Write for the Love of it!
Overcoming Shiny Object Syndrome
Glenna Mageau, Award Winning Author, Speaker, Writing Coach
I can’t wait to write today. I have the greatest idea for a story. This grandson plans on learning to skydive so he can take his grandmother, who is now deceased, up in a plane and drop her ashes from the sky. She had always wanted to… hey did you see that spider zip across my floor. I wonder what it is. A quick search in the internet will tell me. Facebook, someone on there will know…
2 hours later – nope, no one knew but did you know the deadliest spider in the world… and this woman who is 90 is more flexible than I am… there’s this really cool app out…
We all do it at one time or another.
Do you ever find yourself doing this? You plan on doing one thing but soon find yourself off watching cute kid videos. Or learning what you need to do to climb Mount Everest. Or seeing that the sun is shining and realizing you need to be outside. Or having to do a massive house cleaning. Or you really need to meet a friend for coffee. Or convincing yourself you don’t know enough so you have to learn everything there is about it. It’s called ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’. Another way of explaining it, is avoidance.
Overcoming it, sounds like it’s a futuristic, sci-fi disease and would take special technology to cure. But it really doesn’t. It isn’t futuristic, although, I’m sure it will still be an issue in the future. And it doesn’t take special technology to cure, it just takes a shift in focus.
It’s something that at one time or another many of us are immersed in it. Where the problem comes in, is when we can’t shut it off. We just keep avoiding.
So what is it?
Have you ever gone on vacation to some place new or visited a museum or neat building, a beautiful garden or maybe just gone someplace in nature that is something so interesting? You find yourself looking at everything. One thing will catch your eye but soon something else will. You find yourself exclaiming “Oh, look at that!” and potentially pointing. That is what shiny object syndrome is. You allow yourself to notice different things and you often will flit from one neat object to another.
And there is nothing wrong with that. Even if it happens in daily life and you are allowing yourself to step back and notice those things around you. And just let yourself notice the colors, the smells, the way things move or how they function… It is truly something that we should all take time to do. At least on occasion.
Awareness vs Avoidance
When we are in that state of awareness and just noticing what is around us, it’s pretty cool. Often we notice things we haven’t before. We may see the colors or images or how it makes us feel… And that’s a good thing. Being in a state of awareness is a good thing. Just stop and become aware of what is around you every now and then. Really notice it and realize how amazing this place is that we live and all that there is. Pretty cool.
Awareness is necessary for change. However awareness when used to avoid, can be a problem.
Have you ever noticed though that when you have something to accomplish, either because you really want to or someone else is expecting you to, that sometimes it is easier to avoid doing it? So what a better way than to find something that keeps us distracted for a period of time.
When we are in a state of avoidance, though, that is where the problems come in. This is how the ‘shiny object syndrome’ works when we are avoiding something.
You think about writing and then realize you have never washed the walls in your house. So you need to contemplate doing that and may actually find yourself following through.
You schedule time to write but then realize that there is a documentary on watching paint dry. You’ve got to see it.
You sit down to write but realize you’ve been meaning to buy a new chair. So you start searching the internet for types of ergonomically correct chairs for sitting at a desk. Then you see a cat flipping off a chair. So that sends you off watch videos about cats but soon end up watching a Rhino being born – ugly but cute too. Another video shows you the real side of the Serengeti – an animal takes down another, for it’s noon day meal. You realize you’ve been on your computer too long and it’s time to get off. There is no way you can write now.
Writing has become this thing that although you are drawn to it, the fear of the outcome of it is much greater. The shiny object syndrome, becomes a much easier way to deal with that.
Often I bet you’re even aware you’re doing it. And why you’re doing it.
Shift your focus.
What’s purpose does it serve?
Often ‘the shiny object syndrome’ shows up because we are trying to avoid something. We either don’t want to deal with the stress that we know it will cause or we may feel like it’s too much work, that were not good enough… that something is within you. You may or may not know what you’re really avoiding, at this point it really doesn’t matter. What we want to do now is to turn it around and to be able to find a way to shift it.
And let’s not forget, it does feed us. When we fall into that shiny object syndrome state, we often feel good when we are doing it. We often choose things that will make us feel better, although not always. I tell people if they want to get good at housecleaning to become a writer.
So shiny object syndrome is really serving three purposes:
- the excuse as to why we didn’t follow through
We feel like we are accomplishing something. We are doing something good. Or we now have this reason to beat ourselves up.
How do you stop it?
- the first thing is to recognize that you have this affliction. It’s okay, many of us do. I think all of us do, at least at some point.
- be gentle with yourself. It’s okay. It’s something that is curable.
- understand when and why it shows up.
“It’s a matter of shifting your focus.”
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Acknowledge it’s an issue and decide you want to change it
First you have to be willing to say, ‘yeah, I do this and I do want to stop. I want to get writing.’ Without making that commitment, it won’t happen. So, I want you to say the above and commit to it.
2. Write for the love of it
Often when we find we can’ get writing, it’s because our true expectation is too high. We don’t see ourselves as being good enough to write something compelling, interesting, that other’s will like. There are a number of things that come into it but I want you to shift your focus from the outcome – what happens when it’s done and shift it to the story. Write for the love of it.
3. Commit to 15 minutes of focused time
When you decide to write, focus on the fact that you are only committing to writing for 15 minutes. If it makes it easier, set a timer. For that time, you are going to just write. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like, or looks like, you are just going to write. You’ve already suspended your expectations. There are none, it’s just about writing.
4. Find a writing/commitment partner
Finding a writing/commitment partner is a good way to keep yourself focused. Ideally this is someone who also wants to commit to making change in their lives. So the two of you can have the other person help to keep you on track and keep following through. It doesn’t have to be a writer just someone who also has something they’d like to work on. Each of you will set up some ideas of what you’d like to accomplish in a certain amount of time. For you, the writer, maybe it’s writing 5 pages this week.
5. Write – share or don’t share
Depending on who you are, you may need other’s feedback right away. You may need other’s to tell you how good your writing is. Or you may be the opposite type person and not want anyone to read it until it is perfect. I do not recommend showing your writing to others until you’ve done some work on it and polish it, because if other’s judge you and suggest changes. Are you ready to accept that as constructive and keep writing? You have to decide for you. But know that writing is a process and it takes time.
Decide what will work for you and commit to it.
You may find one thing in the list above is enough to help you shift. You may need to try several. Keep working at them until you find one that will help you commit to avoiding ‘shiny object syndrome’.
Make time to write.
If you sincerely want to make changes and really want to get writing and get it off your, ‘I should’ list, then commit to changing your affliction with ‘shiny object syndrome’. It is curable… oh, how cute a baby rabbit just hopped by my window. 🙂
It’ll always be there but you can control it and only unleash it when you are ready to do nothing useful for two hours.
The truth is that when you write for the love of it and remove the expectations, it will make it so much easier.
Stop thinking and start writing!