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.
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.”