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This blog was featured on 12/02/2019
Self-Esteem and Procrastination—How I Became a Writer
Written by
Diana Y. Paul
December 2019
Written by
Diana Y. Paul
December 2019

Writing a book can test your self-esteem. You have to build stamina because writing is a blood sport.   People often ask me:  “Why are you spending all this time trying to write a novel?” Even though I despise that question, my biggest enemy is always my own self-doubt.   Writing well is very difficult, and sometimes very painful.

As a  writer, I  try to move the narrative from my brain into the brains of my readers, using words as my only tools. When I sat down with my idea for Things Unsaid,  my debut novel, I knew my first draft was going to be a data dump, a depiction mostly of the main character. Then later I would start chiseling away, going over each word, adding and subtracting.

If you want to write a novel, you need to first write a story. If you want to write a story, you first need to write a paragraph. If you want to write a paragraph, you first need to put together a coherent sentence.  And that is what saved me.  I wrote phrases, which became sentences, then paragraphs, then scenes.  I put myself on a deadline so that every week I would finish some scenes, gradually completing a chapter, then two chapters and so on.

I was going to fight my way through. I’m a writer. I care about writing. I've always cared.  And I did write, although I couldn’t write Things Unsaid every day in the beginning.  As writers, we have to figure out what works for us. And throw the other “stuff” away.  Now I know what works for me.

I realize that writing anything is a step forward.  Anything.  Sometimes  I have to force myself to write, so I won’t lose momentum.  So here are my four tips for conquering procrastination that have helped me:

1) NaNoWriMo month (November) is a great antidote for procrastinators.  It is an online forum of writers and forces you to write every day, to reach the magical 50,000 words by the end of the month.  I didn’t reach that Holy Grail.  But, I did reach 30,000 words or five chapters of my second novel.  I love you, NaNoWriMo.

2) I reward myself after something—anything—is on the screen.  A cup of coffee, a piece of chocolate, gardening for half an hour.  It rests the mind and the eyes, and jumpstarts my writing self for the next writing session!

3) I read short stories to get inspired.  Such wonderful writers everywhere!  I also look at webinars and tutorials.  Warning:  Don’t let this fill up your entire writing day—no more than one webinar a week.

4) I make specific mini-goals with an exact start time and end-time. For example, I am going to work on a scene between the main character and her daughter for one hour at 11 a.m.  That is a mini-goal.

My realistic writing goal, in the beginning, was one hour. If you suffer from anxiety and fear, it may be that your writing dredges up hard-to-tolerate feelings. It isn’t writing itself that you dislike, it’s the emotions that surface when you write. I remind myself that putting off the writing, in the end,  won’t make it more enjoyable.  I’ll feel bad about myself and defeated as a writer.  Writers write.  If you can find a way to be more welcoming to these emotions, they may grace you with fresh energy and ideas for your muse.  Write unplugged!

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