Thank you, Sonia, for being a gracious hostess. In keeping with your Fear Friday theme, I offer your readers a post about fear.
Fear will stop us in our tracks, no matter what we were planning to do. Fear can show up disguised as uncertainty or procrastination.
I recently learned I had not written my novel outline in great enough detail. How did I figure this out? I kept putting off writing my story. I put it off because I wasn’t sure what to write next. I didn’t have solid plan of action. In addition, I knew had some poorly written passages that needed fixing. I was afraid to move forward because I was unsure of my next move and of my ability to write it well. I was afraid to go back and fix what was wrong because I was not sure I knew how to do it right.
I know I’m not alone and that every writer has moments like these. In fact most people put some task ‘on the back burner’ because they can’t bring themselves to complete it. Uncertainty causes us to think, “Someone will find out I really don’t know what I’m doing!” or “I’m supposed to know how to deal with this! What’s wrong with me?”
If our usual reaction is to procrastinate or leave the task that has us stymied or stuck, our mood is regulating the response. We are avoiding the negative emotions attached to doing something that is difficult or unpleasant. Self protection from these negative feelings kicks in and we procrastinate, making good excuses not to complete the task at hand. “I have to check my email. It’ll only take a minute.” Oh yes, I have a long list of reasons for not doing what I’m uncertain how to do.
This uncertainty can also be the spark that fires up our creativity, if we change our usual response. If we use our intentional will, instead of our mood, to respond to the desire to flee the task, we can put our focus on the project at hand. Making a small amount of progress will cause the mood to pass.
I experienced this last week when trying to do more than I thought I could actually complete in the time I had available. I fled the tasks, telling myself I was taking on too much in too little time. Want to know what I did instead? I played computer games ‘to clear my head and relax’. I had the time. I was just having trouble completing the writing.
When I went back to it, I promised myself to ‘keep the seat of my pants in the seat of my chair’ and use the games as a treat when I finished. Completing the task rebuilds your feeling of competence and helps us ignite that creative spark again. In other words, just when you think the best plan of action is to walk away, get back in the chair and just get started.
I don’t know about you but, this isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I have to continually remind myself…’don’t sit and think about how daunting or difficult it may be, just forge ahead and do it’. As an introvert, the feeling of uncertainty and fear of the outcome pops up often.
Using short intervals of a series of tasks can also help in making progress, avoiding the fear and procrastination. For example, as a writer, daily duties include writing blog posts, social networking, writing on my WIP, responding to comments on my blog posts, reading other blogs and commenting. Try assigning a specified amount of time to work on each task. I would allow 30 minutes for researching my blog topic; move on to 15 minutes of responding to comments on a previous post; another 15 minutes to tweeting for fellow writers. Continue in that manner, rotating the jobs to be done until you’ve accomplished what you’d hoped. Don’t allow fear and uncertainty to control your mood and sabotage your progress.
I may have fear, but I need not be my fear. Timothy Pychyl, Ph. D.
Is this ever a problem for you? What’s your method of getting the job done?
Marcia Richards is a veteran blogger and author of Marcia Richards’ Blog…Sexy. Smart. From The Heart. Marcia writes about Sweet Obsessions, 20th Century American History, and the path to realizing your dreams. She has a Historical Trilogy and a collection of Short stories in progress. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing with the grandkids or her husband, traveling or turning old furniture into works of art. She believes there is always something new to learn.
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