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What’s Stopping You?


I’ve been working on a piece about the true meaning behind procrastination.  Or, what was behind mine.  This month’s “the Writer” beat me to the punch.

There are many similarities in my piece and an article called Take 5 Deep Breaths– Then Write by S. Kay Murphy.

So, I’ll just share a couple of points we agreed on:

We tend to justify the time we don’t spend writing with busy life excuses, yet we make time for things like TV, reading, blogging, cleaning grout…  Why?

Many reasons, but the main one is writing takes emotional commitment.  Some of us are afraid.  We find excuses to avoid doing something that can ultimately lead to failure and rejection.

Whenever I used to see the first star of the night, I made a wish for more self-confidence.  (Okay, yeah, I wished more on the lines of world peace stuff an awful lot), but if I selfishly took my own wish, it would be for an end to my own heavy insecurities.  I let those insecurities shut my writing down for years. 

It’s not something that will happen again because I learned that I didn’t have the emotional maturity to tackle the deep writing I wanted as well as the publishing aspects of this business back then.    I took rejection hard.

I grew up surrounded by rejection.  Not my immediate family, no, they were unfortunately included in the rejection from all the rest of the family.  Big family, too.  One that practiced a religion that emphatically rejects anyone who doesn’t believe the same way.  There was such harsh judgemental-ism, their disgust and disappointment in us rolled off them in waves.  It made me and my siblings so sensitive, it took us years as adults to realize they were the ones who were wrong.   

Another aspect of my lack of confidence came from being the new kid every two years growing up.  We moved a lot.  While I later appreciated it for the more rounded education I received on places, people, culture and yes, different religions,  it was hard walking into a new school so often and facing the stares in the cafeteria. 

So, when I first started sending my writing out, I deflated– big time– with every rejection. 

But I grew up. 

Later than a lot of adults, but I made it.  I came into the realization that I “am” a valid human being.  My opinions and beliefs are mine and they are just as important– even if they differ from those opinions and beliefs around me.

In my life, this is working.  This is a little more like how I feel most days.

free.jpg heh heh

I still struggle “while” I’m writing– only now the struggle has more to do with a deep-rooted frustration with my vision vs. what comes out on paper.  This is pretty standard with most writers, I believe. <g>

Yeah, rejection can still be rough, but what a person can do with their own thoughts can be much, much, more difficult.

My advice is to quiet that mind.  Take a few minutes to let everything flush away then write.  It’s easier to just fall into the story that way.  And those times when you disappear into the work and it comes alive are the best, aren’t they?

I’m leaving you today with some of my favorite quotes from a very smart lady– Eleanor Roosevelt:

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.  You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

“Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive.  One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously.  This is how character is built.”

And my favorite?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”


  1. December 10, 2006    

    Beautifully stated. I could go into a lengthy discourse about my experiences with procrastination and self-doubt but it will be much simpler for me to say, I know where you are coming from.

  2. December 10, 2006    

    “My advice is to quiet that mind. Take a few minutes to let everything flush away then write.”

    This is very good advice. Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron do this for me.

  3. December 10, 2006    

    Missy, if you decide to share your experiences on your blog, drop us a note. (I’ve got you on Bloglines now, so I’ll know– but my other readers might want to read it, too.) I’m always interested in what makes writers tick. Why do we choose to do this? Do we see stories in pictures, movies, print? What makes us afraid?

    Heather, I use to do those. Then I went back and read the spill of negativity from years and panicked. What if someone got their hands on this? They’ll think I was insane?

    I should try it again. But… do you ever think blogging is a type of morning pages?

  4. December 11, 2006    

    Yes, I do. (think blogging is like morning pages)
    But I edit and share my blog. I would never share my morning pages.

  5. December 11, 2006    

    MP’s make great fireplace kindling.

  6. December 11, 2006    

    Rinda, I think you and I have a lot in common. I was struck by that when we first started working together. Which makes what I just realized all the more jarring to me.

    My problem seems to be the very opposite of yours. It’s not that I don’t lack confidence, because I do. I don’t know any writer personally who doesn’t, actually. But I don’t think about that lack of confidence while I’m writing. Not at all. Not even once, that I can remember. It just doesn’t figure in.

    I think about that after I write. After I’ve reached my goal for the day and am preparing to send you a new chapter. After I’ve sent a manuscript to my agent, or my editor. Once it’s too late to turn back.

    It was the same way when I was querying. I didn’t doubt myself until I was already committed to something. Once I couldn’t turn back, I became convinced I’d made a fool of myself, and that every agent on the east coast (and a bunch inland, too) was laughing at my pathetic attempt to write a story.

    But practically speaking, by then, my doubts (and outright panic) didn’t matter. I’d already submitted, and couldn’t take it back.

    I never really thought about that before. Do you think there’s any way you could just…I don’t know…let the lack of confidence wait until you’re done with the actual composition? I know that’s probably not something you can control, but if you can…I highly recommend delaying panic until the last possible moment. 😉

  7. December 11, 2006    

    I do put off that kind of panic at this point. My struggle while I’m writing comes more from frustration because I know I can do better.

    I remember the first time I sent a manuscript to an editor. I thought about breaking into their building and stealing it back before I could make a fool out of myself.

    Now, I cringe when I remember some of the manuscripts I sent out years ago. Ouch. heh heh

  8. December 11, 2006    

    That last quote is a favorite of mine too 🙂

  9. Nik Nik
    December 12, 2006    

    Wow. We have alot in common. Wow.
    When you’re a loner like me, it sometimes takes your breath away to find out that there are people just like you out there.


  10. December 12, 2006    

    Wonderful post, Rinda. Fear destroys everything good. People are afraid to try new ideas because they are afraid of implications, afraid of looking stupid, or afraid of appearing inconsistent. This is what leads to intellectual timidity and is the enemy of innovation. People constantly self-censor out of fear. “Is this good?” “Does this make me a freak?” “Are people going to hate me for writing this?” “Is this too personal?” “Does this go over the line?” Giving in to that little voice only makes for bland art.

    (I’m a big fan of Eleanor as well.)

  11. December 14, 2006    

    Regarding emotional commitment, I can understand on a level. Writing something, I feel the same way I used to feel about recording (music). I loved the studio experience, but for some reason was always intimidated by it, for once you put something down on tape, it’s down for eternity. Likewise, when you submit something in writing, for others to read, it’s there almost permanently. You can change things, of course, if others don’t like it. But there’s always the feeling that if you change something, they’ll still see it the same way.

    Which gets to your second issue, judgement. It’s hard to let go of something once you’ve put it down, precisely because judgement can be difficult from an emotional and financial perspective.

    I’d hope that you have sufficient support to understand your worth as a writer, however, and that that support would put rejection within it’ proper context. After all, the very best writers were harshly rejected.

  12. S. Kay Murphy S. Kay Murphy
    January 13, 2007    

    Rinda, thanks for the ‘shout-out.’ I came across your blog when I Googled myself–which I periodically do just to make sure someone hasn’t “published” me without my permission. Your honest words here are most appreciated. As writers, I think we may read our writing and know what we certainly are capable, but often there is a disconnect between what we know and what we act on. If I knew that all I had to do was write every day–not do the work of marketing–I would still hesitate to write, as a good deal of my hesitation comes from fearing that what is in my head (oh, such Great American Novels!) will not be reproduced on the page. I do think there is great wisdom in ‘quieting the voices,’ and, ironically, the best way to do this is to ignore them–by writing.

  13. January 13, 2007    

    Hello! If you’d like, I can hyperlink your name in this piece so people can visit your website. I should have done that– hope you don’t mind me quoting you. It was an excellent article that touched on something I’ve written about many times here. Procrastination.

    In addition to that emotional commitment, I’ve also written about it being a product of perfectionism.

    I agree, the voices are quiet when we really are writing. Those are the best times, eh?

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