Don't fear the reader

Douglas Adams

Mike Cooper's credits include The Skewer, Breaking The News and A Comedy Of Gamers.

The quicker you start your journey, the quicker you'll reach your destination. This is theoretically true, unless of course part of said journey involves circumnavigating the M25; but in the main, the quicker you start something, the quicker you'll finish. So why then do we - and it is entirely possible I am talking exclusively about the "Royal we" here - put off starting something for so bloody long?

A quick Google (other search engines are available; Google them) of the word procrastination leads to this definition:

"Procrastination is the habit of unnecessarily delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead. It is different from laziness, which is the unwillingness to act."

Spot on I'd say, apart from one element of it: "an important task." Sadly, for myself, I will procrastinate over almost everything. Regardless of how small, mundane, or unimportant it is, chances are it will take me an absolute age to start.

I'm genuinely not lazy, I just take a long time to start anything. Once I get going, I'm great. I will work my proverbial off, but it is the getting going that is my biggest problem.

Thinking about procrastination in regard to my writing, it is different to the reasons I take so long to start other tasks: cleaning the kitchen or tidying my desk, for example. These are usually put off, for a quite frankly ridiculous amount of time, because I'd much rather be doing something else. But then I never fully enjoy the something else as I know I have other more important things I should be doing.

Eventually, once the important things are finally out of the way, I always feel so much better and I'll actually enjoy the something else way more. Incredibly, I fail to remember this zen-like feeling every single time!


Anyway, I digress. I've realised recently the biggest reason why I procrastinate so much with writing is fear.

Fear that once something is finished, I'll then have to show it to someone other than myself, which then produces its own additional fears.

The fear that people won't like it, the fear that people will think I'm a bad writer, the fear that I will be found out as a fraud for believing I can actually do this thing, the fear that I'm not funny, the fear that I'm not smart enough, the fear that The Truman Show was a hidden in plain sight truth and that my every moment has been captured for all to see. (This is probably the most unfounded of all my fears. However, if it is true, I can only apologise for the absolute dross you have had to endure for over 48 years!).

How do you get over those fears? I've no idea if I'm honest. I've been lucky enough to have had a few broadcast credits and scripts I've written, or co-written, have been well received by industry professionals, but the fear is still rife and thus the procrastination with it.

Take this very article as an example, the irony of how long it took me to actually start the bloody thing is not lost on me! In fact, had it not had a deadline, then it probably would have remained unwritten for many more weeks yet!

You've probably seen the words of Douglas Adams:

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

Now, if you are a writer as good as Mr Adams undoubtedly was, you are probably given a little bit of slack in the deadline stakes, but for the majority of us, deadlines are there to be met, unequivocally.

And they should also be embraced because they absolutely work. With a deadline, you can only procrastinate for so long before the window completely shuts. And for myself, thankfully, the fear of missing a deadline and letting people down, is far stronger than the fear in my own ability.

So please, set yourself a deadline and stop procrastinating, because, if you are anything like me, getting started is one of the hardest parts to writing. Oh, and in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.

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