Just Swallow The Frog!

This post is written to link with an online discussion at katemotaung.com on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.  Today I’m posting on Chapter 5: Write- I sit down and put words to paper.

Green Tree Frog
This is probably my favourite chapter of the book so far.  Moving yourself from the desire to write to actually taking action and doing it can seem like a massive step, and, if there was a prize for procrastination, I think I’d be a serious contender.

I loved how Charity expresses in the book that the reasons we find writing hard are exactly the same reasons we feel compelled to write.  We feel a calling to write because “we have something to say that can only come from us” but find it difficult because “the emotional work required to move these struggles from my heart to the page is tiring and occasionally frightening.  Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s worth it.”  That exactly describes (and far more eloquently) what I was trying to say in my post last week.  And that is a major reason for my procrastination.

A few days ago, as I considered the 31 Days Challenge, I decided to make a list of potential topics for the different posts.  (I am still undecided about whether to do it.)  I had an hour free before I was going out to meet some friends, so I planned to use the time to focus on this task but I found it hard to get started.  It surprised me how resistant I was to doing it- suddenly I had to check emails, look at Facebook, read news articles- there were a million things that suddenly seemed to be vying for my time and attention- anything but what I had planned to do.

I think I only managed about 15 minutes in the end before I had to leave- so I came up with another plan.  I was going to have a 45 minute train journey so I took my notebook and decided that I would continue on the train.  When I got to the station the platform was mobbed.  There were obviously going to be a lot of people on the train and I realised that the chances of having a seat to myself were very slim.  I breathed a little sigh of relief, as I had no intention of working on something so personal with a random stranger sitting beside me, but I could hardly believe it when I got on the train and ended up with a seat to myself!  I took it as God prompting me to get on with it, and managed to make some progress- and actually once I had started it was easier than I had expected and the ideas began to flow and it was fine.  The main hurdle to get over was to actually get started on doing it.  If we wait for the conditions to be perfect, we will never do anything.

This leads on to the second point that Charity makes: that we are drawn to write because great writing inspires us and we want to do it too, but we can be held back from doing it if we are seeking to do it perfectly.

This is why I think Five Minute Friday is a great idea. You are given a prompt so you have something to write about, it’s a small time commitment that is very manageable, no-one is expecting perfection and people respond not to judge or criticise, but to encourage.  Even if it is only for five minutes once a week, it makes you write.  There are times when I sit down to write having no idea what I want to say and then something just flows out of me that I’d never even realised was there.  I have also gained a lot of encouragement and inspiration from reading other people’s posts.

So, what is the answer to procrastination?  I don’t have any amazing fresh insights on this, but the steps I recognise are: deciding on a time to do it, making that a priority, and then just doing it- leaving the fear and perfectionism to one side just long enough to get started…

Or as Mark Twain is reported to have said, “If you know you have to swallow a frog, swallow it first thing in the morning. If there are two frogs, swallow the big one first.”

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15 thoughts on “Just Swallow The Frog!

  1. I so enjoyed your Mark Twain quote. I just quoted it to my grandchildren who are arguing about morning chores. I really enjoyed your train story. I could visualize you writing away. Let’s keep writing.

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  2. Last year was the first time I participated in the 31 days challenge and it blessed me in so many ways. I will be participating again this year and think I know what my topic will be! 🙂 I enjoy Five Minute Friday as well. Yes, lets keep writing. And that Mark Twain quote so made me smile!

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    1. It’s great to hear how much the 31 Days challenge has blessed you and I’ll look forward to reading your posts this year. The quote made me smile too- and it’s definitely advice I need to take on board!

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  3. Great insights here! Love how you’re aware of your struggles, and how you’ve resolved to move beyond them. Well done! Would obviously *love* to have you join the fun for the 31 Days challenge — sounds like you’ve got a great head start! Thanks for writing and linking up, and for being part of Five Minute Friday!

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  4. carly, i have been in a class for the past month that has helped us learn how to prepare for and write a 31 day challenge. In terms of the writing, one of the first things is to write chapter titles for the 31 days. I didn’t do the final ones, but tentative ones will help you organize your plan for the 31 days…giving yourself the first day to introduce the series and maybe yourself and the last day to tie up loose ends.

    Then setting goals for writing your posts, making very simple buttons for the page (125×125 pixels) and coming up with a title for your series. these are just a few of the things that need to be done. they recommend writing it in word and transferring it daily to your post. that way you will have it all in word and it will be easy to make it into an ebook with some simple editing and maybe a few additions for ends of chapters. by having a month ahead to get it ready, you won’t need to have a stressful month during october!

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    1. Martha, thank you for all your tips and advice. That is really helpful. I realised if I am going to do it (which I probably will) I want to do it well and I know I definitely won’t have time in October to do it all if I wait until then to get started. I think having a plan for the different posts is really important and I’d also hope to have a lot written in advance as otherwise I think it would become too stressful.

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  5. Loved your post. Loved the Twain quote (not meaning to belittle your writing, which was wonderful), but the frog imagery is one you just can’t get out of your head! Love how you note that perfection so often goes hand in hand with procrastination….(I often find that when I’m having trouble focusing, even after I’ve meditated to clear my head, if I journal (free writing) for a minute or two, that helps me get all the ‘mess’ out of my head (that’s distracting me), allowing me to have a ‘clearer’ head to write. It seems to help me get over the stumbling block of expecting perfection: as my son said to me today (which was very wise for a 9 year old), “Mama, there can’t be any such thing as perfection because everyone’s opinion of what would be perfect is different”. It holds even for individuals: I know when I look back on what I thought was ‘good’ writing of my own, I’m horrified! Our own goal posts move so far, change so much, that when we act in a way where we’re constantly strive for perfection, we only ever achieve the state of thwarting ourselves. What’s the solution? Who knows…! (But there must be a reason I heard a voice, loud and clear, say to me, the other day ‘Do what you have to do”. It wasn’t stated as an instruction more as an invitation).

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    1. Thanks, Helen. I love the quote too and I know I have a long way to go before I will be as good a writer as Mark Twain! That’s a great point your son made about how we have different opinions about what perfection is. And yes, we change our minds about our idea of “good” writing too. I’ve also found that sometimes I write and think it’s awful and then later I go back and look at it and find it’s not as bad as I thought and there are bits I like and want to use.

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      1. I think that’s the key to writing well isn’t it….getting the first draft out there, out of our heads, and then seeing what can be salvaged which, with good editing, could potentially turn in to something really worthwhile….(Wow, that sounds like a whole lot of work!! But work we’re willing to do, I’m sure!!!)….have a GREAT day! I’m busy busy with my day job but will catch up on your posts at the weekend. Helen

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  6. I wholeheartedly agree! The excuses will never end if I let myself start with them. And also- the desire for perfection, as you discussed, is also a big-time deterrent. And I agree that the Five Minute Friday is great medicine for that. It’s such an encouraging, welcoming community– not one to be feared! And I love how often I am surprised by what comes out of me during those times. Sometimes I’m so shocked by what I discover inside myself that I don’t post it at all– instead, I take it back to God in private and work through it with Him. But those five minutes of *just doing it* are always great to get the gears in motion. Many times other, more lengthy, writings have been birthed out of those FMF prompts.

    Thank you for sharing.

    And: I LOVE the Mark Twain quote and your title! Perfect!!!

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