I, like so many others, am guilty of giving advice to procrastinators. I’ll bet I do it again in this blog post. It is so tempting to offer “help”, and even if my motives are pure and compassionate, the odds are low that advice will change a damn thing. This is a difficult reality pill for me (a man who just wrote a book of advice) to swallow.
The primary problem with advice is that generally it is a recommendation to “do” something, and procrastination by its nature implies having a problem with “doing”. Whether the underlying feeling is rebelliousness, anxiety, overwhelm or laziness, there is a resistance to “doing” at the procrastinator’s core. And even when a choice piece of advice from a well-intentioned source appears to the procrastinator as the perfect thing to do; the comforting thought arises, “I’ll do it later.”
If you are putting some task off, your own mind is probably also spewing advice. You feel uneasy about not writing, and compelled to hector yourself with repetitive pep-talks and unrealistic commands. You may repeat these lectures to yourself for years, even if they’ve generated no appreciable improvements. It’s what people do.
As writers we are wonderfully complicated beasts. The conflicting voices that jabber inside our psyches both fuel and obstruct our passion to write. My experience is that advice has the best chance being helpful if it is thoughtfully tailored to an individual’s unique personality, habits and life circumstances, and is not a repetition of approaches that have already failed.
My advice? Proceed with caution, and abandon failed approaches, no matter how right they appear to be. When in doubt, I just shut up, maintain optimism and try to understand.