What is it about writers and doubt, writers and their inner fears, writers and all the myriad insecurities we face daily?
No matter how confident and sure we become due to our past achievements, there’s always something new ahead to make us pause. So we have to be vigilant in pushing ourselves forward to meet the new challenges of new projects.
I sometimes equate procrastination to dandelion weed. You can dig up dandelions for hours and never catch them all. You can spray or pour boiling water on them. You can even swear at them. But before you know it, more of their happy yellow faces are shining up at you, each jeering merrily, “You can’t get rid of me!”
The tiny, fluffy seeds of procrastination are forever floating in the air of my office, ready to take root when I least expect it. No matter how professional I am, I can still find myself tricked by this particular delaying tactic. It pops up when and where I least expect it.
For example, a few days ago I decided to pursue a new market opportunity. I’m excited about it and looking forward to the project. It’s fresh. It’s something I haven’t written about in a long time. I’m eager to get started.
Or so I thought.
On Monday I started thinking about what pseudonym I wanted to use. Like many writers, I enjoy the chance to put on a “new” persona from time to time. Pseudonyms shouldn’t be casually chosen. Many factors go into a good one–factors such as marketing, connotation, ease of use, how it will be shelved in stores, etc.
Fair enough. I scribbled ideas and toyed with names for a short while, and circled two favorites on my list.
On Tuesday, I rejected the names I’d circled and began new lists. I looked up names from online sources. I considered variations in spelling. I doodled. I dithered. I pondered.
By that evening, I suddenly came up for air and realized I’d wasted my entire writing time on this one task. I was no farther along in selecting a name than at the start of the day. It occurred to me that I should have been expending my effort on coming up with plots instead of names.
That’s when I realized what was really going on.
I wasn’t designing a pen name. I was putting off the project itself.
My nerves were sabotaging me, and I hadn’t even realized it. That’s how pernicious and sneaky procrastination can be.
If we aren’t vigilant, we can allow the slightest detail to throw us off track and undermine our entire manuscript.
At present, I have two possible names–either of which will do fine. There will be no more lists. What I need to do now is get busy working on three possible plot lines and ignore any doubts–disguised under Harry Potter-type “invisibility cloaks”–niggling at the back of my mind.
If the best time to destroy a weed is when you first see its tiny head rearing up from the soil, the best way to conquer a fear is to take action against it as soon as you realize it exists.