Overcoming Obstacles

There was another article in The Florida Writer (February 2016) which caught my attention: ‘Overcoming the 10 Biggest Obstacles to Creating’ by Leo Babauta.  Leo is a blogger and author of The Power of Less and Zen to Done.  His blog zenhabits.net has a million readers.

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Leo Babauta

Here are some excerpts:

  1.  Distractions: we all face the problem of distractions and we all give in to them.  The only way to overcome them is to clear them away with a clean sweep: turn off your phone, bookmark all your browser tabs, close it and all other programs, and open only the program you need for creating.
  2.  Fantasies about how easy and nice the creating will be.  Creating is not easy.  It’s hard and messy . . . but still great, and we should be thankful for the opportunity to create.
  3.  Fear of failure: putting ourselves out there is scary, and not being good at something is frightening as hell.  But how do you ever get to be good if you don’t try? . . . So to get us through the not-great times, we have to have fun, embrace what comes, and allow ourselves to play.
  4.  Discomfort with the difficulty/confusion.  It’s uncomfortable to do something that’s confusing and filled with difficulty when we don’t know for sure what we’re doing.  The only way I’ve learned to overcome this is to sit there and just feel the discomfort.  . . . And just sit.  I’ll feel the discomfort.  It’s not that bad, and I realise that I’ll be OK
  5.  Perfectionism:  We want things to be great, so we nitpick and are unhappy with the results.  It stops us from actually creating.  So we need to smash through perfectionism and get back into the habit of just putting imperfect stuff out there.  I do this by not allowing myself to edit before I publish a blog post.  I just publish, tweet it, and then go back and edit.
  6. The urge to switch.  As you’re trying to write, you’ll get the urge to switch to something else: check email, check social media, check the news, clean the kitchen.  Set a timer; don’t let yourself switch to anything else until the timer is up.  Let your mind complain, but don’t give it anywhere to run.
  7.  Interruptions: I write in a house full of kids.  I just tell them I need to write for an hour (or whatever) and plug in some headphones.  Or I get out of the house and go somewhere with solitude.
  8.  Not enough time.  We’re all busy.  Who has the time to focus for an hour or two.  Well, forget about an hour.  Just  do it for five minutes.
  9. Being tired: It’s impossible to focus and work hard when you’re tired, right? Wrong!  You can do it if you really want to.  So, ask yourself this: why do you want to create?  Is it important enough to push through tiredness?  If not, just forget it.
  10.  Negative self-talk:  We tell ourselves: “I can’t do this”, or “I can do this later.”  This kind of self-talk, often unnoticed, can be defeating.  So how do we counter it?  By paying attention.  Shine some light on it.  But don’t give in!

At the bottom of the page in The Florida Writer is a quote from Jodi Picoult: “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.  If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it.  You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page.  You can’t edit a blank page.”  Jodi Lynn Picoult ( born May 19, 1966) is an American author. She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003.  Picoult currently has approximately 14 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

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Jodi Picoult

To the above sage advice I would add two points of my own:

  • Start the next hard part before quitting; don’t quit in the transition.  If the next section of your work is a little different, and you’re not sure how to begin it, don’t leave it to be started when your mood isn’t positive.  Start it when you’re on a roll.
  • Try to live up to an output objective.  In my case it’s one page of quality text every day.  If I fall behind, I try to catch up and I like to stay ahead of target.

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