Lower Your Standards!

Originally Posted: July 17, 2012

It’s amazing, the myriad ways I avoid my work…  Yesterday, during the hours I’d put aside for writing, I scoured my mudroom floor, walked and hosed my dog, vacumed my studio.  When I finally got myself to the computer, there were five or tenextremely urgent emails; and OH–I had to schedule my daughter’s orthodontist appointment… And Wow–check out these flight deals to Los Angeles! (though I have no plans to go to CA any time soon…)

If you’re a writer, this probably sounds pretty familiar… Resistance takes many forms, including sudden compulsive cleanliness, physical ailments, extreme exhaustion, uncontrollable bouts of letter writing or internet shopping…  I hear from so many of my workshop students the same lament: “I can’t get myself to buckle down!”  They complain about their own laziness; but laziness, in my experience, is usually really a cover for something deeper–something called terror.  Something called internal judgment.

There is always a direct relationship between procrastination and too-high expectations.  If you’re suffering from a case of never getting to your work, the root cause is most likely too much self-criticism.  William Stafford’s advice to his own students in these circumstances was to “lower your standards, and keep going…”

It takes a lot of courage to let your shitty first drafts be just that.  Today, try writing the worst possible drivel in the world, and lots of it.  You can worry about making it perfect another day.

Posted by: Dori

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