By: Marilyn L. Davis
Procrastinating? Could Be Your Fears
“Don’t you ever get scared?” I ask.
“Of what?” She says,
“Of not being good enough.”
“You mean at writing?” L’il asks.
I nod. “What if I’m the only one who thinks I can do it and no one else does? What if I’m fooling myself?”
“Oh, Carrie.” She smiles. “Don’t you know that every writer feels that way? Fear is part of the job.” ― Candace Bushnell, author of Summer and the City
There is so much competition for readers, subscribers, and followers today that I think many writers don’t publish for fear of being judged and compared to other bloggers.
It’s rather like ice cream. Suppose you only eat “store-bought” vanilla. In that case, you’ll never realize how many varieties there are: natural, gelato, gluten-free, lactose-free, no sugar added, and well, you’re probably getting the point. But many people do realize their choices of ice cream, and it’s the same for blogs. Readers get selective, and writers get scared.
When Readers Like our Brand
Our readers either like our writing, or they’ll head as quickly as possible to another site. For many, it’s that knowledge that creates fear and prevents them from ever publishing anything or even submitting a guest blog.
However, if we want to get published, we have to overcome these fears.
Working with people in the addicted population for over twenty-five years, the subject of fear comes up almost daily. Just as I ask my clients to identify their concerns, I wonder if you’ve tried to isolate your fears regarding writing, publishing, or submitting?
Many people are afraid they won’t be successful in their recovery; I wonder if you’re worried you won’t be successful as a writer? Here are some common fears and a few methods for overcoming them.
Fears Fuel the Procrastinating
According to Laura Stack, “We all procrastinate sometimes, despite its negative impact on our productivity. The word “procrastinate” comes from the Latin roots pro (forward) and crastinus (belonging to tomorrow), which developed into procrastinat in English, meaning “deferred until tomorrow.” Perfect, right?
So why do we knowingly put important things off that we know we need to do? Many of us believe procrastination arises from laziness, and maybe that’s true sometimes. Maybe it’s mostly true for some people. But I believe the chief cause of procrastination is subconscious fear.”
Rather than let our subconscious rule us, let’s look at the six most common fears.
1. Fear of Failure
I wrote a little tongue-in-cheek post titled, What if No One This? OMG, What If They Do! Comments let me know that the title alone sums up many writers’ misgivings when they hit the publish button.
Self-doubt fuels the “What Ifs,” and writers tend to obsess over:
- Will the readers like the post?
- What if they are critical in their comments?
- If there are no comments, does that mean I wrote poorly?
- What if they judge it as inferior from the last post?
Rather than face rejection, many put off writing for fear of failing. However, I know that if you want to write, you will.
Continuing to write, make and correct mistakes, and learning to revise and edit will make you a better writer, one that isn’t afraid to publish. Just think about this for a minute:
“Oddly, we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game, yet in writing, we rarely give ourselves the space for practice.” ~Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
Each time we write, if we are making an effort to improve the craft of writing, we will get better. So, rather than procrastinate, keep writing.
2. Fear of Success
Then there’s the other side of the coin. If we’d had one success, we can set up illusions of how each subsequent post should be.
- What if they do read it and don’t leave comments this time?
- Does this mean that every subsequent post has to be as well-received?
- What if the following post doesn’t go viral?
- Can the writing meet the expectations of the readers?
- Is this writing as interesting, informative, or entertaining as the last?
While we generally think of one-hit wonders in the music field, some authors fit this category as well. I don’t think anyone likes the label, but many will live with the name rather than risk something that doesn’t measure up to an earlier post.
3. Fear In Labeling Yourself a Writer or Author
- How much does a real writer have to write?
- Do you have to be published?
- Do you have to make money writing?
Not only does calling yourself a writer mean you’re going to have to write, but you might be concerned that you’ll look foolish to friends and family if you announce that you’re now a writer. After all, they’ve known you all your life as husband/wife, son/daughter, co-worker/boss, but never as a writer.
I’m still not entirely comfortable with labels. I tend to think of all the greats that preceded me, and I pale in comparison, but I can feel satisfied with statements like, “I write for two blogs,” or “I’m the editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate.
With the publication of my memoir, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate, I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the label. But I’m like others, if there’s no sales that day, am I really a writer or author?
Writer and author are daunting labels; they require commitment, determination, perseverance, and time. I have three of the qualities, but the time aspect still proves challenging.
One thing that has helped me is that I committed to a specific number of posts for Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. Those obligations help me retain focus and expectations. And I took the suggestion of a friend and am working on a second book about memoir writing.
4. Afraid of Not Meeting Expectations
I also think that too many people set up unrealistic expectations of themselves and their writing. I cannot fall prey to excuses when I have a day off from my other responsibilities. Yes, it means I don’t socialize like I used to, watch a movie on TV, or even read as much, but it’s honoring a commitment, and that’s important to me.
Are you using what time you have and take advantage of the opportunities to write? I still block out time on my calendar for writing and publishing. There are specific calendars for writers that might do the trick and keep you on track. I know I tend to pay attention if I’ve marked my calendar for an activity, and it works for writing and publishing, too.
5. Afraid the Well’s Gone Dry?
Am I tired some days when I sit down to write? Yes. Do I question whether I can postpone this task and get to it later? Yes. Do I wish it would write itself? Yes.
How many times have you said, “I don’t feel like doing that now.” I think we’ve got this backward. I don’t have to feel like doing something to do it, and the notion of Writer’s Block seems like an excuse. It’s like using Counselor’s Block with my clients, so I question whether it’s valid for the creative process, either.
Maybe it’s just that we haven’t fully explored our idea, done enough research, we’ve got too many darlings vying for attention, or we can’t narrow our focus and produce a post. How many of you, like me, struggle with the direction of your writing? Last night, I had a long talk about my writing with my friend, Scott Biddulph. While many of my posts were satisfying to write, I questioned whether they added any value to our site. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, either, because I can certainly look at the numbers and recognize views. It was more an internal conflict:
- What should I write about next?
- When will I have the time to develop the topic?
- What will improve our site?
6. Fear of Not Reaching the Goal
Writing and publishing shouldn’t just be about celebrating significant accomplishments. Sure, it’s fantastic if:
- A post went viral
- The first-time writer reaches 50,000 hits in a day
- An unknown author ranks on The New York Times Best Seller’s list
Most of us aren’t that good, to begin with, nor do we have the kind of exposure necessary to be number one. But we can get followers if we keep improving. And those readers encourage us to publish more.
I’m a firm believer in goals, asking questions to arrive at conclusions, and taking the variables into account. Sometimes when I get answers to the questions, I can get on with the business of writing. But for some writers, there’s an interesting thing that happens.
We set up the perfect writing environment while the coffee is brewing. All of the animals are fed and napping. We’ve finally decided our topic. We look through all the files to see if we happen to have a great quote, image, or some interesting facts related to the topic.
Then we have to decide if we’ve got a title, or will it emerge from the writing? If you’re still reading, we’ve wasted about three minutes and only written filler. Too often, that first draft is not our best writing. So what do some people do? They trash it. Then they can feel inadequate.
Instead of finding the bones of the piece, they rearrange the furniture, make a project out of cleaning out the closet, take the animals out, drink more coffee, and wonder about yet another topic.
Forget the Pets and Projects, Work on Your Post!
I think some of the best advice I’ve read is from Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. She admonishes us with: “Don’t cross out. (That’s editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar…Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.”
I have to sit at the desk and write. After I’ve written, and not crossed out, edited, or revised, I can sit back and feel a sense of accomplishment. Why? Not because it was the best writing, but because I didn’t put it off or give in to my fears.
Certainly, if what I created that day doesn’t meet the publishing criteria, I don’t publish it but revise, edit, or polish it the next day. I still feel productive about what I created, though. Not every post is stellar, to begin with; some are going to take revising, editing, reworking, and sitting for a day or two. That’s the nature of writing.
Make Mistakes and Learn from Them
Getting better at any task takes practice, making mistakes, learning from them, trying not to repeat the errors, and a fierce desire to improve. It’s the same with writing.
The good news, though, is that unlike a missed pass in football, we have the luxury of the edit. Who cares that your syntax was wrong in your first draft, you overuse a word, or you got so far off track that no one could follow the logic. We writers can edit, and for me, that removes many of the fears.
So the next time you write, think of an edit as a way to overcome your fears, whatever they may be, and when you’re finished, submit. Part of our mission at Two Drops of Ink is to provide a platform for all things literary. Check out our monthly contributors on the home page and know that they overcame their fears, and you can, too.
Maybe what’s missing from our site is your submission. Ready to stop procrastinating and give readers a new voice?
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis
Davis is Editor-in-Chief at twodropsofink.com, a literary blog, where she continues to encourage collaborative writing. The site’s writers are poets, problem-solvers for writers and bloggers, as well as those who educate, entertain, and enchant us with the written word. The writers represent different countries, viewpoints, and opinions from around the world.
Davis is a Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist who opened and operated an award-winning residential facility between 1990 and 2011; the facility was called North House. She recently celebrated 32 years of abstinence-based recovery.
Davis is the author of Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System and Editor-in-chief of her blog, fromaddict2advocate.com.
She recently published her memoir, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate. Before Davis’ recovery, she was a desperate woman on drugs, managing bands at night, and giving up her children. A chance encounter with a 74-year old Native American named Gray Hawk showed her that healing would include meetings and steps, and would also provide a house of healing for other women. This encounter with Gray Hawk helped her realize that opening North House was her purpose.
In 2008, Brenau University created the Marilyn Davis Community Service Learning Award, which honors individuals working in recovery and mental health. In 2010, Marilyn received the Liberty Bell award, given to non-judges and attorneys for contributions to the criminal justice system and communities.