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Prompt the 20th:

Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Write. Write. Write. (And yes.)

I have a wide range of well-practiced strategies for avoiding writing, most of which involve me convincing myself that I don’t have time, that I’m not sure I know what I have to say yet, that I really need to do more research first, and so forth.

Scared, worried, unsure, busy, or otherwise deterred. That pretty much sums it up.

There’s a value to some delay in writing, admittedly. The project I most dragged my heels on this year was finishing up the revisions on the book, and it’s probably true that taking a bit more time than I’d hoped will result in the book being a little bit better than it might have been had I hurried.

On the other hand, a lot of that delay was just about me being scared (slash worried slash unsure) about my abilities to do the revisions justice, especially in those parts of the text in which I venture into areas that are newest to me, or that have the farthest-reaching implications.

On the other other hand, there was nothing for it except diving in and getting it done already.

The same is true about starting the new project I think I’m embarked upon. I think mostly because it’s early enough that the project could take any number of unexpected turns yet. And that kind of not-knowing is precisely the thing that ordinarily leads me to stall: I’d better wait to start writing until after I know what I’m writing about.

As I always tell my thesis students, though, you have to start writing long before you think you’re ready, in no small part because you’ll only figure out what you’re up to in the process of writing itself.

So Joan Didion has it: “Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

This year, I want to stop avoiding writing because I don’t know what I want to say yet, and start writing in order to figure it out.

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