Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it. -– Madeleine L’Engle
Writers stick butt to chair and fingers to keyboard daily.
Writers write whether there is inspiration or not.
One of the biggest lies I tell myself is that it’s okay not to come to the computer today because I can’t think of anything interesting to say.
Here’s another one: I don’t have time. That next chapter will take hours to write.
Or, and this one is my favorite: I’m still trying to work through the plot point. I need to think more. Do more research . . . run by Starbucks for an Americano. I’ll put another load in the washing machine because I’m thinking.
No, I’m procrastinating.
People much smarter than me figured it out a long time ago. People procrastinate because they are in pursuit of perfection and that drive is, at its root, based on fear. It’s fear that pushes you (me) to avoid the work, despite your(my) best intentions. But that’s emotion. Not logic.
If you’re anything like me, you say, “I’m not afraid of anything. What’s there to be afraid of?” I’m a good writer and I’m telling a story I’m excited about. Fear? Pfffttt!!
But that’s the beauty of it. It’s there hiding in the deep recesses of our psyches, unnoticed . . . just out of sight. But it’s there, a dulled-out neon that screams “I can’t do it or I’m not good enough.”
Fear of failure? Who does that? But it’s actually quite common. What if I try and no one buys the book? What if I’m not as good as I think I am? But it’s so hard. New things are uncomfortable and so we put them off.
Overcoming perfectionism and fear has to start with acknowledging its presence. We have to be honest with ourselves about why we are avoiding the task, or in my case, why am I avoiding face time with my computer screen?
According to John M Grohol, Psy.D, fear can be very self-reinforcing in that each time we fail a task because of procrastination, it reinforces our own beliefs about our abilities and self-worth. I knew I was going to fail, so what’s the use of even starting work on the next one?
So, I ask:
Are you afraid of not being good enough?
Have you ever failed at anything before?
Did the world end?
Well, no. But I didn’t like it. I like to win.
So, what did you do then?
I figured out what I might have been doing wrong and adjusted.
Right. Did you fail again?
Sure did. And each time, I got a little better.
I’ve been putting off working on the next chapter of my novel, KAOS. I am approaching the crisis point in both the plot and the internal crises of my two main protags. I know how the story ends but it’s been frustrating trying to decide how my two characters will reach that end point.
So, I think. I research. I play WORDS WITH FRIENDS at Starbucks. My house is cleaner than it’s ever been. I’ve been catching up with old friends.
Two days ago, I had the above conversation with myself and decided not to wait for inspiration. About twenty minutes into the session, it came to me. The answer had been right there on the fringes of consciousness, the solution that will take me over the hump so that I can slide through to the finish.
The inspiration came from the process – during the work, not before.
Confront perfectionism – it doesn’t need to be perfect, just get it done!
Challenge procrastination, and avoidance then face it head on.
Then Write. Immerse yourself in your story, your characters, the world you’ve created. Storytelling is an organic process. If you’re there, it will come.
Finally, stick butt to chair and fingers to keyboard daily.
For more information about challenging procrastination, check out Dr. Grohol’s series of articles on the topic at PsychCentral here.