I am terrible at making decisions. I agonize over every outcome, imagining each scenario, obsessing over the tiniest details.
I overthink everything.
And I know I’m not alone. As writers, it’s our job to think. To focus on the details and observe everything. But it’s easy to overdo it. And it can have terrible consequences.
That novel you want to write? You get five chapters in and you read what you’ve written so far. It’s terrible. You hate every word and you don’t even know how to begin fixing it. Pretty soon you’re doubting your skills as a writer and thinking about how you’ll never make it and end up living on the streets poor and alone.
So you drop the novel. It sits on the hard drive of your computer collecting dust. You think about diving back in, but every time you get close, you find some excuse to do something else.
All your overthinking only leads to doubt and inaction. If you think too much about what you want to do, you’ll never actually do what you want to do.
Don’t Let Excuses Get In the Way
You can always find a reason not to write if you try. The dishes need to be done. You need to call your mom. That show on Netflix is just calling your name. You just don’t feel like it.
Our excuses are always hiding something deeper. Our fear of failure. Our fear of success. Doubt about our skills. So we distract ourselves with whatever we can to avoid doing the work.
But it’s the work that will give us what we need. Because if you’re always putting your writing off, you’ll never actually do it.
What to do: Get clear on your priorities. Why do you write? Why do you want to be a writer? What’s driving you? Focus on your goals and purpose and that will fuel your motivation. Then you’ll be able to see excuses for what they are.
You also need to eliminate your distractions. Declutter your space. Turn the TV off. Close the door. Sit your butt in the chair. Do the work.
The Curse of Perfectionism
I think all writers are perfectionists. But the ones who fail are the ones who can’t get past their perfectionist tendencies.
We all want our writing to be the best. We dream of winning prizes and topping bestseller lists. But nobody started out being perfect. You know the phrase. Practice makes perfect.
The first sentence you write will never be the best one. Your first draft won’t be the one you publish. You have to walk before you can run.
What to do: Think of your first draft as a practice run. You’re just getting your ideas out there, setting up the foundation. Later, you can go back and fill in the details. This, to me, is the key to writing.
Make your draft a true draft. Don’t worry about how the words come out at first. Just get them out. Save the editing for later.
Stop Wanting, Start Doing
You want to be a writer. You want to publish a novel. You want to start a blog. You want to be a Top Writer on Medium. Whatever your goal is, simply wanting it isn’t enough to get it.
We all have goals, but if it’s sitting on your New Year’s resolution list year after year, you’re not going to reach it.
It’s not going to be handed to you. You have to go out there and get it.
What to do: Here’s my new mantra: Don’t think. Just write. Whenever I feel myself avoiding the work, doubting my skills, or wondering what I should write about next, I say these four words to myself. Over and over. Until I truly hear it. Until I’m able to quiet my mind long enough to get the words out.
And you know what? It works.
Yes, I’m an overthinker. But if I really want to be successful as a writer, I need to shut my brain up long enough to actually write. If I can do that, who knows what kind of success I’ll find?