Writers have a knack for procrastination. We’re pros–or at least, I am. I’ll sit down with the intention to write and be suddenly aware of the looming piles of laundry that need washing. “I’ll just start a quick load and then write while it washes–no biggie,” I tell myself. Along the way, I notice that I somehow let my house fall into a state of deterioration and uncleanliness that would make it worthy of an episode of Hoarders.
“I’ll just pick up a few things,” I’ll tell myself. “I’m clearing out the clutter to open my mind for writing.”
Six hour later, I’ve scrubbed my house from top to bottom and am folding my third load of laundry while watching a Toddlers and Tiaras marathon.
At this point I realize that while my house is sparkling, I have done absolutely nothing in terms of writing. I’m about to start when my stomach growls and I’m reminded that it’s time for dinner. After cooking, eating, and cleaning the kitchen, I’m exhausted from scouring the house (and slightly high from inhaling all the fumes from the cleaning products) and I don’t have the energy to write. All I seem to be able to manage is to minimize the blank document and zone out as I stare zombie-like at the Internet.
Is my behavior atypical? I don’t think so. But why is it that I have such a strong desire to do anything but when it comes to writing? I’ve thought about it and for me, I think it comes down to fear. Sure there are days that I just feel lazy but I love the feeling I get from writing, the feeling that I’ve created something unique. But the fear sets in because of self doubt–what if what I create isn’t good enough? What if I spend all this time writing something that’s just terrible and I fail? Not that everything I write has to be brilliant but there’s a pathetic kind of safety net that I create for myself that says, “if I don’t try, I can’t fail.”
However, inaction is another form of failure. So what do I do now? How do I motivate myself to push forward?
To start, I have to ignore the mess. My house won’t blow up if I leave the mess for an hour so I can write and the same goes for the laundry. Next, I need to drown out that insecure voice in my head which is often easier said than done. But I think the key is to remember that I write for me. Writing makes me happy and I shouldn’t stress myself out. If I enjoy writing, I should write. If I don’t, I should stop and find something else to do. Procrastinating is a failure to do something I love and I think that later in life I’ll look back and I won’t say, “Man, I’m glad my house was spotless,” but I might say, “Wow, I remember how much fun I had writing that story.”
If you love it, do it. Don’t make up excuses to keep yourself from doing something you enjoy. If you let a fear of failure keep you from doing something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because you’ve already failed by not trying.
This post originally appeared on The Next Great American Writer.