Every day for the past 99 days, I’ve carried a thought in my mind from 10 am until midnight: “I need to write an atomic essay.”
When I embarked on this journey, I decided I would write at 10 am every day. But for 99 days I have not written a single essay at 10 am. Instead, I procrastinate, knowing that I have until midnight to publish it and not break my streak.
The hardest step is to start writing.
How on earth do professionals do it?
You see, even after I have a topic I want to write about, it is still hard to begin typing. I get easily distracted and next thing I know, I’m scrolling Twitter or replying to a completely non-urgent email…
Why do I keep doing this to myself?
I have placed too high expectations on my work.
Turns out I've imposed performance anxiety on myself because my expectations are too high. So, according to 10x NYT Best-Selling Author Neils Strauss, I just need to lower my standards.
Lower your standards until you get started.— Neil Strauss (as quoted by Tim Ferriss)
Here's the thing: despite having written an atomic essay every day for almost 100 days, I still feel at the point of conscious incompetence in my writing.
This is where perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and fear of criticism most come into play. I now know, what I didn’t know about writing. And I am becoming acutely aware of my shortcomings. But I also want to write an amazing essay and prove to myself (and to my few readers) that I can do it!
See why I procrastinate?
How can I lower my standards in order to make starting easier?
My expectations are so high, that I’m overwhelmed by the idea of writing an essay.
So the easiest thing is to put it off. Even if it means carrying an overdue task in my mind for the entire day. That is, until 11 pm when the fear of breaking the chain is bigger than the fear of coming up short on my expectations.
So, tomorrow is my 100th straight day of writing, and I won’t be telling myself I need to write an atomic essay.
Instead, I’m lowering the standard. My goal is just to write the headline. This should get me going and build momentum to crank out the entire essay.
Either that or Neil Strauss is full of shit…