A Writer’s Worst Enemy?

If you’re a writer, what would you say is your worst enemy?

Distraction? Procrastination? Starvation?

I admit, those are all candidates. And thank you for not saying “agents.” Unless you did. But I doubt that I am alone in thinking that my worst enemy, as a writer, is hurry.

Don’t misunderstand. I work on deadlines. Daily, in fact. Book deadlines. Article deadlines. Blog-post deadlines. They can be overwhelming; and I am often behind, despite my best efforts at staying organized, focused, and ahead of the game. Still, I wage warfare against hurry.

I agree with some guy named Carl Jung. Maybe you’ve heard of him. He wrote, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.” And one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard, albeit secondhand through another guy named John Ortberg (who received it from yet another guy named Dallas Willard, I think, so maybe it’s thirdhand) was “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

You may be different from me. (If you are, take a moment to give thanks.) But I have found that hurry saps my creativity; multiplies mistakes in my work; and adversely affects my moods, often replacing gratitude with grumpiness, for example. So what is someone who suffers from “hurry sickness” (it’s a real thing; Google it) to do?

  1. Consider—and take steps to correct—why you hurry. Is it a compulsion? Do you have trouble saying no? Is there some task or responsibility you need to drop?
  2. Recognize that time is relative; that is, it is not uniform in all situations. So, define when hurry is unnecessary and practice recognizing the difference. For instance, running to catch a plane may be necessary; but always choosing the fastest checkout line at the grocery store probably isn’t.
  3. Get to your schedule first. Block out time for thinking, outlining, brainstorming, even walking or napping. If you don’t schedule your priorities, others will schedule theirs for you.
  4. Break deadlines into incremental steps. Every time I’m given a deadline, I determine how much I need to do every week and every day in order to beat the deadline. Then I make each incremental step an item in my to-do list (app, actually).
  5. Take control of technology. You don’t have to respond to every comment on Twitter or Facebook; if it’s sucking time from more important tasks, shut it down for parts of each day. Conversely, you can use your smartphone to block calls at certain times or from certain callers—or both.
  6. Do less. One of my weaknesses is tackling urgent and otherwise less-important tasks before the important stuff. I have to force myself to choose the three most important things on my list each day and do them before straightening the books on the shelf, for example.

The less hurried I am, day by day, the deeper my thinking and the better my writing seems to be. Funny how that works. Shoot, maybe if I eliminate all deadlines I can be a really good writer.

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