So I’ve had this blog site for five months and, apart from some occasional fragments about gardening, all I’ve really done is make lists and dither about creating suitable content. Of course, I have all sorts of great excuses to justify this inactivity, but I logged on this morning because I have now admitted to myself that all my reasons for not writing this blog have been exactly what I warn my students about: displacement activities.
Okay, so I haven’t been washing the kitchen floor rather than write this (though I do keep the house clean, honest), or tidying my bookshelves, but I have invented a whole raft of reasonable excuses, and what they come to, is fear.
They are, of course, the same fears that inhibit most writers at some point:
- What can I write about that has not been written before?
- Why would anyone want to read about what I think?
I tell my students that they have to develop strategies to get around that kind of thinking or nothing would ever get written. ‘If you don’t write it,’ I say, ‘someone else will. Not in the way you would have done, but someone will do something so close to it that it will feel like they stole your idea.’
They say, ‘That’s all very well, but what if I’m not good enough?’
I tell them, ‘You’ll never know if you don’t try, so I’m going to help you put that first word on the page.’
Then I set them an anti-displacement activity exercise.
One of them goes like this:
- Read this list of well-used displacement activities.
Walking the dog
Cleaning the car
Tidying the room
Mowing the lawn
Cleaning the windows
- It is a terrible list, isn’t it? But this is how far some of us will go to avoid writing. If we let this kind of thinking get a hold on us we will soon have immaculate households, but have nothing written down.
- How strong are these excuses really? It can be tough making time to write.
- Displacement activities are habits, just like smoking or chocolate. All we have to do is break our habit.
- It can be difficult to break habits, ask a smoker, so we’re going to use some lateral thinking.
- Look at the list again and find an activity that would not naturally occur to you. Write it at the top of your page.
- It is now your major barrier to writing, so create a strategy to side-step it. This is an opportunity to take a creative approach. Think laterally and write a full page response to this problem.
I like this exercise.
But it occurs to me that in passing this exercise on now I have just completed a displacement activity of my own, as my intention when I switched on the computer was to complete the story I have been working on. So, maybe all activities could be counted as displacements.
I’m sure there is something you should be doing instead of reading this.