Home » Process Over Progress: On Outsmarting Self-Sabotage

Process Over Progress: On Outsmarting Self-Sabotage

“Here’s the thing: whatever your schedule, stuff is going to happen. People will make demands on your time, your equipment is going to fail, and your family and friends need you. The world is not going to roll over and make it easy for you to get your writing done. In fact, many people might try (either consciously or unconsciously) to sabotage your efforts. You may sabotage your efforts. That’s the way it is for everyone–you’re not alone.” – Write that Book Already!, Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark

W hat keeps you motivated to write when you don’t particularly want to? Do you push through the resistance and pick up some quick inspiration in a book like The War of Art or Bird by Bird? Or do you distract yourself and go clean the garage or make some soup? Do you have a strategy that works for you? I’m asking because I’d really like to know. Maybe your method would inspire me to change mine.

Being the deliberate, results-oriented person I am, I normally try to push through it, with mixed results. Sometimes I find it seemingly impossible to pick up where I left off, and there are as many reasons for that as the potential ways the new day’s words could take me. It could be a million reasons at once compounding and converging on the blinking cursor, and no one strategy could ever solve the puzzle.

It’s Monday on the final full week of March. There’s new snow on the ground overnight, and a statewide lockdown expected soon. The news is dire and distraction from writing feels like it’s at an all-time high. But if I stay in my process and turn off the news, the stillness an silence are preserved and the stories will emerge again.

We all have a decision to make about what we let have our attention. None of us are helpless to control the influences and knowledge coming to us each day. “There is a time for everything under the sun,” the wisest man who ever lived wrote. Wisdom is knowing the proper time for everything we choose to give space in our finite attention.

It’s not a new thought, but we forget so easily these days. That’s why I have to keep being so deliberate about my day and reengage each time the distractions win. This presence of mind is a spiritual practice and allowing it to be stolen is a failure to trust the simpler, quieter knowledge of who I truly am: a called writer who has a job to do before other things are allowed in.

“But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own…”

– Mary Oliver, The Journey

5 Responses to “Process Over Progress: On Outsmarting Self-Sabotage”

  1. Robin says:

    Sooo….I’m not currently writing a book, but I blog. There are two main reasons that stop me from writing on my blog (sometimes for months): 1) During the times when I think I have no audience. 2) My own insecurities—that I’m not good enough, or that what I write isn’t worth anyone’s reading time.

    I wrestle with that because if I’m writing from my heart and my goal is to try to encourage others, then I feel guilty for letting the number of my readers affect my motivation.

    And as far as reason #2 goes, that’s just not true. We are all worthy, and I need to give myself grace if I’m “not good enough”.

    The truth is that there is always at least ONE person reading what I write on my blog. And the knowledge that maybe just maybe that one person might be encouraged or entertained by what I say is usually what gets me back to it.

    Because I know what it feels like to be alone, to be lost, to be searching for answers or wisdom or camaraderie…and if I could help someone through that by sharing my own experiences, then it’s worth sitting down to write about.

    For me, I have no great work to complete. At least not for now. But if I did, I suppose that would be on the forefront of my mind….”Who does God intend for me to reach with this? And how would their life be different if I didn’t finish this?” That might sound egotistic, but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just…like a job to be done even if I may not be qualified. And it’s not even a job really….it’s more like company. When I write I feel a kinship with the person I don’t know is reading what I write.

    I imagine I stay away from big works of writing because I’m afraid of the revising and editing. It sounds messy and complicated. I’ve never gotten that far. Would I start out loving what I was doing and then get to that place and absolutely hate it? Is that part of the process—-getting to a place where you have to drag yourself to it? I don’t know. So for now I follow my heart, and continue to pray about what direction I should go in.

    • Mick says:

      Great processing, Robin! Everyone has these thoughts, but not everyone processes them, or keeps at it in the face of the excuses. Keyes covers the ‘top 6 writing excuses” to exorcise in chapter 4 of The Writer’s Book of Hope: 1) I don’t have enough time, 2) I’m not talented enough, 3) I hardly ever get inspired, 4) I didn’t study writing, 5) I’m the wrong age, 6) I’m too afraid to fail. He says (and I can confirm the truth of this), not writing is the great excuse-generator. So one more reason I keep at it is to keep the excuses from winning!

      Thanks for keeping on. People don’t need it, but you do, and that means someone else does. There’s plenty of bad writing out there and far too little of the kind you do–honest, thoughtful, humble, and true.


    • Jody says:

      I just want to let both of you know, Robin and Mick, your words have offered encouragement, camaraderie, inspiration and direction to one procrastinating, almost-stuck-but-not-quite, still-trusting-in-God writer today. It’s back to work for me, now, but you should know I’m grateful you kept at it.

      with hope,
      one of the ONEs

      P.S. Robin, I know where to find Mick, but where do you blog?

    • Mick says:

      Jody, thanks for saying. Robin is at encourageyourheart.blog and I know she’d love you connecting there! So appreciate your tenacity and camaraderie in the journey. If I had a dollar for all the people who’ve told me “I want to write someday,” I would be independently wealthy. Published writers write. I’m never stopping again! :) Keep on!

  2. Robin says:

    Thank you, Jody and Mick, for your kind words. Keep at it, both of you! The world needs your voice. 💕 The last few weeks have been tough for sure…I’m finding my thoughts flying in all different directions. I came back to reread this post today to give me some inspiration. Its amazing how today I read it differently than last time. Life is so amazing like that. Thank YOU both for your encouragement. May we continue to trust in Him!

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