A Letter to My Procrastinating Self
How’s your day going? You all caught up on Twitter? Good, good. I noticed you took your time flipping through that issue of O Magazine. Oh, “research,” you say. Got it.
Those finches out there on the bird feeder are adorable, right? Did you see the blue jay that came by a while ago? Silly me, of course you did! You were staring out the window for half an hour, so you must’ve seen it.
I like that pile of books stacked nearby. Let’s see: A Guide to Magazine Article Writing. On Writing. The War of Art. You are a Writer (so start ACTING like one). A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays. Lotta “how to” and inspirational books there. I noticed you’ve highlighted a lot of passages in them. Have they been helpful? Oh…you forget what you highlighted as soon as you finished the book? Huh.
Well, all these tabs open on your browser must be useful. Uh…gmail, Google calendar, Facebook, Hootsuite, Pinterest, Amazon. I’m sure they all come in handy for something.
You’ve done a great job maintaining that excel document of literary journal deadlines. It looks like you have a pretty robust list of places to which you can submit your work. Must have taken you a long time to enter the info and, of course, maintain it.
How are your stats coming along? Saw you checking them out earlier. Are you still reviewing your Medium/Facebook/Squarespace/Twitter/Instagram stats on the regular? Good. That’s a great way to spend a few hours.
Let me ask you a question: how much writing have you done lately?
No, I don’t mean social media posts, I mean actual writing. Like, hands-on-keys, words-on-screen, sentences-into-paragraphs writing. You have that novel you wanted to write this month.
Yeah, I know, you’re a NaNoWriMo “rebel” and you think you’re all cool for not following the rules, but shouldn’t you try to get something down each day?
I mean, if you don’t write anything at all you’re not a rebel, you’re just lazy.
OK, so you’re not feeling the novel. What about the articles you keep saying you want to write? Personal essays? The short stories and flash fiction? Blog posts? There has to be something you can sit and write about every day. You’re a person, living in the world, with experiences and thoughts and feelings — use them to WRITE SOMETHING.
Look, I get it. You’re afraid. Yes, you are— don’t deny it. You’re scared. You’re afraid of failure. You’re afraid of success. You’re afraid the ideas won’t come, and when they do, they’ll suck. You’re afraid you won’t live up to your own standards. You’re afraid you’ll let everyone down. You’re afraid people will read your work and brush you off as a hack.
Even worse: you’re afraid no one will read your work at all.
This is NORMAL. This is why books like The War of Art exist: because billions of other writers out there (and the billions upon billions who existed before) feel the exact same way. Afraid. Stressed. Inadequate.
So many writers and creative types love having done the work but hate having to do the work. So many feel a pull inside of them to create yet can’t help but hear that nagging voice that tells them to give up, it’s not worth it, go do something else instead.
It’s what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” and it’s real. It lives in all of us. You heard its voice when you were a grant writer and you hear it even louder now that you’re trying to write creatively for a living. It doesn’t want you to write, it wants you to fail.
And that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you continue to waste your time on social media, stats, and email. The magazine “research” won’t help you. Twitter won’t help you. Even the books on writing — as inspirational as they are — won’t help you so long as you continue to avoid the craft.
You must sit down and write.
So please, from me to you, shut off all that noise. Close the books, close the tabs, stop staring out the window. Sit down, fingers on keys, and write — one word at a time.
Let Resistance know you’re in the driver’s seat, and you don’t have time to listen to her anymore.
You’re too busy writing.