Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

2 Insanely Simple Steps For Becoming A REAL Writer

Do you want to write? Silly question, of course you do. You long to write. You dream of it. You crave words like chocolate. You’re 100% dedicated to your craft.

However, you’re not actually writing these days. Maybe you’re still researching your subject matter. Or, you want to wait until your kids are older. You might plan to write full-time after retirement, when you have more time and money.

The Desire To Write

Maybe you’re actually putting pen to paper everyday, or are tapping away at your computer.

At least you were.

You’re taking time off to plot how to make the conflict bigger in your novel. Several agents rejected your last manuscript, and you’re waiting to regroup. Deciding what’s next.

These are all familiar reasons to not write. They’re also…

Procrastination.

Excuses meant to keep you from living your dream. Tricks to trap you in wanna-be mode forever. Let’s explore this deeper.

You Put the “Pro” in Procrastinate

Procrastination is the most common form of writer’s block because it’s so darn easy to rationalize. You don’t say, “I’m never going to write my novel.”

You say, “I’m going to write my novel. Tomorrow.”

Or, you only have 30 minutes to write, but you waste all that time on Twitter.

When you rip off the mask of procrastination, you discover the real culprit is that rat-bastard – Doubt.

Doubt’s #1 job is to keep you from writing.

(I love this PW post: 9 Tips How to Totally Crush Writer’s Block.)

Procrastination and Perfection

Perfectionism is often an excuse for procrastination.

Stop waiting for the ideal circumstances in your life to happen first. I don’t know about you, but chaos is the norm around my house. Something’s pretty much always broken, so there’s always an unexpected bill to pay. My husband and I have two teenagers, so I’m usually worried about one, if not both kids.

Enough with these white lies:

You don’t need a $1,500 laptop to write.

You don’t need a degree to write.

You don’t need to be childless to write.

All you need is the desire and determination to do so.

If you’ve tried to write before, but were less-than pleased with the results, then congratulations! You’re an honest-to-goodness writer. Real writing takes place later in the editing phase – the rewriting and reshaping of your words.

Remember, anything worthwhile takes time, patience and practice.

Could you play Beethoven’s Symphony Number Five on the first try? Could you run a marathon without training for a mile in the beginning? If I dropped you in Moscow today, could you speak Russian?

No, no and no.

So, why do you think magic should flow from your fingers from day one? Why do you think your first draft should be a New York Times’ Bestseller? Why do you expect perfection?

Go Big, or Go Home

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. All writers have a dramatic side, or else you wouldn’t want to write beautiful poems, wonderful short stories, or the great American novel.

Non-fiction can be just as powerful – a thought-provoking idea can become an overnight success.

If you keep thinking you can’t write until blank happens, stop.

Stop right now. Quit thinking all-or-none. Stop believing you have to go BIG, or go home. There’s a better way to accomplish more, while abusing yourself less.

2 Simple Steps for Writing Success

Many say they want to write, but few put those words into action. Try these two steps to move you from the couch to the computer:

1 – Name Your Procrastination – First acknowledge your fear. Call it by name, so you know exactly who the enemy is. Be as specific as possible.

  • I tell people I’m still researching my book, but the truth is I’m afraid to start writing. What if I have no talent?
  • I stay up too late, eat junk food and watch reality TV every night. I oversleep the next day, and never write. I’m sabotaging myself.
  • I don’t have time to sit down, and really focus on writing like I want. I don’t care what that stupid post said — now isn’t the best time for me.

2 – Small Steps – Big, sweeping change is too much, too soon. It terrifies you, and throws you back into procrastination mode. Think tiny, baby steps.

  • I’ve researched enough. After the kids go to bed, I’m going to start writing one hour, at least three nights per week.
  • I’m going to throw away all my junk food. No more eating after 7 p.m. I’m going to bed by 10 p.m., so I can start writing by 6 a.m. I’d like to write for one hour before my family wakes up.
  • I don’t have as much time as I’d like, but I want to write just 250 words per day. That’s just one page and doable. Hopefully, I’ll move on, but I can commit to 250.

Writing everyday is best, but do the best you can. It’s also okay if you still procrastinate sometimes. We all do (Facebook is my time waster of choice), but I try to use that as reward to work first, then social media later.

Keep trying until you find what works for you. Everyone has a different creative process, but we all write the same way.

One word at a time.

You’re a real writer!

Do you struggle with procrastination? If so, how do you trick yourself into taking action? Please share a comment.

This post is by Positive Writer regular contributor, Marcy McKay.

About Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay wanted to write stories ever since she read about Oompa Loompas in fourth grades. She's the Amazon best-selling author of Pennies from Burger Heaven. Join her on Facebook. Marcy is also a contributing author to The Audacity to be a Writer.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins

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  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Marcy – It;s so wonderful to see your blog post! I was beginning to miss you a lot, lady #HUGSSSSSS

    And, yep, those ‘excuses’ look familiar. Here’s how it looks for me:

    I always start my day with a crossword puzzle, but instead of moving on to my writing endeavors immediately:

    a. I spend just 20 minutes reading this fun book (Umm…20 becomes 40)

    b. I check my Email for 15 minutes (Umm…sharing all those awesome posts takes almost an hour)

    c. Now that I am done with one Crossword, maybe another one won’t hurt (if it is hard…there goes 20 more minutes down the drain)

    *sigh*

    Two days ago, it took me 3+ hours to pen 250 mediocre words. Yesterday, it took me 2 hours to pen almost 1000 decent words – I should just write, eh?

    Thanks for being you, dear Marcy <3
    Kit

    • Don’t be so hard on yourself, Kit. I WROTE this post, but did the same thing. I got to my computer bright and early, but decided to read “one, quick email…30 minutes later.

      Sigh.

      We’re all doing the best we can, but just need to modify a few things. Since I know my best writing time is in the morning, I try to do that thin. Reading posts, making comments, responding to emails, etc….I try to save for the afternoon.

      Progress, not perfection.

  • Lynnette Jalufka

    Great article. I was sick so I took a little time from writing, now it’s harder to get back in the flow. I keep oversleeping my writing time. Thanks for the inspiration to keep trying and renewed determination. I wish I was more like my heroine in my novel. She didn’t let anything stop her.

    • Please be gentle with yourself, Lynette. You don’t sound like your procrastinating as still trying to recover from illness. You MUST listen to your body, or it’ll put you right back in bed.

      You’ll get back to your novel. I feel it.

      • Lynnette Jalufka

        I did write today.

  • Great post and perfectly timed for this great procrastinator.
    Just what I needed, thank you 🙂

    • Don’t feel badly, Sidney. We’re ALL procrastinators at one time or another. Good luck to you and your writing!

  • Terence Verma

    The procrastination takes place because you don’t want to waste time writing fluff. Yes but, when you empty fluff from your mind, better ideas have a place to come to. I like that…real writing takes place in the rewriting , the reshaping and the editing…when the ideas come a visitin’!

    • Thanks, Terence. You seem to grasp this beautifully. Good luck in applying this to your own writing, and may those ideas come a visitin’!

  • Shaago

    I’m always scared of facing the fact that I haven’t written enough in the past few days or week…as a result of which I don’t write TODAY. Great post!

    • Hey, Shaago – Procrastination stops us for a 1,000 different reasons: like yours…you haven’t written enough, so you put it off longer. Others are afraid to even start writing, you worry it won’t be good enough, you think you writing should be as amazing as your favorite author.

      We all need to sit down and give ourselves permission to write the lousiest, crappiest junk out there. It frees up on to find our flow and get words onto the page. Thanks!

  • Glen Hogard

    My thoughts on Bryan’s post by Marcy McKay: “2 Insanely Simple Steps For Becoming A REAL Writer”

    When I coach myself to accomplish something normally difficult for me to do, I look for ways to create the conditions that make it harder to fail than to succeed. I sometimes say “make it impossible to fail.”

    One way to succeed at writing is making sure “automatically writing something every day”happens. Why? Because, as Maharisi taught me so many decades ago, “That which you put your attention on grows in your awareness.”

    When one does this, it turbocharges writing or any other activity by using the “biological fact” that the mind and body work together. Together, they create a multiplying affect where each is supporting and activating the other to reach a single goal. Maharishi called this “being one pointed.”

    So you’ve prepared your body to write by going to your writing place, and you’ve put your body “at the ready” to write, whatever that means for you. Maybe it is a favorite space at home or maybe you’ve gone to your favorite coffee shop.

    It doesn’t matter what it is for you; only that it is consistent and conducive to your writing. I’ve even suggested to writers that they purchase a special pen they love and only use that pen when they are writing. It could be a special screen wallpaper they enable to signal their mind and body it’s writing time. The more sensory inputs you attach to the activity the better.

    The important part is to begin the activity in the same way each time which syncs mind and body by bombarding the brain with those yummy neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin: technically the only two things you enjoy.

    When you do this habitually, your brain will recognize the situation and engage the writer’s gear in your brain which unconsciously and automatically sends the message it is writing time. The mind puts the body in the writing place, then the body shines the writing bat-signal on the sky of your brain and “BLAMMO”…..all the parts sync harmoniously and you’ve suddenly shifted your entire being into a writing machine with all it’s parts working together for that one experience of writing.

    That is partly what Maharishi meant when he titled his first book “The Science of Being and Art of Living.” He was referring to Trancendental Meditation, of course but he taught that same “technology” of the mind/body symbiotic relationship in every lesson, whether it was how his university was designed to teach or how to engage the mind’s ability to aid in healing from injury using the “feeling the body” technique. Writing is a skill that best improves by doing it.
    Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

    Glen Hogard, SCAC, ACO Co-Founder
    814-353-4947

    • Beautifully said, Glen!

      What I took away from your comment was making writing a “mindful habit”. Doing it the same time, in the same place, etc., so where it triggers our mind and body together, “It’s time to write.”

      Plus, the more we make writing a habit (practice), the better we become. Thank you so much for your insightful comment.

  • I guess I’m procrastinating by posting my comment. I try to write something every day, even it what I write are comments on other writing blogs and to do the practice exercise if it appeals to me. I write my comments carefully, giving thought to each one. Yes, this is keeping me from my own writing projects, but it has become part of my daily writing.
    Adelaide

    • Ha, Adelaide,

      I thought the same thing when writing this post about procrastination: aren’t I KEEPING writers from writing by reading this?!

      The trick I’ve learned with myself is I must do my writing time FIRST, THEN I get to read all the blogs I want. Instead of procrastination, I’ve turned it into a reward.

      Does it always work?
      No, but I do the best I can.
      Just like everyone else. 🙂

  • Miriam N

    OK OK you got me Marcy. Totally hit home with me. My friends always ask “How’s your novel going?” my response. “I’m working on it,” I suppose it’s not a complete lie but the part that isn’t a lie isn’t much writing done. Sure I’m writing everyday but it isn’t exactly on my WIP. I tell myself I’m going to do it when in reality what happens is I get distracted. The end of the day comes and I panic and then write something in my journal.
    I’m so a procrastinator but I’m trying to change that, one day at a time. The writing in my journal is about most of the writing I get now but its better than a few months ago when I wrote a big fat NOTHING. I know horrible but I’m working on it.
    Thanks for this post Marcy. As I said before, ouch, you hit me hard with it. I fully feel the rebuke here. Happy writing!

    • You’re awesome for being so honest, and you’ll get no scolding from me because I’ve been exactly where you are. You are improving because, as you said, you used to write a big, fat nothing.

      More than likely, your procrastination is FEAR. Fear that your novel won’t be good enough, fear that you’re talented enough to pull it off, fear that even if you do finish your book nobody will want to read it anyway.

      NONSENSE. That’s fear trying to stop you. Get back to your novel and just work on it a tiny bit every day. That’s how a novel is written anyway: one word at a time.

      • Miriam N

        Thanks Marcy. I’m actually planning on getting a lot done with it this next month. I’m going to use it for NaNoWriMo because, if I wanted to be completely honest, I really haven’t written a lot, (translation I haven’t started yet). It will be good to get the first draft done. I’ll keep what you said in mind this next month, a novel is written one word at a time.

        • Congrats on NaNoWriMo, Miriam. Regardless of how much you write, SOME is better than NONE.

          Also, do NOT be afraid to be switched to another group. I did NaNoWriMo in 2012 and had to moved to three different groups before I found folks who were actually posting their progress online, brainstorming ideas and giving each other support. Good luck!

  • Araf Karim

    I always think, I should write today. But after complet my official
    & personal works I have no time to write. Today I read your post and
    think about my works I find some pleas. Now, I think I can write.
    Thanks for the post. It’s Inspiring.

    • I’m so glad you found this post inspiring, Araf. Thanks so much for taking time to say so.

      I understand your dilemma. I’ve learned with my “official work”, yes, I must get that done because it pays my bills. However, so much of my personal work can be done AFTER I write: washing dishes, paying bills, etc.

      It’s a matter of balance and priorities. Do the best you can.

  • StartYourNovel

    Amen to everything except “Real writing takes place later in the editing phase” — I’d rather go with “real writing takes place as soon as you start committing words to paper.” The draft is no less real than the edit.

    If you’re implying that people shouldn’t worry about brilliance while they bang away at their first draft, yes, absolutely. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    (And real writing ALSO takes place in the editing phase.)

    • I was definitely talking the to Rome wasn’t built in a day folks. MANY writers struggle with perfectionism, so as they’re writing their first draft, they’re worrying as they go…stopping and correcting, etc. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • The graphic about “white lies” troubles me. Those statements are not lies; they’re true. There’s a logic leap missing. I don’t know where you found the graphic, and I’m not about to take issue with you, Ms. McKay, but as a copy editor myself the graphic bothers me for that reason. If it were in my power, I would make one simple change that corrects the issue: “Enough with the white lies.” THE instead of THESE.

    The article itself I think is very useful, indeed. Well done!

    • Thanks, Karen, but I did not create the graphic. However, I’m glad you found this post useful.

  • Marcy, I agree with you that no one can play Beethoven or run a marathon or speak Russian at the first try. But when writing persons tend to expect miracles because it seems that other persons are doing it.

    You make a great point to name and list all proscrastinations and then to tackle them one at a time. At least after a few items on the list, you would know that it is just your mind trying to play tricks on you because of doubt.

    • Hi Tamara, our minds DEFINITELY play tricks on us and I’m glad you got my point. Self-doubt will strike again and again, so we need to remember that it’s a trickster and that’s why we’re procrastinating. Thanks.

  • Great article Marcy. It’s so true that we find the time to watch out “favorite” reality TV show or log “just a few more minutes” on Facebook. So if we can find the time for those pursuits, why can’t we find the time to just sit down and write?

    • You’re so right, Jonathan about sitting down and writing, but it doesn’t have to be either/or. We can write AND watch TV, browse Facebook. It’s just that so many writers DON’T do both. They just procrastinate and never write.

      My point: write first, then play later. You will feel you earned the right and enjoy it more! 🙂