Overcoming Writing Blocks and Procrastination

Spinning on the Procrastination Wheel: Fear of Failure, Anxiety and  Resentment
by Stanford Professor, David Rasch PhD                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Fear of Failure; Anxiety

As time passes you feel the need to get going and at this point you might experience tendrils of fear working their way into your consciousness. It begins to dawn that the task facing you may be more difficult than you previously admitted to yourself. As you imagine beginning to write, anxiety starts to percolate. Self-doubts about your competence arise, memories of previous failures surface, and a sense of dread engulfs you. One of the problems with anxiety is that it interferes with concentration and short-term memory, both of which are essential to writing. As a result, attempts to write at this point might be false starts, reinforcing your fear that you will not succeed. It feels better to distract and calm yourself by popping open a beer or checking your Facebook page. The Wheel of Suffering gains momentum.


As discomfort and stress register more clearly in your mind and body, you feel trapped. You wonder how you ever got yourself into such a hell. You want to strike out and slug someone, but there really is no one to blame. Your resentment might make you rebel against writing, rip up drafts, bristle at friends and family, mentally flagellate yourself, and kick your dog. Sometimes this resentment takes the rebellious form of “No one tells me what to do; not even myself!”

Resentment and fear are close relatives, and it’s important to approach working with emotions so they have less effect on productivity. One key is building the skill of continuing to write even when these feelings emerge. When you are emotionally worked up, it is easy to tell yourself that writing is too hard, or that you are in the wrong mood for writing. You will benefit from learning how to gently lean into your work even when anger and fear are present. It is helpful to remember that all feelings are temporary and pass with time. Sometimes these emotional energies can be converted to fuel and channeled into the writing in a useful way.