Are you a writer who struggles with procrastination? Well, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with hundreds of struggling writers and procrastination is one of the most commonly reported problems and sources of dissatisfaction among writers that I see in my coaching practice.
Most writers know that procrastination is the problem, but many of us don’t know exactly WHY. I’ve outlined my list of the top 5 causes of procrastination in writers that I see all the time in my clients and students.
Picture this: You’re sitting around relaxing, scrolling through Instagram, when suddenly you see a post from a writer friend: “So excited! Just signed on with my dream agent! Woo-hoo!!!” Instantly, your stomach drops and you feel slightly nauseous, and then two seconds later you feel guilty as hell. There’s no denying it, you’re jealous, even though you wish so badly that you weren’t. You genuinely DO want to be happy for your friend. But if that’s true, then why does her writing success feel so awful?
Then, you try to find something to distract yourself. You check your email and find a newsletter from another writer, someone you don’t know personally but whom you admire. Their latest book just won a prestigious award, and again, you get that sinking feeling in your gut. You’ve been dreaming of such an honor for years, and yet, here you still are, slogging away on a half-finished novel, with no end in sight, much less any awards coming your way.
And again, you feel that awful mix of envy and shame that just makes you want to crawl into a hole and never come out again.
Writing a memoir is one of those things that sounds like it should be easy. You’re just telling a story about your life experiences, right?
Writing memoir can actually be quite difficult, especially if you’re focusing on life experiences that were painful or traumatic, or may even be hard for other people to believe. Much of the time, if a writer has never delved into writing memoir before, they assume that they just need to start at the beginning, move through events as they happened, and add clarifying details for the reader all along the way.
We all have good writing days and bad writing days. If you’re a writer who writes even somewhat regularly, you know that’s just the way it goes. But sometimes, it seems we imperceptibly move into a place with our writing when it’s not just a bad writing day that’s getting us down, it’s more like a persistent, low-key feeling of unease and anxiety about writing overall. When this undercurrent of unhappiness becomes the status quo in our writing life, then we feel like every writing day is a bad day.
This can easily occur when we place way too much pressure and expectation on our writing. For some writers, this happens constantly whether or not they’re sharing their writing with anyone else. However, for most writers, this most often happens when we’re making our writing public online, or we’re hoping to get accepted by a publication or an agent. Suddenly, we’re in a position of having our writing judged, and possibly found wanting, and it feels awful.
The fear of judgment is an obvious (and very real) thing for a lot of writers and so, of course, some writers get triggered when they put themselves out there on the internet or submit their work to outside parties, but there’s something else that is ALSO usually going on in tandem with the fear of judgement, and that’s attachment to outcome.
In my last article, How Your Brain Sabotages Your Writing Process (and What to Do About It), I talked about how writers with trauma around creativity and self-expression are often taken down during the writing process because their nervous system gets freaked out when they sit down to write.
When the nervous system gets freaked out, it sends danger signals to the brain warning that the creative process needs to be shut down immediately. The brain then sees any creative effort the writer is making as an imminent threat in the vicinity and takes action to stop the writer from writing, usually through some insidious form of writer’s block (freezing, paralysis, distraction, sleepiness, etc.).
The big question most writers have when they discover this is what’s going on with them and why they have so many problems writing is: How do I make my nervous system stop doing that?