How a proxy can help your writing

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Reading time: About 3 minutes

Do you appreciate the value of a substitute or proxy? Sometimes, “replacements” can come in very handy for writers….

I am a perfectionist. This may sound like A Very Good Thing. After all, who wouldn’t want to be perfect, flawless or ideal?

But, in fact, it’s actually bad for me. Perfectionists often have trouble getting started on things (like writing) because they want conditions to be perfect. They have trouble finishing because they worry what they’re doing will never be good enough. And they are more inclined to suffer from depression because they seldom meet their own very high goals. Perfectionism is also terrible for the people surrounded by it — just ask Martha Stewart’s daughter.

For the last decade or so, I’ve been working to become more relaxed and less compulsive. Having triplets has forced my hand around the house but I’ve also tried to become more conscious of where my perfectionism might trip me up at work. Probably my biggest accomplishment is that I am now able to write a thoroughly crappy first draft of any article or report and not get too twisted about it.

How have I managed that? I finally understand I don’t have to show my first draft of anything to anyone else. As well, I know I can spend an almost infinite amount of time editing if I need to.

Another accomplishment: I am no longer tortured by my books. I am NOT talking about my book 8.5 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. I had, in fact, ended my writers’ block by the time I produced that one. I am talking about my financial books. Thank goodness, I sorted that out about three years ago by hiring a professional bookkeeper.

My latest problem however, has defied easy solution. I am working at turning my website into a WordPress blog. When it’s done, this means I’ll be posting a minimum of three times a week and you’ll be able to comment on any post you like (or dislike.) I’m really looking forward to this interchange! I even have a bedazzling techie guy who has shown utmost patience with my project. The problem is ME. The job just seems so enormous that I feel overwhelmed. And my usual trick — of breaking a big job into smaller tasks — has even failed me this time.

I was complaining about the stall in my plans to my friend Eve, recently, and she suggested that I might need a proxy. The idea, she explained, comes from the blog The Fluent Self  by Havi Brooks.

Havi’s concept is that when there’s something you need to do but you put it off, you should simply give it a different name. For example, she suggests that someone who wants to write a novel might call it “learning how to play chess.”

I think this works best when what’s really holding you back is fear. What I fear is that I don’t understand how much longer my blog is going to take me. It could suck up hours of my time! I also worry about making the wrong decisions (Is the navigation bar right? Is my subscribe button in the best place? etc.) Major freak-out pending!

By changing the name of the project — even though this is only a “pretend” exercise — you divert the attention of your inner critic so it doesn’t attack you. Instead, the critic thinks you’re doing something simple and non-threatening, and so it lets you do it. No more full-scale resistance.

In this manner, I have decided that I’m not going to do any more work on my new blog. Instead, I’m going to spend 25 minutes per day organizing my office (which is actually pretty darned organized right now.) That might not sound like fun to you, but I love organizing. That’s why I’ll,

  • Figure out the steps I need to take in order to organize my office.
  • Determine how I can lower my standards so that it’s even easier to organize my office.
  • Create a schedule that allows me to organize my office for 25 minutes each day.
  • Give myself plenty of reminders about how much I really want to organize my office.

I no longer procrastinate about writing but if you do, you might try giving it a proxy. Call it something else that sounds much more attractive to you. Perhaps you are going to learn a new recipe? Maybe you need to draw some pictures? Or let’s say you are simply want to work on an email to a friend.

Give your writing a proxy and then get it done!

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