Two days ago, I bought a new bathing suit.
I’d kept the last one until it dry rotted.
I hate shopping in general. Bathing suit shopping exists in a level of hell that includes Chuck E. Cheese, ingrown toenails, and organizing closets.
The dressing room lights bring out The Adams Family in my skin.
The funhouse mirrors reveal every flaw.
It seems like most suits have some weird ruffle or thing that’s probably going to chafe or dig into my skin.
So, I avoid this nightmare until it’s clear my old suit is done.
Sometimes we treat our important writing projects the same way.
We fill our writing calendars with “legit” work like easy-to-publish essays, work projects, or classes to beef up our skills. Sometimes we workshop our friend’s stories because they need us. Or we churn out blog posts.
Being told our work is less than stellar or entering a high-stakes part of the writing process like finishing a long project, querying, or preparing to go on submission can cause a spike in our tactical avoidance maneuvers.
How can you tell the difference between legit work and procrastination?
When you’re in balance, you prioritize appropriately.
When you’re procrastinating, you feel an urgent need to work on a certain project but believe there’s too much else to do.
Most of the projects on your must-do lists are for other people or they’re lower on your if-I-were-to-die-tomorrow priority list.
But there are things you can do to break this cycle.
This week, I want you to lower your project’s stakes by sharing some shitty first drafts with other writers. Schedule a gathering IRL or on Zoom. Set a timer for twenty minutes. Then write. No editing. Definitely no crossing things out. When time’s up, read what you’ve written to the group. Give each other positive feedback using the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) Method.
I teach entire classes based on this method.
During these sessions, writers experience the power of sharing raw and vulnerable first-draft work. Many discover the sneaky ways their internal editors lie to them. They leave with a sense of confidence and rekindle their creative joy.
I worked in a group like this for seven years. Most of the pieces created during these sessions were like sandcastles at high tide. Flipping the page washed the idea’s power away. But several of my published pieces came from these meetings.
The process taught me that showing up is all we need to do.
The rest will work itself out.
Last week I found myself choosing “legit” work over my memoir.
I soon discovered that fear had amped my procrastination up to eleven.
So, I scheduled a meditative writing session with a group of my favorite peeps.
As soon as the meeting was on my calendar, I got back to work.
Often, we give the experiences we fear—the rejections, the iterations that aren’t quite right, the moments of discouragement—too much power.
But like bathing suit shopping, they’re survivable.
Trying again and again in a low-stakes environment can stamp this lesson onto your bones.
It took nine tries to find the right bathing suit. But I bought one.
Completing that task freed my mental energy to focus on more valuable things, like my memoir.
What do you hate doing?
How do you avoid your most important writing projects?
What helps you get back on track?