I came up with a mantra in the spring of 1995 when I realized that if I was going to get any serious writing done, I was going to have to stop making excuses not to. Or more to the point, I was going to have to stop procrastinating. I had a lot on my mind that summer…a stagnating long-distance relationship; lots of overdue bills; a really horrible diet of cereal, ice cream, concession stand food, soda, and smokes; jobs that weren’t paying enough for me to actually live on. It’s quite true that life stress is not conducive to the creative mind. At. All.
But I had the use of my girlfriend’s PC that summer, and a hell of a lot of time on my hands when I wasn’t at my theater job. I had a few projects milling about in the back of my head. And I had my radio and my music collection to keep me entertained. All I needed to do was get myself into the groove somehow. If I was going to finally jumpstart this writing gig with any seriousness, I was going to have to go all in. I couldn’t do it half-assed.
Which meant that I had to come up with a daily reminder. And this reminder was written on two index cards in very large letters — one was posted right above my desk, and the other was next to my bed. That way I’d see them every single day, whether I wanted to or not.
This is what they said:
Just DO it. Shut the f*** up and START WRITING ALREADY.
Terse? Maybe. But it did the trick. The only reason for not writing at that time was so I could feel sorry for myself and my pathetic social life and post-college career. I hated feeling that way, and I hated that I knew I was wasting time feeling that way. I had to break the cycle somehow.
Even if that meant working on the small, inconsequential stuff like transcribing my writing from the past ten years. Even if that meant making small notes on scrap pieces of paper while at my job. The main aim here was to create a daily habit out of it. I’d worry about results at a later time. As long as I was doing it and not wishing I was.
I’ll be honest, that’s still my writing mantra, twenty-one years later in 2016. It’s for different reasons, of course. I say that to myself when I’m having a mean case of the Don’t Wannas, or severely distracting myself online, or whatever. I still have my moments of self-doubt (what writer doesn’t?) and wonder if the current project I’m on is worth finishing.
Procrastination and self-doubt are still two of my bitterest enemies, and the only way I know how to defeat them is via the same mantra: just shut the f*** up and DO it.
And you know what? It still works.