I heard a joke recently.
What do you get when you cross a writer with a deadline?
A really clean house.
(I myself prefer to watch Netflix when I’m procrastinating, but to each her own!)
The premise of this joke is that when faced with an opportunity to write, most of us would rather scrub the toilet than do the work.
This is a generally accepted truth. But WHY?
If we are so compelled to share our stories – whether for a living or as a hobby – then why wouldn’t we jump right to it when the time comes?
The answer is closer than you think. It’s inside your own mind.
Your brain is wired to protect you from danger. Which was great when, you know, stepping foot outside of your cave meant possibly being eaten by a sabertooth tiger.
But it’s not so necessary now. Especially when all you want to do is write about the time you traveled to Florida.
Let’s take a look at the three main thoughts our brain comes up with to keep us from the scary, scary work of writing our stories.
Thought #1: I don’t know what to write (or how to write it).
Indecison often comes as a byproduct of perfectionism, or the need to get things “right”. Indecision also leads to feeling overwhelmed. I see overwhelm as a concrete wall holding back our creative flow.
If you notice that your thoughts are beginning with “I don’t know…” try asking yourself these question:
What if I did know? What would I decide to work on?
Alternatively, you could just pick something. It won’t be the wrong choice, because there is no wrong choice. Work on that story until you are done (whatever that means) and then move on to the next one.
Thought #2: This story is not good* enough.
*Substitute any of these words for good: interesting, exciting, literary, important, compelling…
This thought of “good enough” comes from comparison. Comparing yourself to other people.
You have read or heard many exceptional stories. You have seen what makes the bestseller lists or receives accolades.
And you have decided that your story doesn’t match up.
Overcoming this challenge is my biggest hurdle. I am working daily to retrain my brain. Instead of defaulting to “nobody will care about this”, I want my brain to default to
“I care about this, so I am going write it.”
I repeat it like a mantra, every time I sit down to write. I don’t buy it every time, but I do know that changing this thought of not good enough is the only way I am every going to get any traction in my writing life.
Here’s another thought to try:
“There is someone out there who needs to hear my story.”
Thought #3: Who am I to write this?
Other variations on this thought:
I’m not a proven writer.
I’ve never been published.
I don’t have a writing degree.
Listen. You are writing your stories. No one else can tell your stories. Not the way you can.
Your stories matter. You have experienced things that are that are both common and uniquely individual.
By sharing them with an audience of one or of many, you are offering them an opportunity to see themselves through a different lens.
You are offering them an opportunity to see YOU.
And you are worth being seen.