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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

New Book Update: Why I Need to Postpone My Novel


redirect feedback canstockphoto5113295 (2)Sometimes postponing is a form of resistance, but in this case, postponing is the first step in resolving resistance. I don’t want to, but I really need to move a few projects from my Current Projects list to my Someday list.

So with regret, I’m postponing my new fiction project. I still play with the characters when I’m drifting off to sleep, but despite having at least four research books checked out from the library, I’m not actively exploring ancient Oceanic culture enough to really understand my characters.

Refusing to Choose Breeds Havoc

While freewriting along with students in my Discover Your Way Around the Writer’s Block class last week, I realized I’ve invented a new form of resistance: over-commitment.

Over-commitment is a kind of creative greed. It’s a hangover from cultural messages that women can “have it all if we work hard enough.” But primarily, over-commitment is a priority problem.

too_many_choicesI have 13 major projects on my list, which means none of them is really a priority. If everything is a priority, by definition, nothing is a priority.

Because I don’t want to consciously choose which projects to surrender, I can’t consciously choose what projects truly are the priorities I need to focus on. Consequently, my energy is unfocused. I waste time and energy flitting between too many projects, delaying my ability to complete any of them.

Worse, I end up investing time in the “default priority” of whatever has the closest deadline. I do what’s urgent without considering if it’s important. Default priorities also come in the form of whatever others ask me to do or whatever happens to fall in front of me when I’m tired and primed for distractions.

Resistance Partners Spring from a Common Source

Over-commitment often partners with overscheduling; I have so much to do (because I’m afraid to say no to anything), so I try to work harder, longer and smarter. This only results in working longer to produce less.

I tell myself “I’m too busy to plan or prioritize.” I just keep adding to my To Do list. Consistently having more to do on my daily list than I can actually do disguises the fact that I’m avoiding certain tasks. Keeping my weekly Priority lists on separate pages makes it easy to not notice how I shift a so-called priority from one week to the next and the next…

When I allow over-commitment to drive me, I’m like the mule that starved to death between two bales of hay because she couldn’t decide which bale to eat first.

I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong choice, afraid I’ll lose out on an opportunity and miss out on creative fun, and afraid I’ll disappoint someone. Of course, refusing to make a choice is the worst possible choice. When I don’t choose which opportunities to delay, I can’t truly invest in any opportunity and lose out on the real fun of bringing one thing to completion.

Coaching Solution Follows the 4 Steps to Resolve Resistance

questions canstockphoto7418437 (2)If I were my coach, I’d ask “What if there are no wrong choices? What if every project is an opportunity that offers both creative fun and hard work? What if I focus on how I can satisfy myself while serving others instead of worrying about disappointing someone?”

Acknowledging my regrets about postponing fiction led me to recognize another subtle way I do resistance (Step 1 – for more about the 4 Steps, see chapter 9 of AWB). This awareness allows me to relax and bring my cortex back online so I can think creatively and courageously (Step 2).

My next step is to respect the resistance by asking and freewriting about what I need to make difficult choices (Step 3). Then and only then will I know where and how to redirect my energy to take action on those challenging choices (Step 4).

What do you need? Is refusing to choose your priorities one of the ways you do resistance? What perspective widening questions would you want me to ask you if I were your coach? (BTW: I have a few openings in my coaching schedule this fall – send a private email to Rosanne @RosanneBane.com and we’ll chat to see if I’m the coach you need.)

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10 Comments on “New Book Update: Why I Need to Postpone My Novel”

  1. Theresa August 19, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    I’m stuck. I have an story/book that I started years ago, then dropped.

    I put it as a priority because I want to finish it.

    Things have changed so much in technologx and with me in the 10-20 years since I started it. I wish I had written several things down.

    I know better now, but that’s not helping me. I’ve tried different things to jiggle ideas, but not much has helped.

    Don’t think it will update well. It’s also a bit of a homage as to how I was then.

    What can I do?

    I have a posterboard that I’m dumping ideas on, trying to mindmap and other techniques I know. There’s little spark & not much is clicking.

    I’m afraid to put it away. I remember having fun ideas for it, but not what they were. I didn’t have the writing knowledge and skills I (hope) I have now.

    Help. Please.

    Thanks
    Theresa

    Like

    • Theresa August 19, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Sorry for the mispelling. I’m on my phone and didn’t catch it on read through.

      Like

    • rosannebane August 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Theresa, I strongly recommend making a commitment to 15 Magic Minutes (see pg. 79-83 of Around the Writer’s Block and several posts here on the subject – let me know if you’d like links) to keep playing with the posterboard, mindmapping and other brainstorming.

      Here’s the catch: you might need to let go of the story you were writing then to discover the story you have to write now. There will be similarities and common threads, but if you focus on trying to remember and recapture what you did so many years ago, you’ll be blind to what’s right in front of you.

      I also recommend Robert Olen Butler’s book From Where You Dream (and if you’re in the Twin Cities, I’m teaching a Loft class starting in October based on that book called Entering the Flow. If you’re not in the Twin Cities, I’ll probably teach this class online again and I am teaching Discovering Your Way Around the Writer’s Block online starting in October).

      I hope this helps — please keep me posted on your progress.

      Like

  2. Alisha Rohde August 14, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Ah, this got the chuckle of recognition today! 🙂 I knew I had a tendency to try and do too much but hadn’t quite reframed it as resistance. Definitely a case where my intuition knew more than my rational brain: I knew I needed to focus better and decrease input (great phrase and comments, Joel) and yet…?

    My inner coach is now reminding me that just because I learned to over-commit in grad school, at work, etc., doesn’t mean I am “slacking” when I choose to prioritize. She does have to repeat herself to make the point, though! 😉

    Thanks for another great post and good luck with your adjusted set of priorities! I hope they serve you well.

    Like

    • rosannebane August 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      Thanks Alisha! Recognizing that overdoing was a way of resisting what I really want to do was an eye-opener for me, too.

      Like

  3. Michael Kelberer August 14, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Great post, and I feel your pain about the novel postponement 😦

    Like

  4. Joel D Canfield August 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Over-commitment as resistance. Sneaky devil. And yet, when you shine a light on it, so obvious.

    When you really can do a whole lot, when you really are able to juggle many commitments, it’s hard to see when you’ve gone from happily busy to mired and circling.

    The first thing I notice is when I get mad at some activity I normally love. What? I have to practice the mandolin? I don’t have time for that!

    Uh-oh. Somebody’s putting too much pressure on themselves. Too busy for music is just plain too busy.

    Here’s a secret I learned from “Six Sigma for Service” (which, despite the writing being as snoozeriffic as it sounds, is packed with brilliant insights.) A perfect way to increase output is to *decrease* input. Pace what comes in, pace the assembly line instead of pushing harder, and the product comes out the other end faster. Counter-intuitive, but based on sound managerial and manufacturing principles practices in both the Lean and 6 Sigma camps.

    Like

    • rosannebane August 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      Thanks Joel for the extra insights! “Too busy for music is just plain too busy” is a phrase I’ll modify and re-use (Too busy to play with the dogs is just too busy. Too busy to enjoy Process is just too busy.”)
      Right now, the idea of decreasing input sounds so daunting, it must be right.

      Like

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  1. New Book Update: Making Progress By Postponing | The Bane of Your Resistance - October 10, 2013

    […] my last New Book Update, I admitted that I had too many “top priority” projects. So I made the difficult […]

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