Why do we procrastinate on our writing?

Orange image asking the question Why do we procrastinate on our writing? for How To Write the Future podcast

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Why do we procrastinate on our writing? – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 84

“When you make an appointment with yourself for your writing, put it in your calendar and treat it as sacred.”

In this week’s How To Write the Future podcast episode, host creativity coach for writers, Beth Barany, answers a listener’s question: “Why do we procrastinate on our writing?” and shares how to show up for yourself and make writing a priority. Beth also explains the benefits of having a writing community and how to find resources to find one to suit you.

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About the How To Write the Future podcast 

The *How To Write The Future* podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers. We cover tips for fiction writers. This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

– How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?

– How do figure what’s not working if my story feels flat?

– How do I make my story more interesting and alive?

This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

Transcript for Why do we procrastinate on our writing? [Q from Ana Salote] 

Hey everyone. Welcome To How to Write The Future podcast. I’m your host, Beth Barany, and I’m here today to answer the question: why do we procrastinate on our writing? 

How To Write The Future podcast is a podcast for people who want to write positive, optimistic stories. And I’m gearing it mostly to science fiction and fantasy writers of all kinds. I believe that when we imagine what is possible through our stories, we help our readers make it so in their lives, just by the emotional experience, they go through.

So I got this question from a fellow writer,  someone working on her own novel. And she asked me this question.

She said, ‘Hey Beth, do you have any tips for getting past stalling?’ And I asked her more, what did she mean by that?

And she said, ‘yeah, I’m stalling. I’m not writing, I’m putting it off for another day, then another day. And so on.’

I asked her to tell me a little bit more about her situation. And also why does she write?

So she said to me that, and maybe you can relate to this. She said, why do I put off writing? Why do we procrastinate about anything? She said: Every day, I have a list of admin, which I don’t want to do because it’s boring and frustrating. And I resent the time spent on it. Writing is none of those things. It’s enjoyable and transporting.

So why are the frequent barrier?

And then she answers her own question.

She says sometimes it’s because the story and the characters haven’t marinated enough. Sometimes it’s because my body isn’t ready to sit. And often I just put it off for no reason I can define.

So, I just want to say, thank you very much, Ana, for your question. And also thank you for sharing with me your WHY. Because I do believe understanding your WHY for writing– why you sit down and write– and why you love writing. Is going to overcome. I don’t want to say overcome.

I don’t believe procrastination is the issue.

And I will address that in a moment.

Let me read to you what her WHY is for writing.

She says my WHY for writing is the innate drive towards creativity. The pleasure of the flow state. The discovery and surprise of it. The desire to entertain, inform, share, uplift, explore record, analyze, witness, and change hearts and minds.

I just love that Ana.

And for you listening, what is your WHY?

Take a moment. And think about it. Or the next time you sit down to write. Journal about why write for you, personally for you.

All right. So, thanks again, Ana, for your question and for dialoguing with me through the written for more of my questions.

And I want to say procrastination and why we don’t write– two separate issues.

When we procrastinate, we’re actually doing something else.

So I ask myself when I said I was going to write and I didn’t write– is I ask myself: what is more important to me right now?

So, we all have priorities in any given moment, and any given moment, something can feel more important than our writing.

We have a lot of administrative duties to perform in our life, just the day-to-day living– the dishes, the obligations, and just doing things that feel important to the infrastructure of being a human being.

Yes. So, I want to say that each person is different. And something that I have seen across the board with all the writers I’ve worked with and I’ve worked with hundreds of writers is that the people who get the writing done on a regular basis, prioritize the writing.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to put your writing first thing in the morning. Some people advocate that. Wake up and when you’re barely awake, start writing in your journal, and just take what you had from dreamland and put it into writing. I’m not actually an advocate for that.

I’m not awake first thing in the morning, if that is you though, go for it. I believe that each person has a time of day where their energy is in a natural flow state where, if you’re following your own rhythm and your own schedule, this is where you naturally put the things you love the most, if you didn’t have to be doing anything on anyone else’s schedule, or other obligations and I totally get it.

We all have obligations and some more than others.

So what I see people do who have children and I don’t have children, so I didn’t have to face this, but I thought about it because at one point I thought I might have children – is I watched the women who are writers arrange their lives with support. 

They have support. And they make sure that their prime time for writing is set aside for writing.

So what does that look like?

Some writers love writing at night. Some writers love writing first thing in the morning. Some writers like myself – I like writing in the middle of the day right after lunch. So I had to learn how to block off time. So that I could now have my lunch, feel that leisure time that I really love. And take the next hour after I’ve eaten lunch to work on my writing. So that has just grown over the years and even on my calendar, it says lunch and write.

So, how did I get here?

I realized that – a few things.

One – my most important client was me. So I run a business, helping writers, and I was putting everybody else’s needs first. The business needs, the client needs – all of that. And I was miserable. I was so unhappy and like here I am running a business, helping writers and I’m not even doing my writing.

What’s going on. So upset. And this would happen periodically, especially in the first few years of my business.

And I felt so pressured to, to make money and to get things moving. And, and yet I was suffering deep inside my soul because I wasn’t working on my creative work regularly I would go through these waves where I was like, oh, I would remember that writing is so important to me. And then I would do it. But I’d always feel like I was taking away from the business.

So it felt like my business and my creative work were fighting. fighting for dominance. Me, no me.

Over time I realized I have to number one, find the prime time for writing.

So when, when is your prime time for writing?

Number two, block it off like the most important, the most important appointment in my life.

So would you make an appointment with your dear friend, your dearest friend in the world, and then not show up?

No. Would you make an appointment for getting your haircut and not show up? Probably not.

Would you make an appointment? for meeting a friend for coffee, even someone that you only knew casually, and then blow them off and never tell them that you weren’t coming. Hopefully not.

So when you make an appointment with yourself for your writing, put it in your calendar and treat it as sacred.

In fact, when you nurture this. when you nurture this, your writing self and make the time and show up, you’re going to be so much happier.

So I would say to you, Ana, What is your prime time for writing? Block that off like a sacred appointment with yourself. Just the same way you would make an appointment with your dearest friend. And show up.

Now some things that might help you is using the tool of visualization to imagine being in,  at arriving, whether it’s at your desk or I prefer to write at cafes. For the most part.

Yeah, most of my first drafts are all written at cafes. I’m just thinking of that is sometimes not the case. It is sometimes not the case. It’s usually when I’m on some kind of self-imposed deadline.

Or it’s 10 o’clock at night and it’s December 31st and I’m racing to get a book done.

I did that once I sat next to the heater, December 31st and finished this novel that I had started for NaNoWriMo on November one and I did, I wrote an 85,000-word novel in two months, and that was really fun.

So Ana, block off time on your calendar. Sit down and work during those times.

– Visualization 

Now I want to teach everyone a little visualization exercise, and this comes from my training, in NLP neuro-linguistic programming. Which is a very powerful tool to help create change without working at it.

And one of the most powerful things to do is visualize. Visualize yourself doing what it is you want to be doing. Athletes have been using this for a long time, other high-performance, high-performers use it. Actors singers. Stage performers.

And that is to relax and imagine that you are getting ready to go to your writing session, whether it’s across your home or somewhere else outside of your home. 

And imagine where you are right now. Just imagine a future version of you who’s getting ready. Who’s getting the space ready? Who’s getting the supplies ready? 

Who’s making sure that you have the drink, if you use it, if you have a drink, making sure Yeah, for me, it’s coffee. Oh, I should show you this cup, those of you on video. This is my sister’s restaurant in Berkeley.

So there you are. Future version of you. You’re getting ready to go write. You have everything you need.

You’re starting to think about your story.

Now, imagine there you are traveling to your spot. And arriving. At your writing space.

And getting settled. And giving yourself the time and space to get settled. Is everything the way you want it?

Are you comfortable?

And then there you are. You’re writing. Imagine yourself doing the writing.

And what that feels like to sink into your story.

And then imagine time is up. Whether it’s 20 minutes, 30 minutes. More. An hour. 

Maybe two.

It’s just right for you. It’s exactly the appointment that you blocked off for yourself. 

The time has passed and now it’s time to end the writing session.

And now imagine there it is, the future version of you is sitting back in the chair. How are you feeling? How does that feel to have accomplished the writing for the day?

Now just really sit with that and enjoy that. And now it’s time to close up the writing session, just like you would say goodbye to a friend at the end of a wonderful time together. You would feel full of love full of appreciation. And you pack up your belongings, straighten up your desk. And then return back to your normal life. Back to the other parts of your day, the other commitments and obligations.

And just imagine yourself smoothly going about ending the writing session, saying goodbye to it. As you would a dear friend. And transitioning now to the next thing.

So, what was that like? Please share. Write me. Share in the comments if there’s a place to leave comments or just come to how to write the future.com and fill out the communication box, the form. Communication box. The form down at the bottom of the page. Or connect with me on social media and let me know, how did that visualization go.

What was it like for you?

And let me know if you schedule time on your calendar to write. And then there’s one more factor that can help us with getting to our writing.

– Community 

And that is community. There’s a big myth that writers just write by themselves and that’s it, the solo artist.

But actually, most artists, and most writers that I know succeed. Because they’re in some kind of community, whether it’s an online community, and in-person community, or both, or whether it’s a small group of just two or three people. Other writers, like a critique group some kind online trading of pages. Online. Critique group. I said that already.

When I was 30 and I decided to be a novelist, I realized that I could not do it alone.

And I found an in-person group. Where we got together and did some writing. And that was fun. but I knew pretty quickly I needed critique to help me move forward. I needed to be with more experienced people so I could learn from them. So very soon after that, a few months later, I joined a critique group. And I, I was told: Beth, you have to turn in pages In a few months and they gave me a date.

So I knew that I had to turn in pages and that was so helpful. And it got me writing because I knew other people would see my work and that’s what I wanted. So one of the biggest stumbling blocks for writers is feeling like there’s no one to receive what they’re creating. So I would say, find a community where you feel safe, where you could share pages in first draft form, so you can get moving. And maybe that’s a buddy and maybe it’s a group. Maybe it’s informal. Maybe it’s formal.

So, if you’re looking for that kind of community, I have a lot of resources for that. a list of writing associations that you can get when you sign up for one of my freebies.

– Wrap UP – in summary 

Yeah. So what did we talk about today?

We talked about that procrastination, isn’t really procrastination it’s usually because we’re prioritizing other things over our writing. If you want to make writing an integral part of your day, you need to create a schedule. Schedule time for it, a sacred appointment for your writing. And then you need to make it very easy for yourself to get there and sit down and do your writing. And get there could just be simply going from your bedroom to the dining room table. and it needs to be a sacred appointment. And those people in your life who are living with you need to know that this is a sacred appointment, just as important as any very important call that you might make with a dear friend or a cafe date that you make with a friend.

And then, practice, visualize, what it’s like to do this. And then start making it happen. 

And if you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend that you do it once a week. 

And just get into the habit because it is building a habit. And then notice if you’re hungry for more and start adding a second writing session or a third writing session. 

And think about what really truly works for your life.

Be realistic. I write four to six days a week. When it comes to the creation of new content, it’s about four to six days a week and I’ve decided that’s okay.

One day a week, I generally don’t do any work, no matter what, not even if I’m on a deadline. I need time off and you need time off to let yourself rest.

– One more thing… 

So I do want to address, I realized I forgot to address this…

Sometimes the story or the characters haven’t marinated enough, Ana, you said, and yes, that is totally true.

So what I do in those instances and what I recommend you asking yourself is: what is ready?

Most writers are working on more than one project at a time.

So what is ready to be written? What has marinated enough?

And then when you said sometimes it’s because my body isn’t ready to sit.


So at that point, that’s not probably your best writing time. Be active. Move around. Take a walk. Don’t try and force yourself to write, if your body is saying, no, no, I want to be active.

And then, sometimes you said you put it off for no reason. You can define. and I would encourage you to look at, is there anything there that you’re doing that you’re prioritizing?

And we also talked about – Ana shared with us, her why for writing.

So that is also very important is for you to write down and visit what is your why for 

writing? And you may need to revisit this multiple times.

– Stalling Out 

And I want to leave one more thing with you. And that is many, many times I stalled out on my writing and I got busy with other obligations. And then I would come back to my writing and realize – I would actually be really sad. I’m like, why, why did I forget my dear story? My dear characters? How could I have forgotten them?

And this happened quite a lot, in the early days of writing. And what I learned is, how to develop better habits so that I didn’t forget my writing projects. And, I also learned to forgive myself because writing is a habit like any other habit. And it takes time to develop all the parts that make it work. It’s a lot.

There’s a lot going on. There’s the outer factors of our obligations in our life. There’s the inner landscape where we’re just learning the art and craft of storytelling. And then there is the issues and concerns that we are working on inside of our story, which require – it’s emotional work, emotional labor. Be gentle with yourself as you develop your habit for writing regularly.

All right, I’m going to stop here.

Have wonderful, wonderful writing sessions.

Let me know how it goes. And if you are interested in working one-on-one with me on the inner habits that you need to build as a writer, I offer deep dive sessions with writers who want to work on that inner landscape. I have lots of ways in which I support writers and that’s one of them.

So if you’re interested in that, reach out to me and we’ll schedule an appointment. 

That is a paid session and it’s usually about a 90-minute session and it’s deep. So, if you would like that, let me know by reaching out to me. That’s it, everyone. I want to thank everyone for listening.

For those of you watching on video on YouTube, please like, and subscribe, and share.

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If you can share this podcast with your friends, I would love that.

Not for me per se, but for them, if this content you find will be helpful for your writing friends, please do share it along.

And that’s how my podcast doubled in reach in the year and a half that I’ve been running it.

So, thank you so much, everyone.

Write long and prosper.

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Image of Beth Barany

Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


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