It does this because it wants to protect you. The more you care about your writing, the more your brain is going to work behind the scenes, without telling you what it’s doing, to get you to stop writing, to procrastinate, or to tell you you can’t do it. One of the most important things I do as a mentor is tell you that your brain is lying to you about the reasons it will give you to justify it’s decision to not let you write because it’s dangerous.
I’m an ultramarathoner and an Ironman triathlete. That means that I’ve heard my brain tell me to quit–a lot. And I have quit (DNF’d) three times in my life. Once when I fell on my bike and ended up with a rotator cuff injury. Once when another cyclist crashed into me, leaving my front bike wheel broken and me with a concussion and a lot of bleeding wounds so that I got to ride in an ambulance. And once when the race conditions were too awful to continue. There are times when you SHOULD quit. There are genuine dangers out there, physical limitations that you should listen to your brain screaming about. But when my brain is telling me that it can’t make it to the end of a 50 mile running race, I have to trick it by telling it that we’re not doing 50 miles, we’re only doing 100 steps. Do I have the energy for 100 steps? Yes, I do. That’s one minute. After that, I’ll decide if I can keep going.
You’re going to learn a lot of these same tricks to argue with your brain about writing, when it’s busy shouting at you that your very survival is at stake because failing at writing seems so very terrible that it needs to stop you from ever trying to start. One of those tricks is just like the one I use with triathlon training–to make a goal to write 100 words a day. That’s it. Anyone can do that. Then you can quit. Unless you want to keep going. Then you can keep going. Up to you.
But there are a lot of tricks I use to get to my writing and while I wouldn’t call them “secrets,” they are things I’ve learned after many years in this business, working through multiple problems from my editor leaving the house in the middle of a series to having to change agents to being told that I have to do a complete rewrite in three weeks or the book can’t be published this year (or maybe ever). It may seem like that’s a completely different problem that what you’re dealing with, but it isn’t. Trust me. It’s the same problem. It’s getting your body to sit at the keyboard and try to do something, even when you’re sure you’re making it worse or that the thousand other things your brain is telling you to do are surely a better, safer bet for your time.