This morning I'm headed to an archives collection, where I intend to spend the day with a microfilm machine, reading Laura Towne's handwritten diary. That's inspiration enough to keep me working today, but I'm frequently guilty of procrastination. How about you? Do other things get in the way of your writing? Today Nina Amir talks to us about why people don't write. Please welcome her.
Writers write. That’s what makes a writer a writer. But sometimes writers don’t write.
The difference between an aspiring writer and an author is that one has the desire to become published and the other has achieved this goal. Sometimes an aspiring writer does everything possible to become an author and the goal remains unmet; other times an aspiring author says he or she want to become an author but refuses to do what it takes to become published.
That leads to an important question: Why don’t writers write or do what it takes to become published?
When writers procrastinate, this prevents them from writing or publishing their work. Procrastination leads to the so-called writer becoming a “non-writer,” someone who doesn’t write or publish their work—someone who says they want to write but doesn’t.
Why does that happen? Why do writers say they want to write and publish and then not follow through? Ah…for so many reasons. Let me list a few:
Notice something similar about all 15? They all start with “fear.” If you ask yourself why you aren’t writing, you might actually answer, “I’m afraid to write.” Why? For all the reasons above…and many more.
What’s the solution? Start working on moving through those fears!
If you don’t know why you don’t write, don’t attempt to get published or don’t do the things necessary to become an author—in other words, if you aren’t in touch with your fear or writing and getting published, you need to ask yourself an important question: What’s my payoff for this behavior?
What does not writing and not getting published earn you? Maybe it’s the chance to remain anonymous, avoid your fear of success (or failure) or rejection, or get out of working hard. Maybe deep down in your heart you really don’t want to become an author; maybe, for example, this was your father’s dream for you that you adopted for yourself. By not promoting yourself or writing a word you get to live your dream of not becoming a writer or an author. These represent negative payoffs.
Spend some time answering this question really honestly. Answer it many times in many ways. Start the exercise by writing, “My payoff for _____ (Fill in the blank with the appropriate phrase, such as “not writing,” “not promoting myself or my writing,” or “not attempting to publish my work.”) is….”
Once you have discovered your payoffs, you can then begin to work with these to help yourself achieve your writing goals—if you truly do want to write and to become published. By eliminating negative payoffs you can begin moving more easily towards your goals.
Now let’s look at positive payoffs—the positive outcomes you avoid when you don’t write. These, believe it or not, do constitute payoffs for not writing.
Once again answer the question, “What is my payoff for not writing? What do I ‘earn’ or ‘get’ when I don’t write?” Maybe you prevent yourself from becoming more prosperous than one of your siblings or your parents. Maybe you perpetuate your belief that you aren’t good enough or qualified enough to be an author. Maybe you don’t have to face the criticism of your friends and family, about whom you plan to write. The earlier example of not living out your father’s dream of you becoming an author could actually be seen as a positive payoff of not writing as well.
Whether or not your payoffs are negative or positive really matters little. The main point lies in discovering your payoffs for not writing. If you believe on some level—even subconsciously—that you have something to gain by not writing, surely you will not write. That means you won’t achieve your writing goals.
Once you know what payoffs stop you from writing, it’s time to create payoffs for actually writing.
What I called “positive” and “negative” payoffs previously all constituted ways to avoid something that might be achieved by writing. In your mind the “something” you avoided seemed positive or negative. For example, you avoided failure and your fear of failure. Or you avoided success and your fear of success.
Both of these types of payoffs effectively create the same result: You don’t write.
To use payoffs to get yourself to write you must figure out what writing will get you that you want badly. So, ask yourself, “If I write and publish my work, what will I gain? What will I get in return? What will my payoff be for actually sitting down and writing and then going the extra step and getting that writing published?
Fame? Fortune? Fulfillment? Peace of mind? Sense of achievement? Credibility? Clients? A chance to be heard? Income? The ability to help people? A way to create change?
When you can identify those writing-related payoffs you strongly desire and around which you have deep-seated emotions, then you will find yourself writing as often as possible. You’ll want to achieve those payoffs no matter what.
Therein lies the key. If writing earns you something you truly desire on an emotional level, you will write. In fact, you’ll write as if your life depended upon it.
You will become a writer, because writers write.
Nina Amir, Your Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires writers to create the results they desire—published products and careers as writers and authors. She is an author, freelance editor, and writing and author coach who blogs at Write Nonfiction NOW, How to Blog a Book, As the Spirit Moves Me, and writes the National Jewish Issues and the National Self-Improvement columns for www.examiner.com. Her blogs also appear at www.vibrantnation.com and www.redroom.com. She is the founder of Write Nonfiction in November, a blog and a challenge to start and finish a work of nonfiction in 30 days. Find out more about her services at CopyWright Communications or discover all she does and writes at www.ninaamir.com.
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