Writing and the Procrastinator – Part One

One of the biggest problems I have with writing is staying put in the chair.

Whenever I’m sitting in the chair to write, I want to run. Anything and everything is a void excuse to get up and do something else. And if I make myself stay there, then my back or my neck starts to ache. We won’t even get into the slight pain in my head. It makes me wonder if maybe I’m trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

I question whether of not I am really meant to write. I say I love writing, but it feels like pure torture while I’m doing it. Well, not all the time, but a lot of the time. Does that mean I should be writing? Or is the problem deeper? Or is it simple procrastination?

According to an article posted on Oregon State University’s Academic Success Center’s website that was adapted fromThe Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, there are six reasons people procrastinate: skill deficit, lack of interest, lack of motivation, fear of failure, fear of success, or rebellion or resistance.

For years, I thought that writing was challenging because I didn’t know enough to do it well. My procrastination was a result of a skill deficit. I went back to school to learn how to write. Two rounds of Graduate school didn’t make writing easier. It taught me that writing well is a skill that takes requires more than just head knowledge. It has to be practiced over many hours with many, many drafts. However, if I’m honest, it’s the drafts that make me feel inadequate as writer. I struggle to get the words right. But that’s a problem most writers have. Anne Lamott even wrote a whole chapter in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life about “shitty first drafts” that cautions writers about expecting too much from themselves:

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said that you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)

Maybe the real issue is the belief that the words should flow easier from brain to page. There shouldn’t be the push and pull of discover and understanding as you write. You shouldn’t have to grapple over meaning. You should just be able to write what you thought you were going write. But it doesn’t always work that way. Writing is discovery. You start off thinking that you are writing about one thing and discover along the way that it’s really about something else entirely. The more you write the more you learn about yourself and your subject. And that takes time.

Some of the resistance to sitting in the chair could be the knowledge that it might take a while to get the work done. And in this instant gratification world with which we live, it’s hard to slow down and work at something. We just want it done.

Today is the perfect example. The plan was to whip this blog off in thirty minutes, then go get my nails done. That was almost two hours ago and I’ve only touched the surface of writing and the procrastinator.

I guess I will save it for tomorrow.  

Until next time. . .

Thoughts???

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