I frequently hear from writers who are trying out some new system of organization. Sometimes it’s a simple bullet journal or an old-fashioned planner, and sometimes it’s a much more complicated affair, like learning organizational guru David Allen’s system for productivity. Whatever it is, I always cringe when the writer who is struggling tells me this. Because I know they’re not on the path to recovery. In fact, they’ve made the problem even worse.
Don’t get me wrong, planners and systems can work—for people with normal levels of procrastination and perfectionism. But the struggling writers who work with me don’t have normal levels of either. They have toxic procrastination, and crippling perfectionism, and they’ve usually been struggling with both for years.
Toxic procrastination and crippling perfectionism are not a matter of being disorganized or not understanding time management. They are psychological issues, with deep emotional roots, and they are intertwined with each other like poisonous, fast-growing vines. They both stem from underlying feelings of low self-worth, and what keeps them alive and going strong is shame and guilt.
That’s why organizational systems not only DON’T work for these types of writers, but actually make the problem so much worse. Because the moment the writer can’t keep up with the system, the moment they get confused, or miss a day, or don’t do a task on the list, for whatever reason, it triggers an avalanche of shame and guilt, and it’s like throwing gasoline onto a fire. The shame and guilt exacerbate the already-low self-worth, which makes them double down on pushing themselves harder, to do better, to reject themselves as they are, right now, in this imperfect state.
And then they end up right back where they started, desperately hunting for a system that will take them out of this awful place, where they feel like garbage and a total loser because they can’t seem to get anything done.
I talk more in-depth in the video below about why these systems don’t work and how we can begin to move toward something better:
I just released a new video course, all about toxic procrastination and crippling perfectionism, and how we can interrupt the cycle of both and begin a new kind of creative life, one in which we don’t constantly feel flawed and wrong. If this is speaking to you, make sure you check out the course HERE. I designed it specifically for writers of the INFJ and INFP personality type who have tried everything and still can’t seem to get started no matter what they do. This could be the course that changes everything for you.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, The INFJ Revolution, and the creator of Intuitive Writing, a six-step online video course for INFJ and INFP writers who struggle with writing. She is also currently offering a free copy of her book on creative marketing for INFJ and INFP writers to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. SIGN UP HERE to get your free copy of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers.