Are You Making the All-Or-Nothing Mistake?

By Jennifer Blanchard

Writers are always complaining that they just can’t find enough time in their day to sit down and write. Sure, it’s often difficult to find writing time. You’re busy. Life is crazy. You have priorities that are higher up on your list.

But the mistake most writers make—and especially procrastinating writers—is using the all-or-nothing approach.

What’s the all-or-nothing approach, you ask?

Simply put, it means you do things all the way or not at all.

So, for example, if you feel that you write best when you have an hour or more to dedicate specifically to writing, then unless you can find an hour of writing time in your day, you don’t sit down and write. It’s all or nothing.

Why This Approach Is A Mistake
So why is being an all-or-nothing writer a problem? Because it’s yet another barrier that keeps you from writing. It’s another form of self-sabotage and self-set limitations. It’s another form of procrastination.

Because when it comes down to it, you can get writing done whether you have 10 minutes or 10 hours to spend dedicated to it.

All it requires is you giving up your all-or-nothing approach.

The all-or-nothing approach keeps you from writing. It keeps you from creating. It keeps you procrastinating. It keeps you from reaching your goals.

Real-Life Example
When it comes to exercising regularly, I’m terrible at it. I’m lazy and I find every excuse in the world not to do it (my head hurts, I’m too hungry, I’m tired, I don’t have enough time).

But recently I learned that I was taking an all-or-nothing approach to exercise.

Instead of hopping on the treadmill for 10 minutes whenever I had a chance, I’d tell myself unless I had a solid 30 minutes to dedicate to working out, I wasn’t going to bother.

The all-or-nothing approach is not a good way of looking at things because it causes you not to get writing done.

There are plenty of ways for you to find at least 10 minutes a day to write. You just have to let go of your idea that writing can only happen if you have a large block of time.

Chances are you’ll rarely—if ever—have large blocks of time to dedicate to your writing.

Steps to Letting Go of the All-Or-Nothing Approach
If you’ve been using the all-or-nothing approach for awhile and are ready to let it go, here are some steps you can take:

  • Take things one day at a time—Rather than trying to schedule in large blocks of writing time, spend a week writing for as long as you can whenever you can. No more all-or-nothing. No more waiting until you have a solid hour to write. If you find 10 minutes while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, write. If you have two minutes in line at the grocery store, make notes for the story you’re working on. If the kids fall asleep early one night, write.
  • Break your writing into manageable pieces—Rather than trying to knock-out large sections of you novel at once, break your project into smaller pieces. Maybe you set a goal of writing one page a day. Easy enough, right?
  • Write whenever you have time—Write whenever you get a chance. Don’t try to plan out a large block of writing time. Just write! As often as you can, for as long as you can.

Remember, any time you can find to write is better than not writing at all.

Do you tend to use the all-or-nothing approach? How has this worked against you and your writing?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.


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  1. […] writers we tend to be perfectionists who often see things as all-or-nothing, instead of noticing the shades of grey in-between. Or maybe it’s just […]

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