There is a silent stalker in the world of writers. It has many faces, many voices. It has killed thousands of gifted writers, and disabled many more. At times, it secretly lurks in the shadows within, waiting to pounce on its’ unsuspecting victim. Other times, it marches boldly out in the open, loudly announcing its’ intent of destruction. It is the #1 enemy of a writer. Its name is Procrastination. Its accomplice is Distraction.
Thirteen years ago when I first began my journey into the world of scribblings, I had no discipline or direction. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just writing down my thoughts and ideas, and what I felt about the world around me. I ended up with a collection of musings that sat in a folder on the shelf, never being read by anyone.
As the intention to publish developed, I realized that there was much I needed to learn about the industry. One of the first books I bought was about how to contact agents, and it included a listing of hundreds of agents. After reading the book, I thought about following the step by step instructions and submitting some of my work. But thinking about it was as far as I got. Then life happened. At least, that’s the excuse I used.
In reality, I allowed Procrastination and Distraction to take over. They re-prioritized my action steps and I drifted away from writing altogether for a few years.
When I returned to the world of writing, it was with a renewed passion in my heart. Combined with a stubborn determination, I knew I would succeed. This was my dream, what I wanted to do more than anything, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.
But Procrastination and Distraction got smart, and they created masterful disguises to hide behind. They’ve even learned to use my motherly instincts against me, like making me feel guilty for spending time writing instead of constantly watching over and nurturing my son. But my son is 13 years old now…he doesn’t want me hovering over him all the time.
I made a commitment to complete the #NaNoWriMo2015 challenge of 50,000 words by the end of November. Almost as soon as I made the commitment, interruptions began. So I changed my schedule to make time for writing. So along came the voices of Facebook and Twitter, calling me to melt into the world of social media, while stopping the writing process.
I’ve discovered that this enemy is like an addiction to a writer. It reminded me of the bible verse, “For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:19 AMP) I want to write! I want to keep my commitments, and succeed! But instead I allow distractions that cause me to procrastinate, and the writing is not done.
This brings me to the #2 enemy of a writer…Frustration. Frustration is very gifted in attacking a writers emotions in some very weird and illogical ways. Emotions like guilt and discouragement for example, will find their way into my spirit after a failed fight with Procrastination. And Frustration is there, orchestrating, devising, scheming, pulling my heart in all different directions until I finally want to explode and quit. Frustration shouts, “Just give up, it’s not worth all this aggravation”!
And that’s exactly what many writers do, they give up and quit. They are defeated by the enemy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Writers can fight back, and we have the weapons to do so! The mightiest weapon in my arsenal is Stubbornness, but it cannot win the battle alone. The strength required to wield Stubbornness takes so much energy, that I would soon be too worn out to continue fighting. But it is the foundation for my battle strategy.
Every good general will tell you that the key to any victory in battle is to know your enemy, and have a good solid strategy, or plan. When you know your enemy, you can recognize them, even at a distance. You become familiar with their character traits, you can distinguish their tracks and marks, and you can learn their habits and predict their advances. With sound strategy, a good general guides his troops like a well designed machine operating at peak efficiency, having a clearly defined purpose for each strike. A general learns to recognize the value of the specialized skills under his command, and sets each in a place where they will achieve the most good.
In learning to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of my enemies, I have found several useful weapons. For instance, I know that having a specific writing schedule works best for me. But distractions can come in so many ways during the course of the normal daytime. So, I choose to get up at 3 am, get a fire going in the woodstove, start the coffee, take care of the animals, then sit down to write by 4 am. This gives me at least 2 solid hours uninterrupted before my son gets up. During the rest of the day, I allow time for my son, chores and other responsibilities, researching topics, and social media, along with time for fun and relaxing, or maybe a nap. But I use my determination (Stubbornness) during that 2 hour period in the early morning to stay focused and committed to the writing.
Here are 3 key weapons I use to combat Procrastination and Distraction:
- Unavailability – I turn off my phone when I’m writing. I may be a bit old fashioned here, but I do not believe that I need to be “in reach” 24 hours of every day. I grew up in an era when we didn’t have mobile or cell phones, or computers or iPods. We didn’t even have answering machines. We were not in the least bit anti-social, in fact, just the opposite. But we were not “plugged in”, available to the world at all times. Sometimes, we were simply “unavailable”. I use this same simple word to define myself during my writing time…I am unavailable.
- Morning Briefs – Each morning I spend about 5 – 10 minutes drafting a basic outline to follow for that day. It doesn’t take much time, but it keeps me on track. This outline helps to keep me focused on the direction I want to go with the writing, and prevents leaving out important details. There more focused I am, the stronger the commitment, and the less likely I am to entertain Procrastination. It also stands as a checklist for what I’ve accomplished, which is a weapon against Frustration. At the end of the day, I can look back over the days’ scribbles and declare, “I have written this today”. These outlines also serve as a history or record of what has already been written.
- Kindred Spirits – In the early years of writing, I was under the influence of heavy discouragement. The enemy Negativity was always present. There were forces of darkness around me, people that had been integrated into my circles of influence, speaking doubt, failure, and doom into my mind, and therefore my heart. The intentions were not necessarily always for evil, but as the old saying goes, “The road to hell was paved with good intentions”. I learned to recognize Negativity and its effects of sucking the live blood and joy out of me. While I may not always be able to avoid a negative minded person here and there, I have found that by surrounding myself with Positivity, there isn’t much room for Negativity to get too close. Positivity is found in the support and understanding of other authors that face the same struggles. It is also found in the love of close family and friends. For a writer, Positivity is strongest when it comes from the praise of a reader, such as a review or a nice email of compliment and support. It is one of the greatest rewards we can receive. For a writer, forming those connections with kindred spirits helps to keep us energized, keeps us going, able to face the obstacles and write on!
When I was a child, I never imagined myself as a warrior doing battle. My, how things have changed. But the fight between good and evil has existed since long before I was born. To overcome my enemy and have victory, I must not allow Procrastination and Distraction stop me from doing what I know I should do (write) and cause me to do what I don’t want to do (fail). The battle rages on, but in the end, light will overcome darkness.
Are you a warrior on the writers’ battlefield? What weapons do you use to overcome your enemies?