When I was in my senior year of college I had to write THE PAPER THAT WOULD DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT I GOT MY DEGREE. Yeah, a bit daunting.
And even more daunting was the fact that I was completely in charge of it.
I didn’t have to go to class while I was working on it. Scheduling meetings with my adviser was up to me. I was thousands of miles away from any authority figures in my life.
This was a recipe for disaster for a life-long procrastinator. (I’d only gotten into college in the first place because my mother had bought me a 1,000 piece Thomas Kinkade jigsaw puzzle and told me I couldn’t start on it until I’d submitted my applications.)
Luckily, a friend who knew me very well saved the day. Dan was a year ahead of me and had already graduated — having first written his final paper.
He stopped by one day with a gift and a message I’ll never forget.
“Look,” he said. “You’re going to procrastinate. So, you may as well learn a useful skill while you do it.”
I opened the gift to find a copy of Juggling for the Complete Klutz with three juggling bean bags attached.
Making Peace with Procrastination
For the next month or so, whenever I wandered away from my 1996 Dell laptop and work on that essay, I practiced juggling.
I was, as the book suggested, a complete klutz. The people who lived below me would frequently knock on the door in irritation to tell me to stop making those random banging sounds — the sounds of the bean bags hitting the floor as I missed catching them by a mile.
But by the end of January, I had learned the 3-object toss pretty decently.
And I’d also finished writing my essay.
I’ll never win any award for juggling, but my BIG PAPER passed with an A- and I made it through to graduation.
All because I made peace with procrastination.
Those words my friend Dan said to me have stuck with me for 20 years! “You’re going to procrastinate. So you may as well learn a useful skill.”
His nonchalance surprised me at the time.
I’d always felt really crummy about procrastinating.
Every time I waited til the zero hour to complete a project I would swear to the writing deities that *next time* I’d start on time and finish early.
I felt really guilty about procrastination. But feeling that way about it had never spurred me to change it.
That’s often how guilt works, right? We don’t rush out to change the things we feel guilty about because that would force us to face them and actually increase our guilt!
Owning procrastination was totally new for me.
But it worked like a charm. I learned to juggle, and I also took a ballet class and rediscovered my love of dance. (Between my dropped bean bags and thumpy tour jetes it’s amazing my downstairs neighbors didn’t put out a hit on me.)
Get Back Your Writing Mojo
What would it feel like for you if you made peace with procrastination? If you accepted that it’s just a fact of life?
How would it feel to release any guilt you might have around (not) writing?
We all put off writing sometimes. Even when it’s writing we want to do.
And it’s OK. It’s totally normal.
It’s not procrastination that kills our writing mojo; it’s the guilt about procrastination.
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The guilt spurs denial. We start lying to ourselves and making excuses.
We start telling ourselves stories about why we can’t possibly write instead of simply saying, “Oops!”
Or better yet, getting up and tossing some bean bags in the air to give our butts and our brains a break.
So now it’s out in the open. We all procrastinate. And it’s OK.
No matter how much we’ve put off a writing project before, we can always choose to pick it up.
We can always choose to begin again. Without guilt.
It’s simply the way we juggle writing and life.
So go ahead and forgive yourself for putting off writing that chapter of your book or that blog post or that about page for your website.
Each day is a chance to start fresh. To do what you can.
>> What do you do when you procrastinate from writing? Are you willing to let go of the guilt around procrastination? Share your thoughts in the comments!