Is it possible to overcome procrastination? Even decades of procrastination? The longer you procrastinate writing, the more pressure you put on the writing. It’s almost as if you add up all the “wasted” time (the time when you weren’t writing) and think that the product of your writing must somehow be equal to or greater than that “wasted” time.
Each passing day and each passing year adds more pressure to the writing, before you even start, and that pressure acts as a resistance to beginning the writing.
We all feel that pressure, to some extent. Whether you’ve been procrastinating for a week, a year, or a decade, the pressure is real, and the resistance is always present. But all it takes to crack that resistance is small increments of progress.
Think less about all the time that you’ve “wasted,” and instead focus on all that you can accomplish in the time you have left.
Let me tell you about one woman who has overcome decades of procrastination.
I have a 70-year-old client, who we’ll call “Barb.” She has been an incredible inspiration to my writing because she’s just so determined to keep writing, however long she has left.
For decades, Barb had procrastinated on her writing. She’s been enrolled in several academic programs, most recently a distance-learning program through a distinguished university. She has contentedly audited dozens of courses and mastered all of the concepts, but she never felt truly ready to write.
In truth, Barb was intimidated because she’d once received very harsh feedback on one of her papers, which left her unsure of her own abilities and caused a long stall in her writing. We’ve all received negative feedback about our writing before, haven’t we? And it burns our writer’s soul, leaving a scar that never fully heals. Be careful how you talk to other writers about their writing. You never know how deeply your words will scar.
Because of her scar, Barb put off writing her course papers for, literally, decades. She contacted me in 2014, when she was 69 years old, and she was bound and determined to write one of those papers, come hell or high water (as we say in Texas) before she turned 70.
All those “wasted” years added up to intense pressure and major resistance, but Barb had decided that enough was enough and that she need to write at least one of those course papers. She and I both had a good feeling that if she could get momentum on one paper, that the rest would fall like dominoes.
She wrote the first paper in three months and received a grade above and beyond what she’d hoped for. Within three months, she’d completed a second paper, with an even higher grade. Now, bolstered with confidence, she’s well on her way to completing the coursework and receiving her certificate—a life-long dream achieved.
Barb's story reminds me that even decades of procrastination can be chipped away at slowly, with steady, incremental progress. And before you know it, your words will be flowing.
How long have you procrastinated your writing?
What would count as progress, in your mind? A term paper turned in? An article published online? A book proposal sent to a publisher? A book chapter completed?
Let me know in the comments below.
Then, write for 20 minutes on that project. Today.