I’ve been away from writing for awhile: four whole noisy, long, life-filled weeks. While I’ve enjoyed every moment of family time and productive work assignments, I ache to get back to my writing project. And yet, I had to look myself squarely in the face—I’ve been procrastinating. So, I blocked off my schedule today to fill my mind with other writer’s wisdom and heart-grabbing storytelling, which I interrupted with good old-fashioned pacing and nail-chewing. Thinking. Thinking. Always thinking.
I fall into this writerly posture, which, to me, is also procrastination. Truth-slayer here, I fall into this because I don’t have a clear habit or routine—yet. If you know me well, you know I pretty much detest routine. It reeks of rut, and I hate ruts. Because they’re darn hard to get out of.
Life Ruts and Writing Routines
I wrecked a car like that once. Drifted off the shoulder just a few inches too far and my right side tires slipped into the dewy edge of a farmer’s field. I didn’t have enough experience to pull out of it quickly, or avoid it for that matter. The telephone poles also lined that rut and I sideswiped one. The moments before metal crunched against rock-solid, creosote-soaked wood, I desperately tried to get back onto the road. My front tire obeyed, but my back tire kept slipping in and out of the rut. It was maddening. I wasn’t hurt, but my mom’s new K-car (the first new car I ever remember us having) was totaled. I managed to drive another few hundred yards to pull into an old gas station where I sat until my Dad showed up.
I expected a thorough cross-examination, but he just said, “as long as you’re okay.” I was shaken up and embarrassed, filled with anxiety at what kind of money I just cost my parents simply because I had leaned across the seat to catch something that was falling. I don’t remember what it was. Clearly nothing valuable, just something that distracted me. I took my eyes off the road for a second, and fifteen minutes later my school bus rolled by with 50 pairs of familiar eyeballs witnessing my shame. That was also a good day at school…ah, teenage-hood, wasn’t it grand?
Here I am today…eyes off the writing road, slipped into a rut that is reluctant to let go, distracted by things that don’t matter, and feeling…awkward. The only thing I don’t feel is embarrassment, because I know this happens when I take too much time off. Thankfully, I’ve got enough writing under my belt to avoid the metaphoric telephone poles.
This is what it’s like to carry around a creative passion as a grown-up.
I don’t have to go to school and face all of my jeering classmates, because I don’t have any. With our group, though, we are supporters, not finger-pointers. I’ve written long enough to trust that I’ll get better and better at getting back to the journey quickly…most likely with a bit more routine in my life. Is “routine” a four-letter word? But, quickly, is the key word.
As one year ends and another—thankfully—begins, I’m turning my attention again to process. Without a solid process (or routine) to fill up blank pages, we can fall prey to procrastination and self-doubt. We pay too much attention to the non-essential things in our lives that are sliding around. Let the non-essentials slide, because what do you want more?
So, I told myself this today: just write. Do not go to sleep tonight without having written something. Like this: close off the world for a set time: two minutes to get started, forty-five to draft a thought or scene.
I know how to do this. I coach other writers. This time, it meant closing my Poets and Writers magazine, shutting the door of my writing room, and putting myself on assignment to write some whole thought that would encourage fellow writers to rev the engine and get back to the journey, too. In this, I know I am not alone.
Seize the Moment With 2 Minutes a Day
Seize the moment. Two minutes a day will get you back to it. Write longer once you get in the flow again. Moving forward, block off time daily on your calendar. Automatically, you will begin to schedule other necessary things around that time. Writing is like any other beneficial practice, it thrives with consistency and friction and preference. Lean into it—it’s what you want anyway or you wouldn’t be reading this. I had you at “procrastination,” didn’t I?
Looky there, I just wrote something. 🙂
Need a nudge to start writing again? Do a few “Fast-writes” or “Stream of Consciousness” writing.