How to Stop Procrastinating as a Writer
We’ve all been there. A quiet moment hits. We think, “this is it! The moment I can sit down and write!” We meander over to our laptops or notebooks or whatever and have barely settled back in our seats before we’re up again, doing absolutely anything but writing.
Writer procrastination hits hard.
But why? Why do we as writers constantly avoid doing the very thing we claim to love? What is it about actually sitting down and writing that is so difficult?
There are a lot of answers out there, just as there are a lot of techniques and ways to combat this phenomenon. Everything from setting a timer to locking yourself in your office under pain of starvation until your word count is met (which I don’t recommend).
But in this post, I don’t want to talk about those methods. I want to talk about what I believe is the root beneath our tendency to put off writing: writer guilt.
Hold on, doesn’t not writing lead to writer guilt? Sadly, yes. It’s a vicious cycle.
Let me paint a picture for you. It’s Sunday, 8:00 pm. I’ve spent the whole weekend at church running events and teaching (I work in Student Ministry). I’ve worked hard all week to prepare and haven’t had a single second to sit down and work on my WIP.
But now it’s almost bedtime. I have the next day off. Surely, this means I can take a peek at my google docs. So I open my document and open my chapter to edit.
And then all I can think about is the dishes that need doing. Or the cat-litter-covered floors that desperately need to be vacuumed. And suddenly, I feel guilty for writing. So up I go, to vacuum at bedtime until it’s now too late to responsibly stay up and write.
And then I feel terrible that I put off my writing. I just can’t win.
Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that writing is inherently a selfish desire. Especially if our writing isn’t earning us an income.
And it makes sense. Writing is generally a solo activity. You sit behind a computer and appear to do nothing. You separate yourself from your family so you can focus. You choose this action over others you could be doing.
All to play pretend with words and machinations of your imagination.
When put like that, it does feel selfish. That’s why I procrastinate on my writing. Not because I don’t want to do it, but because I have convinced myself I need to “earn” the right to write. I’ve let myself believe I am not allowed to write unless every conceivable need in my house has been met so that I have “permission” to “waste time”.
Friends, let us not fall prey to this dangerous mindset. Our time spent writing is just as valid and good as our time spent doing chores. Writing is an exercise of the mind and expression of our creative natures.
All of us, as humans, are made to create in some capacity. If we deny this aspect of our nature, we deny part of what makes us human.
As writers, we create whole words and nuanced characters. We tell stories to entertain, teach, and change lives. We seek to create a space for others to disappear into, to experience the magic of a world not their own. A safe space to escape the overwhelming trials of this world.
This work is valuable. To the reader. To the writer. To the One who made us to spin stories.
So don’t fall into trap of believing you have to earn the right to write. Don’t believe you can only enjoy your passion after every single chore is done. Embrace the fact that writing is important. Your words matter, and there are people out there starving to read them.
Don’t procrastinate. The dishes can wait. Your words cannot.