3 Forms of Writing Self-Sabotage

How to F*#&-ing Stop

25minutesaday
Writers’ Blokke
4 min readFeb 1, 2023

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Whenever I’ve been asked the question “What are you most afraid of?” (and I’ve been in a lot of therapy and healing-spaces, so I’ve hit this question a lot) — the answer that inevitably arises is that I fear self-sabotage.

I am afraid of myself, and the ways that I have and continue to hurt myself through wrong action, or inaction.

It becomes an awful cycle of fear and self-judgment: I didn’t do ‘x’ in the past (which proves that I am a failure, unable, lacking discipline, etc.), and the overwhelm and shame over is paralyzing while trying to do ‘y’ in the present.

So here we go.

If right now my ‘y’ is writing this post, then what’s stopping me?

1. Overthinking

The mind is amazing. It is an unparalleled information-processing machine, working at super speed.

And yet, those same abilities that allow us to sit in a cafe and take in the sights, object recognition, depth perception, register movement and social cues, pick up a cup of water and drink and think, in quick succession, “this is nice,” “I need to put away my laundry,” “is that guy cute?” “am I cute?” “what am I supposed to be doing now?” “what am I doing with my life?” etc., can drive you crazy.

There are times during the writing process when this hyper-active, problem-solving, meaning-making ability of the mind is a gift. But when you are trying to put together a draft or simply get words on the page, you want to just write, and you need your mind to shut up for a moment.

Solution:

  • Find quiet before you write— however ‘quiet’ feels for you. It could be a silent meditation, or meditative activity like cooking or cleaning. Maybe you go for a walk, work out, or take a shower. Doing something physical or sensory will bring you more into your body, and help you disconnect from the mind-chatter in the background.
  • Alternatively, (or congruently,) find noise. Listen to music on your headphones, maybe instrumental or lo-fi, that can be in the background instead.
  • Work in short and focused intervals. Reward yourself with each task done.

2. Distraction

There is always a reason not to write.

There is always something else you can instead, especially now, with distraction machines attached to us at every moment.

There are notifications form this app or that one, there’s endless scrolling and unwanted information. It was 11pm, now it is 1am and you wake up as if from a dazed, drugged stupor after spending the last two hours doing who-knows-what on Facebook. And for anyone who works from home, you know: there is always something you can fix or clean.

Distraction is a form of procrastination; procrastination is taking the distractions around you seriously. Yes, it would be great to answer that email or sweep the floors. But not now. Now it is time to write, and everything else is secondary.

Solution:

  • Limit temptations. Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb,’ or airplane mode, or leave it in another room, another building — whatever you need to do. If home is distracting, go somewhere else. A library, cafe, co-working space, office, or designated space in your home are all good options.
  • Use rituals as a pre-writing practice. Be it a cup of tea or espresso, a certain scent or outfit, rituals are a way to cue yourself into ‘writing mode.’
  • Harness the power of productive procrastination. Make a to-do list that includes all tasks, big and small, and if you can’t focus on one then move to the next. But watch yourself so that you don’t fall into this as another trap.

3. Perfectionism

And then there’s Perfectionism, that most sneaky form of self ruin.

Perfectionism says things need to be like this, and anything less than if failure. Connected to overthinking, perfectionism is that busy chatter that is always making comparisons and looking down at you. It says you are never enough, and your writing is never ever good enough. As a recovering perfectionist, I have spent too much time paralyzed by this voice of judgment.

Solution:

  • Done is better than perfect. Imperfectly done is better than perfectly overthought.
  • Build a relationship with your perfectionism — what is it trying to guide you toward? See it as a light that is always moving farther ahead, not meant to be captured but there to illuminate the path in the distance.
  • Use tools like timed writing exercises, or if you need an extra boost, The Most Dangerous Writing App will delete your words if you stop writing.

Takeaways?

  1. Don’t think.
  2. Put your phone away.
  3. Write one word. And then another.

Have anything to add? Let me know — writing is hard, and we are in this together. Grateful to share this journey with you.

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25minutesaday
Writers’ Blokke

write for 25 minutes a day, every day. anything goes.