5 Writing Tips for Breaking through Procrastination

Using anxiety to write jokes, blogs, and even, write a book

Procrastinating about writing? Is your creativity block? Guess what? Professional writers are just as anxious as you are and often use shame to fuel their creativity. Read on…

Yesterday I went to a writing meetup and my friend, who was supposed to go, bailed on me. The reason she gave, “I don’t feel creative. I have no ideas. I just don’t feel like writing.”

This begs the questions: Do we wait for inspiration to write, or does writing inspire ideas?

I’ve had a career writing books and speeches/TED Talks for myself and others, yet most of the time, I haven’t actually felt like writing. I’ve often sit down to do it, not with an abundance of ideas screaming to put themselves onto the page, but fearing that I have nothing to say. Each time, I question why I accepted this assignment and become terrified, and that’s what gets me to the computer. At the basis of my writing is fear of public humiliation.  

One would think that something I’ve done my whole life would build confidence. But, what sticks with me is not the recollection of my last standing ovation from a corporate keynote or the lovely email from one of my readers. No, my writing foreplay is imagining an entire audience looking at their iPhones while I’m on stage, letting me know I’m boring. I fear I’ll write a blog no one finds interesting. You would think that this negativity would stop me from writing but, no, shame is my motivation. I have to prove to myself that I’m not as bad I think.  

Each creative process is a mess to success. The extreme anxiety I start with stirs the adrenaline that fuels a rant, joke, blog, or even, a book. When working on a project, I record snippets of ideas on my iPhone and write morsels on junk mail envelopes, thinking these vague ideas don’t deserve real paper. Looking at them confirms that I was right, filling me with frustration and anxiety, because my calendar says I have to get this mess into some kind of shape. If you want to see what happens when I’m preparing a speech, look at this video. It’s sure to make you feel better about your own process. 

Writing is hard. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be good. There’s nothing as unfunny and un-fun as writing a speech or a comedy. Remember how on "Seinfeld," Jerry and George would brainstorm ideas for their “show about nothing” -- and everything seemed so easy and made us laugh?

In the real world, writers are often frustrated, anxious, doubtful, and frequently find themselves staying up past midnight staring at a laptop and guzzling pitchers of coffee, desperately hoping something will occur to them other than the awful first, second, and third drafts they’ve been staring at for hours.

But -- what comforts me is to realize that all of our successes start out as messes. And the people who succeed are the ones who stick with the mess, finally uncovering the material that works.

So, if you have dreams of giving a TED Talk, writing a book, doing standup, or getting paid to speak, just start. Don’t give up because you’re weighed down by the feeling that every idea has to be perfectly formed in your head BEFORE you start typing it.

In my online workshop, everyone learns that material doesn’t come out of you fully formed like a newborn colt that can just leap to its feet and gallop. New material comes out raw and unformed, and most of the time just lays there like a baby bird, until with rewrite after rewrite, you finally feed it enough that it can fly.

So don’t paralyze yourself with the need to be perfect.  Whether you’re writing your story, an act or a speech, what you start with doesn’t matter. What does is that you start. Nurture and parent the idea, and it will gradually takes on a life of its own. Your job is to show up, even if you have nothing. Remember “build it and they will come?” Trust me on this.

5 Steps to Completing a Writing Project
  1. Set a time to write and put it in your calendar. Honor it as if you would if you an appointment with a doctor (not the way they do it, however). Take it seriously.
  2. Set your timer to go off after 10 minutes and write until you hear it. Then increase the amount you set aside for writing. It is a mistake to have the WHOLE day to write. Be time specific.
  3. Use Twitter as creative writing prompts. See what trending on Twitter and write about that.
  4. Use a creative writing prompt to get started and see where it goes. Here are 365 creativewriting prompts http://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/
  5. Have a support team. A friend, a meetup, or join our online community at https://TheMessageOfYou.com and we’ll make sure you don’t procrastinate.


  1. Judy, I was listening to a podcast about Imposter Syndrome and your article is right along those lines. Those who are afflicted with the syndrome are "over achievers" and accel in their field. Sounds like you. Thanks for posting the article!

  2. Thank you Judy. I admit that fear is what is keeping me from springing into action. Sometimes I am afraid nobody will care and I will fail. But sometimes I am afraid I will really succeed and that frightens me even more. But I will read your suggestions again and maybe this time...

    1. Carmen, I deeply understand and relate to that fear of succeeding. I'm always afraid that I will be "found out" and will be exposed as a fraud, undeserving of the accolades and awards I have received. Makes it hell to start something new and so the procrastination takes charge.


Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.