I’m not usually one for free writing or journalling, reasoning that any words I put down should go towards my work-in-progress, otherwise they’re going to waste. However, I listened to a podcast about self-sabotage and procrastination earlier and it recommends free-writing to find out why you procrastinate.
So, I tried. I mean, if I’m spending all that energy on avoiding writing, it’s not like I have any words on paper to waste at all, is it? Started off in longhand, and this is what I came up with:
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Why do I self-sabotage by procrastinating? Fear of making all that effort for nothing.
Looking back at all the time wasted and knowing that if I became super-productive now, it proves that I could have done it then, and I’d have concrete proof that all that time really was wasted – I’d feel the most regret over the fact I’d never get it back.
Why did I procrastinate when I was younger? I thought I had all the time in the world and I’d be mega-successful “later”. I also believed I was already a great writer so had nothing left to learn. Therefore, success was only a matter of time, not effort. I didn’t have to put in any more work, because I was already as good as I could get.
And if good writers meet with the success they deserve and writing a good book is all you need to do, my part was done.
My writing wasn’t great. It was abysmal. So I didn’t meet with the success I felt I was owed.
Not only that, but there’s now some uncertainty over good books always finding a market, or readers. So even if I’d written a fantastic book (I hadn’t), it wasn’t enough to send out terribly-written, scattergun submissions and let my innate talent for fiction shine through.
Why did I collect rejections in my teens and twenties?
My submissions, as well as the book I was trying to sell, were awful. Unfocused, no idea of my target audience. I was entitled. How dare they say no, even if my letters were the unprofessional equivalent of “Do you like me, tick yes or no?”
My fiction was derivative – as a teen, I read a lot, but my pool of resources (favourite authors) was shallow. I read neither widely nor with any depth. I didn’t have the tools to write well. What I churned out was cliched. My heroines were Mary Sues, my writing bland and basic, falling back on stylistic tics I picked up from reading the same authors over and over again.
In my 30s it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy. My writing had improved by then, thank goodness, but I didn’t meet with the success I’d been led to believe by others was possible, and because I didn’t sell as many books as they did (or rather, as they claimed they did), that got me in a funk. I stopped trying so hard to write more, more, more, not out of arrogance and the certainty I was already great, but despair and the feeling I was banging my head against a brick wall. I’d gotten over myself and put in the work, improved my craft, hell, sold my first erotic romance to the very first publisher I sent it to, but even that wasn’t enough to become successful. Whatever success is.
And now…my productivity has slowed to a crawl. If it picks up, if I force myself to get the words down on paper…what then? There will be nothing left to do. You can improve on bad writing, you can polish a bad submission package, you can produce more manuscripts in a shorter space of time but what happens if, after doing all that, it’s still not enough?
I guess that’s what I’m scared of, ultimately – doing my best and it still not being good enough. I’ve been half-assing my writing career so I’ve got something to blame it on when the results I say I want don’t show up.
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Not all of the above was in the forefront of my consciousness, only showing itself as I wrote, so. There it is. And I’ll tell you something else that showed up – wrist strain. It’s been a long time since I wrote longhand.
Ironically, the first crappy book I wrote to completion? 420 A4 pages of it, all in longhand. I’m telling you, way back in the 90s, it would have been a kindness if I’d suffered a broken wrist so it never came to fruition.
Then again, it contributed to the writer I am today, so I guess I should be grateful. Maybe.