And Sometimes Decluttering is Total Crap

Sometimes you need to declutter to move forward. Get rid of stuff. Clean out. Make room.

And sometimes that’s total crap.

Sometimes decluttering is just a really convenient excuse for not doing the things you know you need to do, or rather want to do but are afraid of. I’ve been decluttering for weeks now, months really. And it’s important, it is. But it’s also no substitute for sucking it up and doing the things that scare you, the things that matter.

Instead of doing, I’m getting ready to do. I’m learning. I’m making space.

I’m updating Facebook.

I’m cleaning out my twitter stream.

I’m hiring a graphic designer to make me a logo.

I’m making lists and setting goals and tweaking budgets and catching up on email and look! I’m so organized now! I’m ready to – oh, wait. Let me just take care of this one final loose end…

I still haven’t sent out a single query for a magazine article. Not one.

I’ve purchased a membership to MediaBistro so that I can get examples of queries. I’ve read them. I’ve emailed samples to myself. I’ve made lists of story ideas and possible publications and even half typed one query. I’ve put it on my to-do list, and then I put “write pitch letter” on my to-do list because I thought taking smaller steps would help get me going. That’s why I have the half typed one.

I’ve tried questioning the validity of the goal. I mean, maybe writing articles for print publications isn’t that big of a deal anyway. Maybe the only reason I want that is because of some convoluted notion of legitimacy that is more about societal values than my own. Yeah, that’s it – it’s not even that important to me!

Except that it is. It’s so important that I’m hiding from it.

The other day I thought about getting myself an accountability partner. I’d find one person with a similar goal and we’d make ourselves go through the steps together, like how a gym buddy helps you get your butt out of bed in the morning to workout. But even as I formulated the plan in my head I knew it was just a new scheme for putting steps and distance between me and the actual doing.

The truth is that I’m scared, and so I’m just not pulling the trigger.

I have the time and the resources and the general knowledge necessary. I may even have the skills.

It’s the guts I’m lacking.

I’m also fresh out of excuses.

Are you putting anything important off?

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  1. Sheila says:

    I think I’ve finally accomplished everything that I’ve been dreading or afraid of doing, including the dishes.

    Buy a house? Check.
    Quit my job? Check.

    I need some new goals because I feel kind of empty. I’ve worked towards major goals for so long that, now that I’m “free”, I don’t know what to do with myself. Like, okay, I’m doing this – what next?

  2. Robin says:


    Being scared to pull the trigger sucks. I call it being stuck in inertia due to fear of being ignored or rejected.

    Out of the two (i.e. being ignored or being rejected), i’m not sure which one would be worse for me.

    You know this is just our ego controlling shit, right?

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m not sure which I fear worse either – both would be verification that I’m a fraud.

      • Robin says:

        And you know what kills me? You are neither. I am nether. Yet we keep worrying about the “what ifs” while life ticks by.

        I took a MAJOR move today to make some changes. I am SO. PETRIFIED. and I feel like I am about to throw myself off the Empire State Building, but I have to do something. I am not happy with where I am with certain things in my life and something has to give.

        I have faith in you, if it matters any. Look how much shit you’ve done so far… can do this. If you get rejected, you can come back to New York and i’ll buy you drinks. :)


  3. carol anne says:

    There’s so much I’ve been putting off and my reasons are part fear of rejection, part fear of success.

  4. Rachel says:

    Do I hear you! I used to be the kind of person who tried to trudge through the difficult stuff first so that I could reward myself with the enjoyable tasks later but I’m finding myself increasingly distracted by many of the things you mentioned in the guise of “decluttering”. It’s challenging to keep yourself on track. Deadlines help but I find that I outsmart myself when I know it’s a contrived (as opposed to REAL) deadline. I tell myself it doesn’t really matter. I think the accountability buddy is a good idea. Good luck!

  5. Nope. Something clicked last year and I have a lot of accountability buddies: for school, fitness and one very important one that makes sure I’m taking care of myself. Life is so short. Grab it, shake it, make it what you want. For me, that is happiness and I’m so stoked to be doing it!

    • Miss Britt says:

      Wow. You’re like the Buddha of procrastination and fear – totally conquered it and nothing left to learn! Congratulations. :-)

      • I wouldn’t say nothing left to learn – there’s so much left to learn. Like when to reel in my enthusiasm and when to let ‘er rip.
        I just decided after Mom died that I should do what my heart tells me – and so far, it’s been love hard, have fun, follow dreams. That’s all.

  6. Nanna says:

    Pull the trigger, baby. Fire away. You can outlast any rejection, any apathy, any lack of appreciation for your brilliance. You’re kind of a Big Deal on the Internet. :) Go get ‘em.

  7. the muskrat says:

    I’m putting off getting up from my chair to get some coffee, because I know it’ll make me need to crap, which requires more walking and time away from my desk, and I’d rather just read blogs.

  8. FireMom says:

    Ha! Yes! I almost talked myself into selling my ticket to BlogHer Writers ’11 in October the other day because I have so much to do! And traveling while the kids are in school means finding someone to care for them! And Christmas presents and birthdays! And, oh, just so much else to do.

    Except this is what I want.

    So I’m going.

    My tummy hurts. But I’m going.

    You can do this, my friend. It sucks sometimes, but you can do this.

  9. Hockeymandad says:

    Plenty. Fear of the instability that comes with it can be crippling.

    However, if there is anyone I know that can overcome those things, I would put my money on you. You are one of the bravest persons and family I have ever known. Seriously. It’s inspiring to see you guys have an idea, a dream, and then make it happen. Together. You made the hard decisions and the harder sacrifices to make your adventure a reality and it is inspiring. I honestly do not think you could ever be held back by anything but the right timing to move forward. Even if you don’t see it right away, I do. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding a “buddy” either, just make sure they are joining you for the right reasons of equal goals and not just to be linked in some way with the amazing Britt family. That has to be earned. :)

  10. I can feel your pain. I’m in a constant state of avoidance. I have all the knowledge and examples and time and resources, but there are just some things I keep putting off.

    Good luck to you, and I hope you find your guts.

  11. Megan says:

    What are you afraid of? Failing? What would that look like? What you’re doing now? How is that scary?

    I sent off my calendar proposal (probably never to be heard from again) and entered an essay in a magazine contest (probably also never to be heard from again). But I did those things because I know nothing will ever happen if I don’t.

    I totally envy you your article ideas. I want to write for magazines, but I cannot think of a damn thing to write about! How about writing the article first and then the proposal (or just submitting the article)?

  12. patriciaj says:

    Dear Ms. Britt, if you don’t send a query today, I will be deeply disappointed. You have the talent. Just sit down and do it and don’t worry about it being perfect. They have editors and proofreaders for the perfection part-when you get the GIGS. Many, many gigs. Really, they are in your future. I see you as a columnist in a monthly magazine. Just identify who matches you in their target market and go.


  13. MiMi says:

    I do this all the time. **sighs**
    But, seriously, you shouldn’t be afraid of anything, you are brave! You’ve already shown that with your adventure!

  14. oh i have LOTS to do. but that stuff isn’t important to me so i can ignore it really, really easily. too easily. la la la, dancing in denial…la la la, i am cleopatra.

  15. I vacillate between over-preparing and jumping the gun. But most of the time I over-prepare, or I guess I used to. Since last year I have gotten much better at just jumping out there and starting. There are times though, when I feel less than confident about my capability that I may drag my feet and find more research to do. Research can drag a project out forever if you let it.
    Of course, sometimes I stumble if I jump a little soon, but at least I am moving in the right direction!
    Thanks for your honesty!
    Why don’t you just DO what you are supposed to?

  16. @Miss Britt – I definitely think I can relate to your current avoidance in writing. I blog casually, and I like to think I’m good enough to do it professionally, but I’m not taking that step. I’ve read the books and the posts, and I think I’m good enough, I just have a hard time with that first step or just doing it.

    Of course there are other things like going back to school to get my teaching degree that I just can’t seem to get done. I love teaching, but there’s always an excuse as to why it can’t happen right now, ie time, money…

    I think we all struggle with things we want to do but just can’t seem to get it together enough to take the leap.

  17. Nicole says:

    I have a few places where my perfectionism is disguised as fear and procrastination. Like right now- I’m replying when I have some time to get something important done for work. :) Usually at work I have a partner to be accountable to, but she moved on and our new person hasn’t come on board yet. I need an accountability partner at work and have realized just how much I miss having one in the last month.

    I also discovered I need a place to be accountable for exercise. Last summer and fall I trained for the Honolulu Marathon with a friend. I was able to motivate myself to do the short runs during the week because I knew I had to be in good enough condition to do long runs with my friend on the weekends. WIth that goal accomplished, my exercise dropped dramatically since he gave up running. I just started Insanity and am holding myself accountable by journaling in my Facebook Notes every day. :)

    So yes, I feel your pain and mine is all perfectionism based. Those were just a couple examples of how that affects my life so I am on constantly on the look out on how to improve and grow. When I’ve gotten “there” I have to push myself to a new level, never thinking that I’ve arrived. That’s a dangerous place to be in personal growth!

    You’re doing great! Just by posting this, you made a HUGE step!


  18. naomi says:

    I’ll be your counter – balance!! I’m good at challenging and encouraging and forcing one to bend a bit outside of the norm … (but really? you’ve already done so much outside of “normal” — you really ready to push forward even more?)

    I’m all about accountability this year (and for me, a year is August to August … so screw the Times Square ball … I’m just getting started!)

    • Miss Britt says:

      Why is your year August to August?

      • naomi says:

        it has made more sense with the flow of life over here. The summers are one huge weird … void since everyone flees the country — which leaves me with a good chunk of time to just veg, or finish up projects, or what have you. When the kids to back to school in August, I “get my life back” so to speak with more free and available hours …

        It just makes more sense to me that way. Not to mention there is no real celebration of the typical holidays that I’m used to, so New Year’s Eve/Day is not even celebrated here, therefore not a landmark for goal setting …

        So I picked August. (that was a long drawn out response … sorry)

  19. Poppy says:

    I feel like I’ve got the bull by the horns, doing things I wanna do. Being scared makes me feel alive at this point, so I embrace the fear. :)

  20. Jody says:

    Yep, happens all the time. Took me about 4 years to get over my latest round of procrastination so I hope you can dig down deep and just go for it. BIG breath and then leap!!

    What’s that favorite line of mine from the movie The Polar Express? “One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”

  21. Kristin says:

    So I just want to say that you need to just go ahead and DO IT! What’s the worst thing someone can say? No right!? They won’t all say no. You can do it. We all know you have it in you! (PS-It’s taken me some time to figure this out for myself, but once I did, it gave me a sense of relief). DO IT
    Love you!

  22. Jamie says:

    I don’t if you’ve ever read “On Writing” by Stephen King, but one of the images that sticks with me from that book is his utter fearlessness (is that a word?) on rejection letters when he was younger. Back then it was the old letter in the mail…he talks of almost being peeved when a pub took a short story because that meant he had to write another story. I’ve got to get used to the idea that casting a wide net and rejection is part of the game of writing. You got such a great story…your writing is so engaging. Just start sending stuff out. (This is a note to myself probably as much as it is for you.) It wil happen.

  23. DeannaBanana says:

    My Dad used to say that the more shit you threw at a wall, the more shit would stick. In no way am I calling your writing shit, obviously, but in order to get that first magazine article you have to put your pitch out there. Why pitch to one when you can pitch to multitudes?

    I’ve seen what rejection does to you, Britters…first it saddens you, then it pisses you off, and finally it emboldens you. That fiery little sprite takes hold, digs in her heels and sinks her teeth into the challenge and accomplishes the goal. Really, what is to fear? That someone, somewhere, will say you cannot do it?

    Hah. I dare them. Clearly, they have not met you if that is the case.

  24. leanne says:

    Yes. The same thing(s) over and over. Writing in various forms… starting a blog, writing a book, writing articles. And why? Fear of rejection every time. Because aren’t there plenty of these things in the world already, and why the heck would someone choose mine and would mine even be good enough (the perfectionist in me stopping myself before I ever start)? But then I stop and think that maybe I just need to try for myself. To write for myself and see what happens. And I don’t want to regret that I never tried when I could have. Should have.

  25. [...] said enough with this fear and procrastination crap, and I emailed out my first pitch letter to a major [...]

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