Are You Procrastinating Over Your Writing? Try Some Self-Compassion

Today I want to share a tip for anyone suffering from procrastination: try using some self-compassion.
This wasn’t a term I was particularly familiar with, but I just listened to a fascinating episode of the podcast The Happiness Lab, which was all about how developing self-compassion is vital to helping us achieve our goals.

Stay with me a moment whilst I explain what self compassion is, and a bit about the research. Then I promise I’ll get on to how this relates to us writers. 

What is self-compassion?

When we talk about compassion, we’re talking about the desire to alleviate suffering in others; self-compassion, on the other hand, is the desire to alleviate our own suffering. It’s not selfish. On the contrary, the more we give to our self, the more we have to give to others.
Lots of research has been done into self-compassion, and it turns out it’s a little bit like a superpower! Studies have shown that self-compassion is good for our mental health, our physical health, it increases learning, it’s linked to greater motivation, people who adopt self compassion tend to try harder, persist for longer, and are more likely to re-engage with their goals when they get knocked off balance, it’s even been linked to better relationships! Wow! I want some of that! It’s worth mentioning, self-compassion is different from self-esteem, and it’s also different to self-pity.
Self-esteem is a positive judgment of our own self-worth. For example, when we say to ourselves: I’m a good person, I’m successful etc. However, self-esteem is reliant on us actually being a good person or successful. But what happens when we fail? Unfortunately, our self-esteem evaporates.
Self-pity, on the other hand is when we wallow in our pain.
Self-compassion is different to both of these things, because it reminds us that part of being human is being imperfect, we’re all in the same boat. We take the time to ask ourselves: How can I be kind, and supportive to myself in the midst of my failure, and unhappiness?

Photo by Engin Akyurt

Now onto how this relates to our writing goals – especially the ones we’re procrastinating about… 

Why do we procrastinate?

A big part of procrastination is a fear of failure. This fear might be quite deeply buried in our psyches, by the way. Our brains are very good at coming up with convincing excuses as to why we shouldn’t do something; why we shouldn’t start. But the bottom line is, we’re probably afraid that we won’t be good enough, that it will have been a big waste of time, and we’ll look like an idiot for even trying. So we procrastinate about getting down to write, or we procrastinate when it comes to sending out our work. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, I’m sure.
The great thing about self-compassion is that it makes it safe to fail. And when we feel safe to fail, we’re less likely to procrastinate.
So, if you have a tendency to procrastinate excessively or give up on your writing goals too easily, consider using some self-compassion.

How to use self-compassion

There are 3 parts to it:-

  1. Be kind, supportive and warm to yourself – through words or touch.
  2. Use mindfulness. Be mindful of your suffering, face your mistakes (rather than denying them or trying to run away from them). Recognize how hard it is for yourself right here and now. When we avoid our pain, we can’t be self-compassionate. If we’re totally absorbed with our pain, we have no space for self-compassion. Mindfulness lets us step outside ourselves so that we have some perspective, then we can simply accept our difficult emotions.
  3. Accept our common humanity; we’re not alone when it comes to making mistakes. Everyone is making mistakes all the time, that’s called being human.

Want to give it a try?

Start by choosing some kind words and use a nicer tone when you talk to yourself. For example:
Writing this is hard for me – but writing is hard for everyone – I’m not alone! (Even best selling authors find writing hard, you only have to read a few interviews and you’ll hear that over and over again).
If I fail at the first hurdle, I will learn from that. I learn my best lessons when I fail! If I don’t take any action, I’m not giving myself an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember that familiar maxim? It’s better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all.
Treat ourselves like you’d treat a good friend who’s having a hard time. Remind yourself that you’re on your side. No matter what happens, you’ll still be on your side. Put your hands on your heart, and physically be there for yourself.
Self-compassion sounds cheesy and can take some time to get the hang of, but given the amazing all-round benefits, it’s got to be worth a try, right?

My method of self-compassion

I love this idea. I do something similar – I write my way through my angst and fear of failure. So rather than saying these things out loud, I write them down. I find that less awkward. So, for me, it might go something like this:
I’ve just received a rejection letter for something I’d been really getting my hopes up for. I’m gutted and my thoughts are spiralling out of control. I literally waste hours thinking negative thoughts rather than doing something productive. Eventually, when I realise what I’m doing, I stop, take out my notebook and do the follow:-
First, I write down everything that is on my mind – all my raw emotion and my worst fears. It all goes on the page unedited. Once I’ve got it all down, I then ask myself, how can I look at this differently. I then proceed to reframe the situation and basically rewrite my negative thoughts into more neutral ones. Finally, I think about what I could do differently in the future.
This strategy is amazing, it almost always stops my mind from spinning, makes me feel calmer more open to sitting down to write again, and it’s amazing what ideas come to me, once I’m willing to be open to them.
So if you too are procrastinating, try self-compassion. I hope you find it useful. If you give it a try, let me know how you get on.

Looking for more tips?

For other tips to combat procrastination and get some words on the page, check out this article about how to make yourself sit down and write

By the way, if there’s something in your writing that you’re struggling with, get in touch as I might be able to answer it in a future post. You can also reply just to say hi, give me some feedback or share a tip – I’d love to hear from you. 

Thanks so much for reading! I’m Katy Segrove – animation writer, children’s author, writing coach and mum to cheeky 2-year old Otto.

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