Changing My Thought to Change My Result

Lately I’ve been struggling to get the words on the page. I have all the tools at my fingertips, I know what I need to do, but, at least in the last few weeks, I haven’t done it.

I had a discussion about this topic with a woman who attended a class I taught on procrastination. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m teaching others about how to deal with procrastination and I notice that the one thing I do that’s only for myself—writing fiction—is the only thing on my to-do list that’s not getting done.

I’m so much less of a procrastinator than I used to be. I’m so much better at getting things done that are important to me—except my personal writing.

I know why—because of my thinking. I keep thinking that my writing is only for myself. That thought makes me feel defeated, and when I feel defeated my writing goes directly to the bottom of my to-do list (where it promptly falls off the list!)

Everything else I do has some impact on someone else, even if only in a small way. Or that’s what I tell myself.

But I have always wanted (no, longed) to be a writer. To me, that means a fiction writer (even though I really enjoy my nonfiction writing, too!) So I need to change that thought.

I believe if I can change that thought (my fiction writing is only for myself) I will change the way I feel about my writing which will lead me to act differently—in this case, actually get some writing done!

So, what could I think that is as true or truer than my previous thought and gives me a positive emotion?

Here are a few thoughts I’ve come up with:

  • My writing matters to me and my future audience.
  • My writing brings me joy and that’s important.
  • Time spent writing is time invested in myself.

Each one of these thoughts brings up a positive emotion but the one that seems to feel the best is: My writing brings me joy and that’s important.

When I think this thought, I immediately feel a rush of energy and, yes, joy!

Since I happen to believe that having as much joy as possible in my life is a worthy goal, this thought is much more positive for me than my previous thought.

Now, will my new thought change my behavior? I hope so. I will focus on saying this new thought (which I really believe—that’s very important) whenever my old thought about writing arises.

I’ll let you know what comes of it.

How do you get yourself to the page when it’s “only” for you?  

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. The writing retreat I went on in January seems like a million years ago, but I know I can get back on track if I can just change my thought and schedule one block of time to write in the next few days. I know if I don’t actually schedule it, I’ll never “find” the time.

29 thoughts on “Changing My Thought to Change My Result

  1. I don’t. I tried keeping journals that were for my eyes only. After a month or two my interest in them diminished and completely evaporated. That’s why I’ve taken to having a personal blog which I don’t promote via social media–not because I’m ashamed of some of its contents but because it’s personal. I write to influence people for the better. How do I deal with procrastination? I wait until I am ready to put my thoughts on “paper”. Sometimes I feel ready to write and other times I do it because way too much time has elapsed and I need to post something. The same holds true for my work.

  2. I like the what you said. My writing brings me joy. That is what it is all about, and if readers get some joy out of it,then that is a bonus. A friend once told me write because that is what you like. Do not worry about others. So I continue to write. Great Info on your blog. Thanks.

  3. Real life invades the time I set aside for me. I have a world of people to cater to and take care of so guilt does eat at me when I am being selfish. It is mainly for me. I’m fine with that concept.

    However, I don’t think of it as only for me. If nothing else I set a good example for my niece. I want her to live her dreams. I write for her future as much as I write for myself.

  4. I feel ya!!! I’m a procrastinator. I’ve been better the last little while, I have found inspiriation in how much I love the book I’m writing and how much I believe in the characters.

    But other things are suffering 😉

  5. Yesterday I woke up glum saying, “It’s Wednesday and I haven’t written a word of fiction.” So today I just said No to everything else. For today only, I can afford to say No, I decided. So now I have a story in the works. Perhaps that is the best way for me, rather than trying to scrabble together time every day. Kind of like the 5:2 diet.

  6. I identify so much with what you say about procrastinating and your writing. Everyone else matters more than you do. For me, feedback is a great motivator. Just as deadlines are and I try to set some for myself. But even better are deadlines for a writing group.

    Rejection, on the other hand is a great de-motivator. What am I doing this for, I wonder. I don’t just want to do it for myself. I also want my writing to be read.

    Saying no to everything else as the post above suggests is a good idea. Though not always easy to do.

    Thanks for posting this. Now, I have to get back to my writing:)

  7. I’m like you.. for so long I wanted to write a novel. I’ve had the idea in my head for years. But there was always, housework, groceries, laundry, dinner, family…the list went on.

    I’ve come to realize that making other people happy is important, but I need to be happy first. I have kept a journal for over 15 years and still do. I love it and find it therapeutic. Now it’s about writing my novel. Life still gets in the way, but I agree with you, “writing brings me joy…and that is important!”

  8. The key word in your entire article, for me at least, is joy. When we find ourselves completely absorbed in an activity, it is a sign that we are on the right path. Joy is a very telling emotion. For me, in the end, I come to the page because it is ultimately only for me. I may have one reader or one hundred readers. And I would be naive and lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy hearing from every one of those readers. But, in the end, writing is my soul’s therapy. It is my chosen form of expression that helps me make sense of myself and my place in the world. It is still a constant battle with my psyche to convince myself of this declaration, but when I become absorbed in that state of joy, the truth comes flooding back in the smile on my face and through the words on a page.

  9. Just what I needed to hear today. Interesting…I started blogging/writing as way to refocus my other artistic life. Like flexing different muscles in hopes that it jostles the overall creative hopper! I have often had thoughts about why doing something if just for me, myself and I. I think it’s about just bringing myself to the page….that’s good enough sometimes:)

  10. Freewriting!

    It’s all about freewriting, good old school, surrealist, elementary school style, freewriting. And I think it works especially well for crafting fiction in the long term, but when you’re procrastinating and worried about your next pages, or the meta-narrative you’re trying to put together, or the audience, or your regular civilian life, nothing will bring back the straight carnal exhilaration of writing than a timed freewriting session.

    You may not use a word of it in your novel, or you may end up using it all, but it’s the personal and spontaneous act that will keep the joy of writing alive in you!

  11. Diane your line ‘I keep thinking my writing is only for myself’ really resonated with me. I get a lot of writing done for work (and tons of research that I get paid for) and yet when I sit down to face a new page of my novel I feel deflated! Thanks for the insight and the inspiration 🙂

  12. Whenever I am working on a writing project, I write out a little contract for myself. Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote about it. I think it might help you with your procrastination.

    Write a contract for yourself. Perhaps this seems extreme, but I found it necessary to actually write down my goal, which was to complete a rough draft of my novel by a specific date. In addition, I wrote down vows, which were actions I swore I would take to reach my goal. Once I wrote these goals and vows down, I printed out several copies and posted them in my home office, my work office, my refrigerator, and half a dozen other places I would see them everyday. Call it an accountability thing.

    Here’s a link to whole article, which is about the process of working on (and finishing) your novel. Cheers.

  13. I am definitely a procrastinator who manages to do the dishes or pick up the floor during my writing time, mostly because I’m afraid that my books will never be popular. Then I get so bottled up that I wind up really angry until I take the time to write. Writing makes me happy.
    Like you said, writing brings you joy. Remember, if you are joyful because of your writing, then your joy will spill over into the other aspects of your life. Even if none of your writing ever gets read by a single soul, the joy you found will be felt by all that come into contact with you.

    And if you don’t like those people, you can make up new ones! 😉

  14. I was in a similar mindset a couple of years ago, and the affirmation that worked for me was “I have a voice that others need to hear.” It doesn’t solve my procrastination problems now, but it was key to 1) writing more and 2) putting my writing out into the public realm so others could–you know–actually READ it!

  15. I resonate with what you wrote “I keep thinking that my writing is only for myself. That thought makes me feel defeated, and when I feel defeated my writing goes directly to the bottom of my to-do list (where it promptly falls off the list!)”
    I am in the same place. I have lost interest in writing for myself. I’m right in the middle of writing my novel and have found it a very lonely place. I’ve switched up my toolbox a bit, and started writing in ways that are unfamiliar with how I usually go about it. This has brought some novelty into the mix, and has helped me get to the page.
    Also, I recently started blogging again. I need it. Even if it is to share a quote from a fantastic book, it gets my fingers fired up, and my brain somewhere to go.
    AND I’m reading books on how to care for my creative fire. That helps to. I’m finding that I resist my own rules on how much I should write and when, I’m more able to show up to the page when like you, remember how much joy it gives me.
    Follow your bliss!

  16. Helps to read other blogs and get inspired by them….I sometimes wonder who reads these blogs…as I seem to get so few likes, comments or even view…

  17. Pingback: Friday Fun — What drives you to write? | Live to Write - Write to Live

  18. I write at the same time everyday. And if I don’t feel like it, I say all you have to do is sit down, open the doc and read or write ten words, then you can leave if you want. But I very seldom do once those ten words have been put down.
    I really like the joy! option though, I will defiantly implement that too, thank you.

  19. As a family therapist and writer, I marvel at the way you reframed the problem of procrastination in your personal writing by changing your perspective rather than your routine. It reminds me of a saying by Epictetus that invariably helps when I’m facing a problem: “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” I am wondering how your writing is coming along since you adopted this strategy.

  20. You and I procrastinate for good reasons. We have other agendas and needs that conflict with our pronounced priorities. The truth is that writing is work, and is painful as well. It requires discipline and consistency. So how do you get through it? I think you give your resistance the space and time to have its way. Like speaking to a child you promise the rebellious child her time and space, “but not now. I’m writing.” Then keep your promise to enjoy some reward or pleasure.

  21. This is so true. When it’s “just for me” it always falls to the bottom of the list, while things that I MUST do stay at the top. The problem is, when it’s at the bottom of the list, I’m 100% less likely to make it happen because I’m the only one who will notice. It’s about not feeling like I have to be accountable to myself.

    Alexa —

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