This week: sit down with your fears. How to get the goblins out your head and into the open, where they stand with their tiny clipboards looking faintly foolish.
Week 4: Sit down with your fears
What if the book’s a priority, you’re giving it the time it needs, you’re allowing yourself the headspace, but it’s not happening? You find yourself dithering instead of sitting down – you keep getting up for coffee – you check your email and reply to a thread – you close down all programs and focus on the document and hold your fingers poised – you get up to make more coffee…
“Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until your forehead bleeds.” – Douglas Adams
Struggling to write? Take your fears out for coffee.
Procrastination is fear. Don’t punch yourself in the jaw, meet your fear. That doesn’t mean gritting your teeth, furrowing your forehead, and bellowing “YAAARRRGHHHH!” as you run into an army of orcs. Get to know it – take it out for coffee.
The cost-benefit of fear
The best technique I know comes from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I usually do this in a coffee shop, because it’s a safe, neutral space with no distractions. Plus, they bring you coffee.
Divide a piece of paper into four columns.
1. Write a list of all your fears – the nasty, niggly little blurts you tell yourself. This is rubbish. I’m not qualified to write this. I can’t write. The whole idea is stupid. Let them spill out. When I first did this, a leading fear was “I’ll never get published.”
2. Write the cost of each fear. What does thinking that cost you? Do it logically. The cost of “I’ll never get published” was “any chance of publication” – because I wasn’t sending anything out.
3. Write the benefit of each fear. You’re not mad; you wouldn’t hold onto that fear if it didn’t help you somehow. Again, be simply logical. The benefit of “I’ll never get published” was “No rejection slips – the best undiscovered writer ever!”
Take a moment to look at the costs and benefits, and weigh them against each other. Then…
4. Write a positive affirmation for every fear – not drawing on emotion, just the logical opposite. “I’ll never get published” became “I will get published”. “I won’t make any money” becomes “I’ll make lots of money!” (I shy away from affirmations and when they’re pressed on a sore spot, it’s easier to ridicule them. My way around this was to remind myself that the fear was ridiculous negative, and the positive affirmation was ridiculously positive. Neither had any objective claim to truth value, so I may as well think the positive thing.)
Put the positive thoughts above your writing space. To position them for the best effect, sit at your desk and re-enact that fearful moment – where do your eyes move to on the wall? Stick your affirmations there. At one point, I also used them as a screensaver and set the screensaver time to 2 minutes – if I didn’t type for 2 minutes, positive thoughts started popping up randomly! (Quote32 is shareware, which you can customise with your own quotes.)
Facing your fears directly is incredibly freeing. Before, it’s a whispering goblin crouched in the dark corner of your mind. After, it’s a rather diminutive goblin standing on your table with a tiny clipboard, trying to pass off as fact something that’s blatantly nonsense.
This week’s core task: do a cost-benefit analysis on your fears and create your positive thoughts.