How not to help a procrastinator

Project 365 #128: 080509 The Art of Procrastin...
Project 365 #128: 080509 The Art of Procrastination (Photo credit: comedy_nose)

I’ve just read another article purporting to solve the procrastinator’s problem. The answer? Get on with it.

If the writer were within throttling distance, she’d have gasped her last by now.

WE KNOW. We know. Yes, thanks. We know.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘try’.” Yeah, cheers, Yoder, we know that too. That, of course, is a different problem to procrastination, but it’s another reason to defer the moment of failure.

Is that what it is? Is that why we do anything – laundry, pruning, defleaing the dog, VAT returns… anything to avoid the moment of truth.

What are we so scared of?

Is failure what terrifies us? That if we write the novel, finish the screenplay, submit it… that we’ll be rejected? I know two people who are so terrified of the rejection slip that they simply will not submit a manuscript to an agent or an editor, happy to write for its own sake. Is that you, too?

I think my personal neurosis is actually fear of success, not failure. What if Spielberg called? What if Harper Collins asked me to lunch? Gawd help me, I’d have to follow through. I’d have to do what I said I could do, and then I might earn pots of money and be a household name and… that would be awful.

Awful! Why? Because nice middle-class English girls aren’t rich and famous, they’re decorative and pleasing and the rock-like support for their cleverer, wiser husbands. And if I succeeded, against the rules, I’d surely be found out as a fraud, a fake, a nice middle-class English girl out of her depth…

*screech of brakes* Hang on, where did that come from? Am I going through blog therapy? That’s all such nonsense. But alarm bells are ringing. Is that stuff what’s holding me back? Am I so firmly chained to my upbringing? Someone – show me to a shrink.

The point is… you need to know why you procrastinate before you can knock it on the head. What are you scared of? Failure? Success? Rejection? Mass approval? I’m not suggesting you sign up for a six-month course of therapy, but it might be worth having a bit of a think. Procrastination usually comes from some long-held, deep-seated and often irrational belief that we can’t overcome. All too commonly it’s about not being good enough, which works whether you’re scared of failure or success – one takes longer than the other, that’s all.

So to hell with the ‘get on with it’ brigade. Delve into your most embarrassing hang-ups and find out what’s scaring you. Hold it up to the light and see if it’s a sensible fear, with any power at all. Almost certainly it won’t be. When you see the big rancid toothy dragon in the bright light of day, you see that it’s more like a three-inch gecko. No teeth, no claws, scared witless of you and longing to scuttle back under a nice dark rock. So let it go scuttling off. Bye, bye, irrational fear.

Then you can get on with it, no dragons breathing down your neck.

Are you a procrastinator? Is it fear of failure or fear of success that paralyses you?

Author: Arabella McIntyre-Brown

I'm a writer from West Sussex is southern England, but after 30 years of urban life in London and Liverpool, I now live in a remote village 1,000 metres up in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. My first book in Romania was published in November 2016: "Din Liverpool in Carpati: cum mi-am gasit fericirea în inima Transilvaniei". The English version, 'A stake in Transylvania' is out soon. I've also written (so far) four bilingual (En/Ro) children's books.

4 thoughts on “How not to help a procrastinator”

  1. While I am a procrastinator, I don’t really think I’m afraid of anything, per se. Most of the time I just have other things I enjoy doing more, or else I’m just being lazy!


      1. Well, I write because I like to write and like to have my work out there, that’s as simple as it gets. xD I would love to become a full-time writer, but for now I’ll stick to other things for a living.


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