Overcoming Fear when Writing: How to Make Writing a Habit

Maybe I should have titled this post: overcoming fear when not writing. Because that’s the reality of it. We don’t start, because of resistance (fear); we don’t focus or concentrate fully, because it’s difficult and it feels like we’re failing (fear), and we don’t stop after a good couple of hours work, because we fear we have not yet done enough (fear!). So yes, FEAR. It’s a nuisance. And it’s the kind of nuisance that tries to hide it’s there behind distractions and diversions. It’s also the kind of nuisance that will make you feel completely incompetent. When fear and resistance and procrastination rule your workdays it becomes close to impossible to feel good about yourself.

So. That’s the problem. Now the solution. There are many, but today I want to talk about making writing a habit. It’s simple and it’s effective.

At the moment, fear may be your habit, and it’s time to change that.
Changing the habit of fear into the habit of ignoring fear and just starting.
Changing the habit of fear into the habit of ignoring fear and just keeping going.
Once you manage, your workdays will shorten, and you will have gotten more done.

There’s the tricky moment when you are about to get started on the argument, on the analysis, or the paragraph, and you are full of good intentions and hope and drive…and then, half a second before you take the plunge and get to work, you stall. There may be mild resistance (leafing through the piles of papers you are using), moderate resistance (checking email or Facebook) or fierce resistance (oh, what the hell, nothing is going to happen anyway today, best go out for a coffee with…).

You need to minimise these moments, and the way to do it is by moving faster than fear can catch up with you. You have to start without reservations, without hesitations, just START. This becomes infinitely easier when it’s a habit.

It may sound impossible, but it’s not that difficult. Okay, truth be told, in the beginning it may well be difficult, but that’s because habit-building takes a bit of time. Once a habit is a habit, it is well, a habit! Simply starting can become your habit. And it will do so if you consciously choose to not give in to resistance and fear one day at a time, one writing or work session at a time.

Take the leap and skip the fear.

Just do it. There is nothing more to it.

Then why is it so hard? If all we have to do is simply start, why aren’t we doing it?

The problem is with awareness. Fear and resistance catch us unaware, and we get distracted and tune out, because fear and resistance is not a comfortable place to be. It just ‘happens’. We feel we have nothing to do with it (that is until a couple of hours later when the self-loathing sets in).

When fear shows up, when our negative thoughts show up, when our favourite distractions beckon, we need to be aware.
We need to know what’s happening.
We need to smell it coming before it arrives, so we are prepared.
And once it does arrive, because arrive it will, we need to be fierce in saying no.
We need to take control.

No I am not going to be distracted.
No I am not going to give into negative self-talk.
No I am not going to waste another minute of my time on tangoing with resistance.
Just NO.

I am no longer interested
I have unsubscribed
I have moved on

And then you move on
Back to the page
Back to work

To not let fear and resistance catch you unaware I highly recommend starting a meditation practice. Ten minutes a day to start. It’s enough. When you learn to meditate you learn to consciously focus your awareness. It is mind training. It means you become more aware of the thought patterns and behaviours that are thwarting you, and it also means you will gain control over how you react when they show up. It may sound a bit mysterious (and the truth is, it’s not yet known how exactly meditation works in the brain. Neuro-scientists are doing their very best to find out), but it works. If you keep practicing you will be trained in catching distractions on time; that is before they take over. You will gain control over your impulses. Never a bad thing.

Looking for guidance to make writing a habit? I will help you, personally, if you like. It is one element of the HappyPhD Online Course, which will give you all the resources you need to do so successfully.

Write a More Inspired, Happier PhD Subscribe & Let Me Show You How

You’ll also receive a copy of ‘Finding Your Academic Voice’

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