This is approximately the 1,522nd time I’ve tried to write a blog post, got about a paragraph in, lost my steam, given up, and left it in drafts. Over the 7 years I’ve had this blog, I have attempted to get into a routine of posting over and over. I’ve had varying success, from the summer I posted at least twice a month, to the time I didn’t post for about a year. But every time, I always end up coming back and trying again.
Is it because I’m a glutton for punishment? Can I not learn from my mistakes? As Rita Mae Brown said ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ (not Albert Einstein as many think!) So why do I keep coming back?
The truth is, I am called to write. On some deep, intrinsic level, like a spark of fire in my heart, I feel the need to put words onto paper (or screen as is mostly the case). Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve written stories, poems, and little ‘reports’. I created my own magazines growing up, and dreamed of working for one as a kid. That dream may have changed, but my passion for writing is stronger than ever. It’s the reason I took Creative Writing as my degree, and the thing that keeps me opening up WordPress over and over, even when I’ve failed so many times before.
The thing that stops me from writing is fear. Fear that my words aren’t good enough, that I don’t have good enough ideas, that nobody will ever read this. It’s imposter syndrome mixed with perfectionism, and a healthy does of self-fulfilling-prophecy thrown in for good measure. The more I stress about what to write, and if it’s good enough, the less I write, and the less practice and exposure I get. Every time I have an idea for a post, I get a thousand conflicting thoughts about how to write it, if it’s a good idea, if somebody has done it already (and probably better) and how to even start. Then I think of another idea, and get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of possibilities laid before me. The blinking cursor becomes my enemy, taunting me over beginning paragraphs and snippets of never-realised ideas.
Do you ever get that lightning-bolt of inspiration? That moment of I-must-go-do-this-now-it’s-absolutely-brilliant!? I get that feeling almost every week. It makes me feel tingly, excited, and like I could take on the world. The problem is, that feeling doesn’t often come with a coherent idea. It’s more the beginnings of an idea, which I then have to tease into something tangible. And that’s where I get stuck. Going from the seed to the flower always winds up with me forgetting how to plant it, then pouring water all over myself instead. By that point I’m wet and frustrated (metaphorically speaking) so I just give up, and a cloud of disappointment and anxiety descends. Will I ever accomplish anything? Why can’t I finish something? What’s wrong with me?
Objectively I know that most of my fears are unfounded, but they so often keep me from pushing on, as they get so loud I can’t imagine getting past them. It’s unlikely that anything I write will be completely terrible, I must have some sort of skill or I wouldn’t have got a 2:1 for my degree, or been asked to write a load of guest blogs for different charities and organisations. If I just posted things, I could begin to build a real following. But the amount of ideas swirling around my head, and the fear of failure just keep me stuck at the start, unable to get past the beginning.
When it comes to my work, things are different. If somebody asks me to write a blog about a specific topic, or to plan a workshop for a set date, I’m all over it. I become immersed in creating, unburdened by my fears (for the most part) as I know exactly what I’m working on, and for when and who. When the audience is already built-in, it frees me to focus on making the best thing I possibly can. I have always delivered my wellbeing workshops at the correct time and place, as agreed with the group I pitched to. When I write guest blogs I turn then in quickly, having written them as soon as possible after getting the assignment. So why is it when I’m left completely to my own devices I fall apart?
Perhaps it’s because I’m an obliger. In Gretchen Rubin’s famous Four Tendencies framework, the Obliger responds to external accountability, but struggles with commitments to themselves. This is me to a T. I spent years trying to form morning routines and healthy habits, and if I’m honest it’s only since my fiance has supported me to come up with routines and strategies that I’m able to stick to them a bit more. If I fail to maintain them, I feel like I’m letting him down somehow (even though he would never feel that way, and has given me no impression of it) so I am spurred on to keep going. When it comes to blogging and writing, having an external accountability or deadline keeps me working. When I’m undertaking something because I want to it’s really hard to keep up the momentum.
I still haven’t worked out how to combat this trait in terms of my blog and YBB work to be honest. When I book a workshop, I go full-speed to plan, prepare, and deliver the work. But the in-between times, like now, when I have a hundred ideas of how to move forward and turn it into a business, I just flounder and get overwhelmed. So this is me publicly calling myself out, and asking a small favour. If you’re reading this, please leave me a comment to spur me on. If you’ve ever been part of a workshop I’ve run, or read another post by me, or have an interest in my work, let me know. Those little encouragements can go a long way to helping me keep going!
Do you struggle to stay motivated and finish work? Do deadlines help or hinder you? Take the Four Tendencies quiz and let me know your result in the comments!