
That’s right. Even though you’re far less likely to die by embarrassment than by a pack of rabid dogs, our brain doesn’t differentiate between the two as much as people think.
This kind of procrastination is meant to help us—to keep us safe from all the negative things that can happen after we share our work. But if we ever want to complete our projects, we have to fight our way past it. How on earth do we do that?
According to Brouwer, there are two main things you can try:
Procrastination holds us all back at some point. Many of us look back at all the things we wish we’d accomplished but put off until it was too late. Thankfully, we can all make the decision now to not give in to our fears. We can commit, like Bree did last week, to put our butt in the chair and get the job done.
Remember, you’re not alone in this! Find your fellow writers wherever you are and on social media. The struggle isn’t so hard when you have the right people supporting you. Let us know how your writing journey is going by using #WritingThroughBrambles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we’ll be there for you, too.
What do you do to beat your urge to procrastinate?
Rachel V. White has lived in Utah all her life, and has been writing fiction nearly as long. “Starsworn” is her debut published work, but as long as her husband, three children, and over-anxious dog cooperate, there will certainly be more to come. Be sure to watch for "Shattered Snow," her first audiobook narration project, coming soon!
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.