A year ago I subscribed to a 30-day creative writing challenge.
On day two, the writing prompt was a dialogue between our inner critic and our artist self.
I happen to not really have such a big inner critic, thank God, but I am a great procrastinator, so I gave my procrastination (P) a voice instead.
This is what I wrote:
Waking up at 5.15am, after a good nights’ sleep ( I went to bed at 8pm and slept through the whole night), the first thing P says is:
“Great! Only 5.15am, loads of time…what shall we do: a game of Scrabble, some reading…anything else we can do here in bed? Meditating? It is soooooo comfy in here, and there’s no money-making work waiting for us today anyway.”
Me: “Oh come on P, we talked about this last night! We were going to get out of bed as soon as we would wake up. No delays! Remember? And you know very well that meditating in bed turns into hours of random trains of thought.”
P: “OK, I forgot about that promise…but are you sure you don’t want to stay in bed a little longer, I mean, all those healthy routines you are going to be doing next, do you never get tired of all that?”
Me: “Tired? Are you crazy? It’s what makes me tick all day! It’s what keeps me healthy, and balanced and motivated!
If it weren’t for you I would be doing that every day of my life. Why do you have to try and talk me out of it every single day? Do you never get tired of THAT? Jeez! It’s thanks to you that I gave up running already, while it used to make me feel really good.”
P: “Well, I have been hired for it, haven’t I, to keep you from doing stuff? And what’s this writing thing, are you going to add that to the whole routine-machine as well?
There’s going to be no end to all those things that you will want to do every day. You’re making it harder and harder for yourself to do it all. It must be quite overwhelming for you every day…(I can hear the sarcastic snicker in her voice)…I bet you cannot keep it up even for those 30 days, let alone for the rest of your life…”
Me: “I know you want me to think that I can’t do it, because that’s your job. Well, let’s bet your job over this: If I succeed to write 30 days in a row, you will lose your job for good. If I don’t finish these 30 days, you can hang around some more and get another chance in defeating my efforts (“but I will keep trying anyway”, I whisper under my voice). Is that a deal?”
P: “Sure. I betcha you can’t finish it!”
Me: “I betcha you will be without a job in 30 days!”
So almost a month after I wrote this dialogue, I fired my procrastination from its job, since I had fulfilled the 30-day challenge. I had written every damn day for 30 days. I felt more alive than ever, and was gung-ho about starting my blog and book. I was going to do it!
I was so motivated, that I overcame all my fears for the digital world (I used to call myself a proper digital dinosaur), and even figured out how to make this website on my own (I became quite intimate with some of the help-desk staff of my web-provider). It took me two months, but I did it. And it looks pretty good, doesn’t it?.
In December I was ready to start blogging, and I kept it up till the end of May. I didn’t aim too high, so I only posted every 10 days or so, thinking it would be easier to crank up the frequency and boost my confidence than having to slow down, feeling defeated.
Living the secluded life I live, I have reduced my social circle to the bare minimum. I am one of those people that is very happy on her own. Now that turned out to be my major handicap. I was writing loads of inspired and fun stories, with interesting takeaways, but had barely a handful of people reading them.
It reminded me of that famous Koan: “When a tree falls in the forest, but there’s no-one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I started to lose momentum, leaving bigger gaps between posts every time.
I wasn’t ready to give up, but I knew I needed a readership if I wanted to stay motivated. The only way to do that, was getting my ass out of my cocoon and venture out into the world to connect with people and invite them to read my words.
I was not happy about that prospect. That is hard work, and it involves social media. I have a certain disdain for social media, apart from the fact that they scare the shit out of me (link). I don’t like to be in the spotlight, and find it very hard to be in groups. Getting my words out there was going to be a major personal challenge in multiple ways.
Then I saw the ad for Elephant Academy, an apprenticeship promising me to learn everything about social media, journalism ethics, writing and (self-)editing. That sounded like the perfect medicine for my ailing writer-self.
I signed up and got very busy with it. I got more than a dozen articles published in Elephant Journal.
I took the busyness of the apprenticeship as a proper excuse to completely withdraw from my blog. I didn’t look at it for 3 months straight, and didn’t even feel guilty about it. I needed a break from it, obviously, and then recoup.
Now the apprenticeship is over. I learned a lot, feel much better equipped, and I have received a lot of validation for my writing over the last three months, so I know I should continue. Basically, there is no excuse to not pick up my blogging again, and get my words out there through social media.
So what’s keeping me, you ask?
That stinky bitch—kicked her out a year ago, but she snuck back in through the backdoor. Now I have to find a way to get rid of her again.
I have several stories going, but none of them want to evolve into an interesting, fun article with a good takeaway for the readers, so I walk away from them quickly.
I am starting to fail my writer-self big time, spending days without seriously sitting down to write creatively. I’m working half-heartedly on my social media network, but could definitely do much more there too.
I am back to procrastinating, big time. But I don’t like it, and don’t want it.
Then my friend and writer Lindsay Lock posted these words on Facebook:
“Have you noticed…how moving toward a great dream summons from life’s jungles the fiercest lions, the scariest tigers, the grizzliest bears…who eventually turn out to be the noblest teachers, the bravest guides, and the dearest friends? You’re on your way. ”
My comment was: “It’s funny when we get the courage to look fear straight in the face, its face changes immediately!”
And then it struck me: I was saying it right there, but not doing it. Walk your talk, Leontien, and face your fears, your major blocks!
So I decided literally to get back to writing and working on my social media network by looking procrastination straight in the face, investigating it, learn everything about it, and write about it. I will be looking into all the fears that lie hidden beneath it, and look each one of them in the eye, to see what they can turn into. It’s going to be fun. I’ll be breaking through procrastination in no time.
One of the quotes that came to my mind in this process, was this one:
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” – Lao Tzu.
To break free from the prison of our own procrastination we only have to take one step.
This blog post is the first step. The next one will tell you everything about procrastination in general and mine in particular. I bet we can all learn something from it.
See you all in a few days!