The title of this podcast is ‘The Worried Writer’ so Sarah likes to delve into how her guests struggle with self-doubt and procrastination.
One of her questions was: Do you ever suffer from creative block?
I confess that I had to think about how I was going to answer that question.
I have never suffered from “creative block” or “writers’ block” but I do know what it feels like to be frustrated and angry with myself, when I don’t seem to be making progress on the major writing projects that are super-important to me.
I know what it is of course – I am not just the Queen of Procrastination, I am the entire royal family.
I have struggled with procrastination for years and only recently been able to work through and analyse why I keep putting things off, and then do something about it.
As a geeky trained scientist, I only know one way to get to the bottom of a problem and that is to analyse and research and get to the fundamental root causes of procrastination and then deal with them one by one.
For me, one of the big ones was the fear of not realising the true potential of a project.
I love my work and want it to be the very best that I can make it.
My standards in what I do and publish and produce have always been very high.
If I don’t do my very best then I failed to meet the standards that I have set.
Perfectionism? Oh yes. That is very real. There is a reason why I take so long to submit a manuscript and it has nothing to do with story craft. It was all about being unhappy with tiny aspects of the manuscript.
This all came to a head in 2012 when I was offered a 3 book contract with Carina UK at the same time as my existing contract for 3 Harlequin novels. This was it! I could finally write some romantic thrillers for Carina UK.
6 novels in 12 months. All 50,000 to 75,000 words.
I knew that I could do it – but I had to stop procrastinating.
Here is the strategy that I came up with after years of working out the best practices. I have shared it with other romance authors and they seem to have found it useful.
I call it the MAGIC system and over the next few weeks, I shall be rolling out some additional training on how authors can use it to break through the mental barriers that are holding them back.
M. MOTIVATION. Finding your True North. Everything starts with your WHY. Everything.
A. ACCEPTANCE. Self-Awareness about WHO you are and how you came to be here – and WHO you want to become. The vision of your ideal self, based on your unique strengths and skills.
G. GOALS. I don’t like the word “goal” so feel free to call it Your Mission. Your End Results. Whatever you want to call your list of dream results and outcomes. Your future self. Work backwards from the end so that you know what steps you need to take to create that result.
I. IMPLEMENTATION. Lists are useful without action. Think of this as an experiment. A fun game you are trying out new things. WHAT are you going to and in what order so that you can work smarter and faster.
C. COMMITMENT. WHEN are you going to get started on your Implementation Plan. You may have to develop new habits and that can take time, so the sooner that you can get started the better.
By working through the MAGIC system, I was able to break down the workload into tiny chunks and focus on my WHY whenever things got tough. New habits and working practices followed and I have been using this process ever since.
There is one book which I loved and recommended in the podcast since I come back to every month – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
If you have every wondered where that negative voice in the back of your head comes from that tells you to stop writing and watch cat videos instead? Read this book.
Hope that you enjoy the podcast. Have fun!