You don’t have a lot of time to write during the day. Just a hour or a tad more, because you’ve got commitments and a life and bills that keep showing up. (We took down our mailbox…they still showed up via email.)
Every minute of your writing time is precious.
But everything and everyone is conspiring to keep you from writing.
This morning you didn’t get to write, because the neighbour parked his caravan too close to the edge of your driveway…again. Which meant a twenty-minute “discussion” that left you shaking with anger and frustration.
You didn’t write again tonight because your favourite hockey team lost and it was such a stupid overtime loss! If only they’d just played a little harder, they might have earned two full points for a win.
You didn’t write at all this week, because the president (prime minister, premier, supreme leader) has introduced a bill into parliament that could set back global warming by a generation and must be defeated, so you’ve laid awake for nights, worrying about it.
There’s a mole on your back that is itchy and might just be a bit bigger than the last time you twisted yourself into a pretzel to explore it with your fingertips, while wrenching your neck to check it out in the bathroom mirror. Is it turning black now…?
Have you ever found yourself unable to write because of an overwhelming emotion? Anger? Worry? They’re usually negative emotions, the ones that stop you. But being simply too happy or too in love, or too overjoyed by spring/first snowfall/your sister’s new twins can also stop you in your tracks.
Here’s the Catch. Yes, there is one.
If you’re constantly being knocked around by life’s events that “stop” you from writing because you simply can’t settle to the sober and hard task of putting down words, not when you feel like this….then there’s a damn good chance that what you’re doing is using emotions as an excuse not to write.
You’ve very creatively turned any event whatsoever into a handy excuse to procrastinate, because you simply can’t focus on writing today.
Only, tomorrow, there’ll be something else to emote about that will stop you cold.
There will always be something that upsets you/makes you too giddy to think, because you’re a human living a life surrounded by other humans. Conflict is part and parcel of that experience.
But are you making too much out of those experiences?
What Might Actually Be Going Wrong is Your Reaction To Events
Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and statesman, and humble Stoic, wrote in Meditations about the importance of having no opinion. Small troubles, even larger troubles, do not have to upset us.
How you respond to trouble, no matter what its size, is a choice. You can’t stop the trouble from happening. Your neighbour is always going to park his caravan too close to your side of the driveway. But you can choose to be upset about it every single time…or you can just let it go.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference
The Serenity Prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1932, spread quickly through religious centres, then was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.
But the interesting thing about the prayer is that the philosophy underpinning it is thousands of years old. Stoics have urged us to let go of the unimportant things for centuries. Aurelius said: Don’t give little things more time than they deserve.
Or You Can Chose to Do Something About It
That mole on your back that’s worrying you? Add a task to your list to go visit the doctor and have it checked out. This is where having a robust system that you trust to capture tasks and thoughts comes to the fore. David Allen spoke of inboxes that were catch-alls for your life in Getting Things Done. Use the same idea to get the issues that are plaguing you out of your mind and stored in a place where you can circle back later and do something about them.
The global warming policy that makes you worry about your kids’ futures? Join an advocacy group, or start a blog decrying lax environmental laws. Use your writing as a tool to tackle the issues.
Stop watching hockey right before you write. Watch the replays later. Better still, use the replays as rewards for having written.
When Issues Stop You From Writing
When issues stop you from writing, you have two courses of action to choose from:
- Acknowledge it’s a petty issue, one you can’t change or don’t want to spend the time fussing over, and let it go. Then get back to writing. OR
- Acknowledge the issue needs your attention. Write a note or reminder to yourself to deal with it later, get it out of your head and get back to writing.
If you find you can do neither of these things, if you still can’t manage to get yourself to write, then you really are using emotions and “problems” as an excuse to duck the writing.
You need to figure out why. Try journaling, talking to a professional, talking to other writers, your spouse, a friend. Read self-help books (there’s lots recommended on PIFW that provide insight into Resistance and procrastination). Dig deep to find out what fear (it’s usually a fear) is stopping you from writing, that is hiding behind “problems” and their attendant emotions.
Then get back to writing.