Thursday, 8 August 2013

Talking Point: Self-Sabotage And Writing

I’ve always wanted to write a book. But I’m an epic procrastinator. I keep finding excuses not to do it, like…

-I don’t have any ideas. This was my initial excuse. Then I got some ideas. I was excited about them. And promptly found everything that was wrong with them. Now I have a lot of ideas, but I’m so weighed down with my own self-doubt I don’t know what to do with them.

-I’m not good enough. Did I mention my self-doubt? Yeah, I’m as good a doubter as I am a procrastinator. It’s kind of my thing. But I don’t want it to be my thing. I want to have confidence in my abilities. I want to do what I want, which is write. I’m so frustrated with myself for not just doing it already. Which brings me to…

-If it were meant to be, I would have done it by now. I’m 27 years old. I did a writing course over a year ago. I’ve wanted to write stories for as long as I can remember. But the fact I haven’t done it yet makes me doubt myself (there’s that word again!) and think I mustn’t really want it if I keep putting it off.

-I have to wait for the right moment to do it. I’m afraid if I write when I’m not in the “right” frame of mind, it’ll be terrible and put me off writing forever. Or it will stop me from writing something I'm "meant" to write. It's ridiculous and, of course, I know I’m waiting for something that may never happen, what with my anxiety and all.

-I need to sort out other areas of my life first. My floordrobe. This blog. An ailing computer. My health. So many things I tell myself I need to work out first before I can write a book. But I procrastinate over them, too, so nothing ever gets done. It’s a vicious cycle I’m stuck in.

-Others have done it, and because I haven’t it means I can’t. There are a few women in the same industry as me, around the same age, who obviously have similar ambitions. Except they’ve actually written their books and are getting them published. Rather than thinking, “if they can do it, I can”, my mind says, “they’ve done it, there must be something wrong with you if you haven’t.” Ah, comparisons - just another tool I use to beat myself up.

-I don't have the right motivation to write. I question why I want to write (like I question everything in my life). Is it because I just want to be published? Is it because I think I should? Because others want me to? Because others have, and I'm too damn competitive? Do I actually need to write? Deep down I know it's because I want to. I want to. I love stories, and I want to tell my own. I just need to get the courage to do so.

You see, more and more time passes and the excuses get bigger and feed each other and it just gets worse. I’m so angry with myself. But mostly I’m afraid. What it all comes down to is the fact that once I’ve done it, once I’ve started writing – or, dream of dreams, actually written a book – I can’t take it back. While nothing is written, it still has potential. It could still be great. If I actually write it, it could be awful. When you haven’t tried, you haven’t failed. Except, of course, that to never try would be the greatest failure of all.

I’m sorry if this post is kind of self-pitying and silly. I guess I just want to get the excuses out of my system. I also want to know if anyone else goes through the same thing or has experienced it before. Any advice would be most welcome! Or a metaphorical kick up the butt - I probably need a few of those.


  1. I've definitely been there...and even am there. I have a few ideas that I've been kicking around for YEARS, but have just never sat down to write. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Even when I was little-little, it was want I wanted to do. But what people don't tell you is that writing is HARD. It's so hard and you have to have so much motivation and do it like it is your job. Butt in the chair everyday whether you want to or not.

    There is no such thing as too late, though. For real, a TON of authors didn't get started until their 40s or 50s or even later. It truly is all about motivation.

    Do not get discouraged! You can do it! And whatever you write will be awesome and all of your blogger friends (and real friends and family, I'm sure) will fully support you.

    My advice and my butt-starting motivational tip is simple (and so much easier said that done): if you want to be a writer than you have to write. There is no easy way to do it. You have to sit in front of the computer day in and day out and bang those keys.

    1. I'm kinda glad it's not just me, although it sucks you are going through the same kind of stress.
      Thanks for your encouragement, it is so appreciated. And I would say right back atcha! We should both just sit down and write, eh? :)

  2. I totally understand. The most pressing problem is probably that fear of failure - that if you've never tried than in your mind it's easy to believe you're a brilliant writer, or could be if you just sat down and did it. But if you actually write it.... I haven't even wanted to be a writer all my life - just like the past 4 or 5 years I still have the same problems. The only way to achieve that dream is to actually sit down and write a little bit every day. If you really want it, truly, than make it more important than the floordrobe and the blog - decide what you want to do with your life and then spend a little bit of time each day doing exactly that.

    The thing that helps me tremendously is to read words from published and successful writers. I love Robin McKinley and I often refer to a few quotes from her that writing is always hard - no matter how many books you've written or how many have been published. There's another that being successful only makes books easier to sell, not easier to write.

    So, take Anne Lamont's advice and write a really bad first draft (she used other words, but I'm editing). I have to give myself permission all the time to write a bad first draft. And even a bad second draft. Just to get the darn thing written. Then I can edit. Then I can polish. Then it's almost the fun part.

    Also, 27 is totally, TOTALLY not too late :) I'm full of cliche'd quotes but I have a great one about exercise I try to remind myself of - that a year from now you'll wish you'd started today.

    1. I love all your quotes! They are awesome, and so wise. Maybe I should start a collection myself.
      I went to an event where Melina Marchetta was talking about how she feels anxious the whole first draft, and spends her time torn between thinking she's a total genius and a total failure. It's so reassuring to know that AMAZING, successful writers still feel that way. I guess it's just part of the nature of being creative. It doesn't make it any easier.
      I think you're so right, it's important to set perfectionism aside and write something, even if it is bad. That's what editing is for!
      Thanks Anniomaly.

    2. That's so cool that you got to go to an event and hear Melina Marchetta! She is so amazing and her books are just... brilliant.

      And, yes, that doubt must just be part of the creative process that we have to accept and learn not to trust the doubt - keep going despite it and see where we end up.

      Good luck! :)

  3. I wish I knew what to say.
    All I can think to write is, keep trying. Keep your chin up. Write just to write. Start with short stories maybe?
    PS LOVE the typewriter. I have a teal one too.

    1. Thanks Juju. Short stories are probably a great place to start.
      My husband bought me the typewriter for my birthday. I love it.

  4. Self doubt is the most crippling thing one can have, and that goes for just about anything, not just writing. We (writers) are our own worst critics, so trust me, you're not alone in your feelings. But hey, admitting it is the first step to conquering it, so you're halfway there!

    What you've got to do is stop thinking about writing and do it. Don't be afraid. You're not obligated to show your work to anyone until you feel ready. Practice, practice, practice! It's the only way to hone your craft. Just write. Make writing a habit--- write a journal entry, random musings, a short story, poetry, even a blog post (see! you're doing it already). Break it down into managable chunks --- 5min here and 20min there --- set goals for yourself that way you get to feel a sense of accomplishment when you meet those easy goals! And don't beat yourself up if you don't meet a word count or get to write for an entire hour like you wanted, because, at least you tried. If you write a little something every day and before you know it, you'll be well on your way to finishing your first novel.

    Hang in there, lady. We're all here to support you no matter what. Just make sure you're taking care of your health!

    1. Thanks Nikki! You speak some wise words :) I definitely need to apply these techniques. I need to stop listening to that voice in my head that doubts and questions. x

    2. No worries! It's one of those things that's definitely easier said than done. But once you're able to reach those little achievments, the bigger ones won't seem so hard. Best of luck in your writing! I know you can do it! :)

  5. I'm relating to this post so much, Belle! It's like you can read my mind.. I have paralysing self-doubt. There are so many things I want to do, but don't, because I doubt myself so much. And I know that it seems like the easy answer is just to accept that I can't control the outcome and give it a try anyway - but that's so much easier said than done. I know that I'm only holding myself back, but that doesn't make it any easier to stop. I just completely freeze up when I start to think that I might not be able to accomplish something I desperately want to.

    I honestly don't know what the answer is - although I have a feeling it's complicated and hard work :) But I really do get where you're coming from, and I understand how awful it feels. If it helps at all, I know that loads of people believe in you and what you can do - even if you're not quite there yourself yet :)

    1. It sucks that you go through it too but it is good in a way to know we're not alone. I agree it's probably complicated and hard work. Maybe it's a matter of shutting out the doubts and just plunging in. OK, much easier said than done!
      Thank you for your lovely comment, and right back at you! You are a beautiful writer (and photographer, and person!) and I know you can do amazing things. x

  6. I just this :) Thank Belle! *hugs*