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Today I have some homework for you. You probably didn’t know when you joined this blog (You did join, didn’t you? Over there in the sidebar?) that there would be homework, but don’t worry, on my blog everyone gets As.

My homework for you is to record, for the next week, all the times you sabotage your writing. What does that mean? It means all the times you could have written but instead scheduled a date with your dog/dentist/psychic. It means all the times you sat down to write and then got up to eat/drink/clean the toilet instead. It means all the times you turned on your computer to write and instead e-mailed/read blogs/shopped online. It means all the times you chose television/exercise/research over writing. It means all the times you met deadlines for work and paid your bills but didn’t write. And in addition to writing down all the times you sabotage your writing, I want you to record all the times you were about to sabotage your writing, and then didn’t.

For example: Two months ago I ran a half marathon and then stopped running because I was injured but also because it was really time consuming and I wanted to focus on my book revision. Then two days ago I started missing running. Yesterday, I wrote a lot and got ahead on my goals. So today I decided to go running instead of getting to my office early. Was this self-sabotage? Maybe not since I was ahead, but I could have used that opportunity of being ahead to get even more done this week.

I decided a compromise would be to do a short run, so off I went. When I got to the point of turning around, there were two little devils on my shoulders (no angels, just devils). One said, “Keep going! You can do it! You can get up that hill and do the longer run!” and the other said, “This is self-sabotage! Turn back! You’ve run far enough for today!” I listened to Devil One and started up the hill. Then Devil Two spoke up again and I turned around and ran home.

So now your job is to be aware of all the choices you make during the next week and record when you choose to listen to Devil One and when you choose to listen to Devil Two. I started doing this today, and it made a huge difference in my productivity. When I arrived at work, I made a mental list of the e-mails I had to send and promised myself not to respond to any others. Then I turned on MacFreedom and went to work. Ten minutes later, I really wanted to balance my checkbook. And make a haircut appointment. And e-mail a friend. And record the run I did his morning on Daily Mile, but then I would have had to record all those things as moments I sabotaged my writing. So I didn’t do any of them, and I kept writing. An hour after that, I accidentally opened a document that I need to finish editing and decided I’d just edit it quickly and then get back to writing. But that would have been self-sabotage. So I closed the document, and went back to writing. I completed the two writing goals I had for today and then I went home and cooked and watched TV while I ate dinner. Cooking and watching TV were not self-sabotage because I had no goal this evening to write, and because we all need breaks from time to time. The key is that they were conscious decisions, not things I did unconsciously during the time I had intended to write. This exercise should a) help you get more writing done b) help you identify the ways in which you sabotage your writing and c) make you stop feeling as if the time just “slipped away” (while you were blogging/e-mailing/playing Farmville.)

I’m looking forward to hearing your results next week!

11 comments to Self-Sabotage

  • I'm the opposite. My writing was sabotaging my other responsibities in life: the bathrooms, dinner, booking appointments, speding time with the family. I've cut back on it (I still write/edit several hours a day), but now I'm more balanced.

  • yeah, I'm going to do this. Still, it makes me feel like I'm weight watchers and I have to record when I'm cheating or not. The whole thrill of cheating is that nobody knows! still, I'm going to do this. Right after I just do this one thing…

  • Stina, that's great that you write often enough that it was infringing upon other responsibilities. I wish that were my problem!

    Sarah – it's the pain of writing it down that makes you think twice about doing it! At least it worked for me yesterday. Looking forward to results next Monday.

  • Ooooo, wow. This is an unfortunately genius homework assignment.

    PS: Right now? This comment here? This blog reading? SELF SABOTAGE. Doh.

  • Oh, gosh! I could start today with a list of how I sabotaged my writing. It's 4:05 p.m. MDT and I still haven't written. I did research and found out some good background but what I wanted to do was deepen one paragraph. Guess I better get started. My critic's voice has no name. Maybe I could take a little detour from writing and think of a good name first…

  • Linda – research is a double edged sword – a great way to get started when you're having trouble writing, but also a great way to procrastinate. I did a lot of research this week, too!

  • you know – the funny thing is I am not as worried about self- sabotage – as to WHY do I do it? It fills me with the dread of

    1- being brain dead

    2- losing interest

    3- in which case – is this really what i think I love – if I am not fired up about it everyday?

    because if I truly loved what I think i want to do, wdn't i be more motivated, fired up and hence, not brain dead?

  • ok- now on to my goals – after this session of self-sabotage.

  • Aditi – I don't think that becuase you're not fired up about something every day it means that it isn't what you really love. I love to write and have been dedicated to it for years, but there are many days that I don;t want to do it, that I'd rather be out playing on a beach than sitting at my computer. That's why the saying that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration is so true. If we only worked on our WIP or other project during the 10% of time that we are inspired, we'd never get anywhere. (Same for exercising and a lot of other things). Good luck with your goals!

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