Due to a technical issue, I recently transferred this blog to a new host. Please contact me if you find any broken links or other problems.

Refresh Your Writing By Leaving The Past In The Past

by Jennifer on October 6, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

If you’re a writer who procrastinates, you know what it feels like to feel guilty all the time. Your thoughts consume you—“I should be writing;” “Why am I watching TV again instead of writing?”

Living life like this can be difficult. Those voices are constant and they never go away.

And every day you don’t write, the voices get worse: “Why are you even bothering anymore? You’re never going to write. You might as well not even try.”

I know exactly how you feel, because I feel that way every single day, too. Especially in the mornings when I’m getting up for work.

I wake up, groggy from sleep deprivation, and berate myself for not working on my writing projects the night before.

“How am I ever going to get free from the daily grind if I don’t work toward my writing goals?” I ask myself as I wash my face and brush my teeth. “Why aren’t I working toward what I want?”

Negative Voices, Negative Focus
These “voices” are common for writers who procrastinate. But here’s the thing—listening to these voices does you no good.

Listening to the voice inside your head that makes you feel guilty for not writing does nothing, but keep you focused on what you don’t want. And in order to get on the right path, you need to focus on what you want.

One way to do that, is to learn how to leave the past in the past.

Every Day Is A New Day
Every day is a new day. Every day, you start with a clean slate, which means you can make new choices.

Including choosing to make writing a priority. And choosing to sit down and write.

But when you’re carrying the baggage of the past with you (always telling yourself you’re wrong for not writing and thinking about the fact that you didn’t write and dwelling on it forever), you’re keeping the writing away.

Learning to let go of the past once and for all is the only way you’ll ever get focused on your writing.

Try Something New
Think about this: What would your life be like if every day you woke up and felt like the world was your oyster? What would life be like if you didn’t make yourself feel guilty all day for not writing the night before?

Because the thing is, last night is over. There’s no way for you to go back and choose to write instead of watch a movie or wash the dishes.

But today is a new day. Which means you CAN make that choice today.

In order to do that, however, you need to find a way to forget the past. A way to finally be OK with the poor choices and excuses you’ve made for not writing up until this point.

Truth be told, none of that matters anymore. None of it. Because you can never go back and change it or make it any different.

You can choose to let it go.

A Fresh-Start Example
To help illustrate my point, here’s an example:

Let’s say you binged last night. You ate an entire bag of cookies and then some.

The next morning, you’re feeling like crap, and your mind is plagued by guilt.

Don’t focus on the guilt and bad feelings, however; leave the past in the past and focus on today.

So rather than feed into the guilty feelings from what you did last night (in the past, which you can no longer change), you instead focus on the fact that today is a brand new day, and you haven’t eaten anything yet, which means the slate is clean and open for you to make better food choices.

Do this over and over again every single day and you’ll start to make better choices almost automatically, because you’re no longer focusing on the “guilt” or “anger.”

When you choose to focus on the bad feelings or the feelings of guilt, it makes it easy to binge again—why not, right? Since you did it last night anyhow.

But when you consciously choose to focus on the clean slate and not having eaten anything yet today, you’re free from the past.

Letting Go of the Past
Let me warn you now, letting go of the past isn’t something that can happen in an instant—unless you’re truly ready for it to happen. (And most people take a long time to let it go. In fact, there are even entire programs dedicated to helping people rid themselves of the past.)

Being able to let go of the past requires you to take full responsibility for everything that has ever happened to you. Accept every choice, outcome and consequence and be willing to move on.

Easier said then done, I know.

But when you are ready—when you’re ready to commit to making your writing dreams happen—you no longer need to hold on to your past. People only drag the baggage of their pasts around with them because it’s comfortable and safer than venturing into the unknown of the future.

You don’t need that baggage anymore, though. It no longer serves you.

What you need now is a clean slate and some motivation to make your dreams happen.

Steps You Can Take
If you’re ready to let go of the angry, guilt-ridden baggage of the past and put your focus exclusively on the here-and-now and the future, here are some steps you can take:

  • Forgive yourself—This may sound stupid, but it’s the number one way of letting go of the past. In order to let go—and I mean truly let go—you need to forgive yourself for making mistakes and not writing and putting other things in front of your writing dreams. When you can forgive yourself, you can let go.
  • Accept your life and love it how it is—Nothing about you or your life will ever be perfect (because perfection is an illusion), but it can be magical, if you’re willing to accept it how it is right now and love it. When you love yourself and your life, you no longer need the past. It’s just holding you back.
  • Figure out what you wantWhat is your writing dream? What do you want to accomplish? Knowing exactly what you want and seeing it crystal clear in your mind will help you let go of the unaccomplished dreams of your past that no longer fit who you are today and what you want now.
  • Make it your mission to keep pressing forward—Hanging onto the past only holds you back. It never moves you forward. Once you let go of the past, make it your mission to keep moving forward no matter what.
  • Don’t look back—Whatever you do, don’t look back. After you’ve let go of the past you no longer need, there’s no reason to look back. The past is over and the future is now. As Don Henley said: “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” (Boys of Summer).

How would your writing be refreshed by leaving the past in the past?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. For more great writing tips, articles and information, follow her on Twitter.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mallory Snow October 6, 2010 at 5:54 pm

This is a very good point. Holding onto guilt uses up the energy we could be using for writing!

2 Magdalena Sorensen October 6, 2010 at 9:35 pm

You have an important point there! I’m both writing and recovering from obsessive eating, so I relate a lot your comparison. What has helped me a lot in my recovery is to ask myself the following question during the day: What choices will make me feel good tonight when I go to bed? Also, I think it’s crucial to focus on today, not on what has been or might be. Only for today, anything is possible. A couple of lines on the subway, 1o minutes of writing before turning on the tv – enough to go bed smiling. And tomorrow, the thought of that smiling feeling will make you want to make the same choice again 🙂

3 Kevin Armes October 10, 2010 at 11:25 am

I think I want you to have my babies. I thought I was abnormal, now I feel normal. Still flawed. But normal. Thank you. 🙂

4 StaceyW October 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm

As a lifelong procrastinator, I’m pretty used to that guilty little voice whispering all the things I should be doing when I’m doing some other, generally less productive thing. Now that I’m writing, the little voice isn’t whispering so much as screaming at me on a daily basis. But you’re right. What’s done today is done. Tomorrow’s a new day with new opportunities to get some revision time in or draft the next book. Love that cup-half-full way of looking at it. 🙂

5 andrew toynbee October 15, 2010 at 7:05 am

Real life can intrude in so many ways, spoiling our ideal of ‘getting (insert number of words here) words written, then relax’. Like a needy child, life will constantly demand much of our time and coming to terms with that fact is one step towards feeling less-guilt ridden.
I’m in the midst of a building site (following a house fire 12 months ago) and the builders are trying to get away with whatever they can. We have just changed to a less than trouble-free car and that must be remedied. Ten hours a day at work…still gotta eat and sleep and shop. Et cetera, et cetera.
Life intrudes.
Accept it.
Write when you can and the next day…well, just get writing again. And if life chooses to get in the way, that’s just the way it is. And if at the end of the day, you haven’t reached your ideal target, you’ve still moved forward, haven’t you?

6 Stephanie December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

Boy did I ever need to read this today. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

7 Sarah December 19, 2010 at 3:01 am

This is so true. That voice will haunt you and inspire nothing but self-hatred. I had to learn this learn this years ago to break the hold of an eating disorder. Now that I am writing again, it is good to be reminded. Excellent post!

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: