The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 6: All Procrastination is Fear

Once upon a semester when I was an undergraduate in college many years ago, I took a full load of classes, worked two part-time jobs – one at an architects’ office for a few hours every afternoon, the other as a waitress at a high-end restaurant Friday-Sunday nights – had a serious, committed relationship with a boyfriend that needed regular tending, and a kept up a very active social life full of friends and family visits and nights out with girlfriends.

It exhausts me just thinking about it now. Where did I get the energy? 

But that semester, the one full to the brim with activities and relationships and school work and paid work, and another semester very much like it later in my college career, I made the Dean’s List. When I had less going on in my life, I still did well in college, grade-wise, but, alas, no Dean’s List.

It took me a while to figure out that the more I had to do, the more I could do, and the better I could do it. 

As writers, we often feel like we need vast expanses of uninterrupted time to create our great work, or even that 500 word blog post that needs to get published by close of business today.

“If only I had all day to write,” we think, “how much I could get done.” Oh, for an entire day stretched out before us with no obligations to distract from the work at hand. Or for a series of days like that, even better. Oh, yes. It sounds positively dreamy.

I don’t know about you, but even when I do manage to get that blissfully uninterrupted day of writing space, I don’t always use it well.

Sometimes on these days, I find distractions.  Seek them out, I tell you. On purpose.

Here’s this thing I love doing above all else, this thing I want so badly to have more unfettered time to do, yet when the time to do it does present itself, I don’t always use it well.

It’s maddening.

And so I think back to those halcyon college days, days of knocking out research and socializing and studying and boyfriend time and 20 page papers on terrorism in literature (I am not making that up) without once uttering, “I don’t have enough time,” and I wonder how I can get that groove back. The groove in which I just suck it up and get.the.work.done, instead of frittering away time reading the latest articles on Huffington Post or Muck Rack Daily.

I recently listened to a podcast in which writer Elizabeth Gilbert was having a conversation with another writer about this topic. This writer, a mother of two young children, desperately wanted uninterrupted time to write, yet when she got it, she didn’t work on her book.

What Gilbert shared with her was this:

All procrastination is fear. Anything you do that stops you from doing the work that is gnawing at you, the work that wants to be made through you, the creative project that’s begging you to release it, the treasures that are hidden inside of you, anything you do that blocks that is fear. And it might look like fear very obviously or it might not – fear has a lot of shady disguises. Fear shows up as perfectionism, fear shows up as insecurity, fear shows up as guilt, fear shows up as procrastination. All of it is just something that you’re too scared to do.

Aha. So if this thing that prevents me from writing when I actually have time to write is fear, then the best way to deal with it – not overcome it, because I don’t know if that’s possible, but deal with it – is to sit down in front of the computer and write anyway, in spite of whatever shady disguise fear chooses to wear that day.

Just write, every day. Even if the writing is bad. Even if it’s nonsensical. Even if it never rises to the level of publishable or shareable.

That’s partly what I’m trying to accomplish with this 30-day project – I’m hoping that by making myself accountable to write & publish here daily, no matter what, I can learn to kick that procrastination, er, I mean fear, devil right where he lives.

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