The day begins and you know well what that means: your next writing session, as was planned weeks ago, awaits you. But as in the last few weeks, you convince yourself that you have more pressing tasks to do than write, that you can’t write because of your missing motivation, or any other kind of excuse that keeps you away from your desk. Each evening, however, you can’t get rid of the feeling that you didn’t accomplish what you should have. You feel bad, because you didn’t stick to your writing plan again. If you are not in sticking to your plan, you are an expert in self-sabotage.
Once in a while, I meet with writers who are these kind of experts. Actually, I’m lucky when I meet them more than once, because self-sabotage also helps if you are meant to visit your writing coach again, but hey, there are more pressing things…
Writers who sabotage themselves often know that they are doing it. They may well explain to me how they do it, how they feel about it, and that they would like to change. Self-sabotage, I explain to them, is a bad habit, not something they have to live with forever. Trying to get rid of bad habits, however, turns out to be hard. This endeavor takes perseverance – a common trait of successful writers – since every time you realize that you are sabotaging yourself you have to sit down and write nonetheless. At first, this might demand self-discipline. That is what many writers don’t like (for some it sounds too neoliberal). What they don’t see is that the initial effort becomes a habit in time. This period is the hardest, during which you turn your bad habit of self-sabotage into a good habit of sticking to your plan despite excuses. Some of my clients give up before the end of this period.
Compare it to playing an instrument or training for a sports competition. When you begin, it’s hard to repeat the same exercises. In order to learn, however, you have to go through this routine. Otherwise you won’t get better, faster or stronger. The same applies to writing.
What’s the solution to self-sabotage? Find ways to sabotage your self-sabotage. If you feel too moody to write, give yourself a motivational boost by eating something delicious (chocolate comes to mind), take a stroll through the nearby woods or treat yourself with your favorite coffee or tea. If you think answering the most recent e-mails will take most of your day, so you can’t possibly write, write first and reward yourself with answering those (allegedly) important e-mails. Or if you were frustrated in the past, because the chosen work tasks were too complicated, treat yourself with simpler ones you can do in less time. Then, at least, you do something, instead of waiting for a miracle that simplifies the tasks for you (which never happens, I’m afraid).
Find new ways to trick yourself, so that you do the writing you’re supposed to do. Only by sticking to your plan, however painful that might be in the beginning, can you become a writer with good habits. Use your skills of self-sabotage to get going again.