There you are. You want to write, but something stops you. You turn away, do the dishes, clean the counters, pay the bills, anything but write.
Yet, your story calls to you in the night, or upon waking. And you despair with ever finishing the story or polishing it to a fine sheen for your readers.
What stops you?
What has you turning away from the thing you desire most in this world—to send hearts soaring or beating hard, eyeballs glued to the page, readers hanging on your every word, their daily lives forgotten?
I say it’s fear—the kind of fear that has me scurrying away from the page in wordless panic, not even realizing what I’m doing chores until I’m up to my elbows in suds, and the writing or more often editing hasn’t been done by the doer—the writer—me.
It’s easy to procrastinate and beat yourself up about it.
But if you know the cause then maybe you could have more compassion, more grace, for yourself.
I realized this recently when I was torturing myself for not working on my final revisions.
A friend mentioned having grace. In that instant I realized why I’d been avoiding the work.
I was afraid of what others might think of Book 2 in the series when Book 1 had been well received.
I was afraid I just couldn’t measure up to this ideal I had in my head for delivering good writing.
I doubted my skills as a writer.
I doubted the choices I’d already made in the story.
I quaked before the prospect of having to make more hard decisions that would fix the story into its final form.
Was I doing justice to the story I wanted to tell?
And the most pernicious of fears and doubts and negative self-talk: who the hell did I think I was to be able to tell this story?
And the dark whisperings that I’d never be good enough, never have the right credentials, never measure up to “those” people’s ideas of what a good story was…
Oh boy. So harsh.
Ouch and double ouch.
Under the Layers of Procrastination
All these layers under procrastination, all these “good” reasons to stay away from the novel, from the work of my heart and soul, to stay arm’s length away from the deep and hard work of being an artist and leaving my all heart and passion and truths on the page.
So, once I realized I was afraid and acknowledged all those shouts and whisperings, acknowledged the primal need to flee from the work, I held myself with compassion, with grace, and I gave it up to the Universe—the thing that is greater than all of us, the thing that sparks life and creative ideas and love and mystery and the glorious Unknown.
I bowed to the Universe and all the unknowns, for I am little in the face of all that.
After honoring my fears, I was able to get to work and face my story. And then make one story decision at a time.
That’s all. That’s how I get working again.
To get more specific, for the writing and editing, I make the action doable, small enough that it’s easy to say, “I can do that.”
Sometimes that means I set my timer for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or I decide to work on just one paragraph or one page. Or when I writing new material, I give myself the easy goal of writing 100 words or 500 words. Whatever feels easy.
Because at the end of the day, what matters is that I showed up fully for the story—mind, body, heart, and soul—and that I made progress, however small.
What is procrastination for you? How do you handle it? How do you get writing again?
Comment below. I’d love to hear.
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ABOUT BETH BARANY
An award-winning novelist, Beth Barany writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults and adults. Her first novel Henrietta The Dragon Slayer won Grand Prize in a California Indie Author contest.
Based in Oakland, California, with her husband, Ezra Barany, also a novelist, Beth has lived abroad three times — Quebec and twice in Paris, France — and speaks fluent French.
Known for creating rich world, tough and kick-ass heroines, and refreshing romances, Beth creates cinematic stories to empower readers to be the heroes of their own lives.
When she’s not penning rip roaring reads, Beth runs an online school for fiction writers, speaks at conferences and international cultural centers, most recently in Saudi Arabia, and enjoys her many dragon figurines sprinkled throughout her house.
For freebies, excerpts, and more about her books, go to Beth’s site: author.bethbarany.com.