When You Avoid Writing, Ask Yourself 1 Question

It’s time to be honest with yourself.

I have a confession to make.

For the past month, I’ve kind of been … procrastinating.

This is not an unfamiliar habit. It’s something I’ve learned to work around instead of work through. It usually doesn’t impact my life too drastically.

Except lately, I’ve been staring at one unfinished project — and several I have yet to start — unable to fight the urge to turn and sprint in the opposite direction.

Again — not the end of the world. These are personal projects. No one’s waiting on me to get my act together. Which is exactly the problem.

I’m terrified to finish and start these things. There’s no denying that.

But when you come to a problem like this, you can’t just identify the emotional trenches separating you from your work and expect to build bridges to cross them.

You have to ask yourself a question that takes you deeper.

It’s no secret, to you, that you’re afraid. But …

What are you afraid OF?

What’s the dark and twisty obstacle standing so menacingly in front of you that you just can’t sit down and write this thing you desperately want to write?

There’s something there. Even if you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is.

Fear is a writer’s biggest roadblock on the path to success.

It’s not indecisiveness or self-doubt or distractions.

It’s being afraid of … something.

Maybe you’re afraid your final product won’t be good … or that it WILL be, and yet the results won’t be everything you hoped they would.

Maybe you’re scared of losing yourself in a story that isn’t real. Getting lost in a story can be terrifying.

Part of you likely wonders if you’re even good enough to write something worth reading — and you’re afraid that everyone who has ever told you otherwise lied to your face.

If you want to stop procrastinating — and stop letting your fear hold you back — you need to be honest with yourself. You need to look your specific fears straight in the face and close the distance between them and you — until they’re not scary anymore.

That might mean feeling like your writing isn’t good, but continuing to write anyway.

It might mean submitting your work to editors, agents, or publishers, even if you have to embellish your confidence in your queries just a little bit.

It might mean failing, if only to be reminded that failure is not a dead end, but a stepping stone toward something else.

Acknowledge that you are afraid.

Identify your specific fears.

Figure out how to take them down — and do it.

No one else is going to do any of these things for you. It’s time to take charge of your writing life. Fear may be a legitimate excuse, but it’s still an excuse. Don’t waste your potential because of an irrational worry. Trust me.

I may not want to finish writing my book, because it’s going to take a lot of work, and I’m afraid that all the hours I’m going to pour into it this year will all be for nothing.

But do you know what? I’m going to finish writing my book anyway.

Why? Because there’s a story to be told. That’s more important than a few little fears.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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12 thoughts on “When You Avoid Writing, Ask Yourself 1 Question

    1. What do you think “good” storytelling is? Can you try to learn to write stories like that? Maybe framing it that way can help you get past that. :)

      1. Maybe you’re just setting your standards of “good enough” too high for yourself. Not to say that you can’t achieve what you want to achieve, but it sounds like you’re discouraged by something very far off in the distance for you. To me, “good enough” is nothing more than writing the best you can write and accepting that for what it is. I don’t know if that makes sense.

  1. Meg, I love your posts. I was just thinking about this today. Writers have to be brave and bold and courageous. Fear and “what iffing” yourself is a guaranteed recipe for crummy writing. You have to write like you’re a super star, even if you’re not.

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