The Root of Excuses

Moving into a new house is the ultimate source of procrastination material. 

Sure, I could work, but I'll REALLY feel accomplished if I assemble that new IKEA bookshelf...
Right. Because that definitely couldn't wait another day. 
Oh crap, I can't get back to work! I haven't finished my desk yet. Can't work without an office...
Uh huh. As if I didn't work at the dining room table in our previous home. Yeesh! Talk about self-sabotage.

Granted, my new office is super exciting, and I put a lot of effort into designing my desk and getting everything just the way I wanted it. There were more than a few obstacles and unexpected expenses involved, but I'm happy to say that the desk is finally finished, functional, and gorgeous:

 Obligatory photo of awesome results.

Obligatory photo of awesome results.

And the best part? The desk is topped with a piece of glass. Ergo, MY ENTIRE DESK IS A WHITEBOARD, GUYS!

I'm trying to get over how awesome this feature is, but I've written on the glass so much already that resisting my delight is pointless. I LOVE MY WHITEBOARD DESK SO MUCH I CAN HARDLY STAND IT!

Ahem. Now that that's behind me...onward to productivity!

After the desk was assembled, the ladder shelves were spray-painted, and I found and unpacked my office boxes, I was more or less out of excuses. My June goal reflection didn't hurt, either. Those numbers were pathetically bad, even with the house move mid-month.  

Yesterday, I was alone in the house for the first time since the desk was fully assembled and ready to go. The 4th holiday was behind me, and I was out of excuses. It was time to suck it up and write, or admit that I was too scared to dive back in.

That's the thing, though, isn't it? Choosing to write is scary as hell. I hadn't opened my work in progress for over a month. I knew there were countless holes to fill in for the prep work thus far: character development issues, plot holes, voice free-writing...you name it. With so much on my to-do list, why was it so difficult to sit my butt down at my beautiful desk and get started?

For me, the heart of this procrastination and resistance is fear. Or more accurately, perhaps, fears. Plural.

What if I fail?
What if this book isn't as good as I want it to be?
What if nobody wants to read it? 
What if I can't fill the various holes that need to be filled?
What if it's boring?
What if Andrew reads it and thinks I'm rubbish?
What if I never, ever sell a book?
What if...?
What if...?
What if...?

These unhelpful voices can be deceptively loud and intrusive. They feel so significant, in fact, that they must be valid points. Mustn't they?

Perhaps our fears are worth delving into. A few examples:

What if I fail? How do I define success? If I sit my butt in a chair and write, I have already succeeded. I'm doing something I love and feel compelled to pursue. Failure, then, is only present when I choose not to sit down and (at least attempt to) write. 

What if this book isn't as good as I want it to be? Of course it won't be that good! Nobody's book comes out exactly as they've envisioned in their mind, every description complete and evocative, every character fully developed with a spot-on voice. But it will still be my story, and it is still worth writing, no matter how different the result is from my vision.

What if nobody wants to read it? How arrogant of me, to assume that I'm the only person on the planet with my interests! Odds are there is someone else out there who'd like my book. And if not, so what? I wrote it for me, because I needed to write the story down. That in itself can be enough, and if it isn't, why exactly am I writing?  

What if Andrew reads it and thinks I'm rubbish? This is, perhaps, the silliest fear of all in my case. I am married to the most supportive, encouraging, fantastically generous man on the planet. He is constructive in his criticism, and gentle when offering his opinion. His reaction to my story will only make me better, as does his input in most areas of my life.

With my fears obliterated, I sat down at my desk yesterday, took a deep breath, and opened my current Scrivener project. And you know what? The time flew. I sped through various items on my to-do list, wrote ALL OVER my incredible desk, and tried to keep up with my brain as I had new ideas and filled various holes in my planning documents.

Am I done prepping and ready to start drafting? Not quite. Is everything perfect? HA! Never. But actually making the choice, choosing to sit down and work...that was easily the hardest part of the process. The act of writing comes back naturally and with (relative) ease as soon as I make the choice to dive in. 

So if you find yourself struggling to sit down and write...I challenge you to take a breath, sit down, and write. Face your fears. Respond to them in writing if you must! But sit down and come home to writing. Write out a few ideas, or simply sit and brainstorm. As Scott Westerfeld mentioned at an author event recently, much of the work of writing is actually thinking. Therefore thinking about your project is anything but wasted time. 

Be brave, friends! What has helped you overcome your writing fears in the past? As always, your experience is welcome in the comments.