What If It’s Now or Never?

Grim ReaperI used to keep a New Yorker cartoon taped to my printer. It showed a hooded death figure, scythe in hand, standing next to a writer seated at a typewriter. The caption was something like “Oh good, I’m glad you’re here. I can never get anything done without a deadline.”

I don’t think many of us can be quite content, much less happy, if we’re not doing what we ought/want/need to be doing. As for me, what I want to do is immerse myself into writing my second novel. No one else is telling me to do this. In fact, nobody cares if I do this or spend my time on something more practical, or on nothing in particular at all. After all, my first novel made barely a ripple in the time/space continuum.

It’s the process of writing I miss. The challenge, the flow, of creating a whole imaginary world. Do you know what I mean? If you do, then let me suggest some ways to think about what’s keeping you from doing what’s most meaningful to you.


  1. Figure out your fears. Do you fear the tedium that’s a natural part of any project? Are you experiencing the unsettledness of not knowing exactly how to do what you want to do? Is it someone’s (or your own) judgment you fear? You can’t easily combat a fear that you don’t first acknowledge.
  2. Ditch perfectionism. There’s no such thing as perfect. You have to put in the time and practice until you’re as good as you can be. When you begin, whether it’s writing a novel or going back to school or embarking on a new relationship, forget about perfection.
  3. Un-split your consciousness. Part of you wants to do this thing, whatever it is. Part of you fears it, hates it, doesn’t see the point of continuing to make the effort. Perhaps another part of you insists there are other ways to go about it that you haven’t tried yet. Get your selves together in a kind of committee and thrash out all the details and options. Just don’t invite your doom-saying perfectionist self.
  4. Line up some parameters. Freedom is liberating, but sometimes we need some sort of deadline or specific goal to give ourselves a push. Find a way to structure your time that feels like a real deadline, even when you’re the one and only boss of you.
  5. Decide if it’s worth doing. Bottom line, is this what you want to do? Are your expectations at least a little bit realistic? Improving your skills is realistic, writing a bestseller may not be if you’re new at writing. Will doing this thing allow you to have some balance in your life, and, if not, does that matter to you? How much do you want to do it?
  6. Find the flow of it. Analyze what parts of this project or set of tasks are the most engaging for you. If your goals are challenging but not so impossible that they make you uncomfortably anxious, that can be entry into flow. If, when you do this thing, you feel lost in a kind of zone that makes time disappear, you will have found your flow.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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