Stop Stalling, Start Creating

The other week, I heard a great piece of advice on a podcast in which Brian Clark asked Seth Godin how he writes, and Seth responded in typical Zen-like fashion:

We have this idea that if we ate the same breakfast cereal that Stephen King ate, we’d be able to write like him. It isn’t true.

What does uber-blogger and best-selling author Mr. Godin call our obsession with celebrities’ and famous authors’ creative practices? Stalling. 

Stop Stalling
Phot credit: barkbud (Creative Commons)

It made me think of all the areas in my life that I am stalling to do the really hard, important work of creating.

The stall list

  • If you need to be writing a book and instead write a blog post, you are stalling.
  • If want to live your dream and spend your day sending out resumes, you’re stalling.
  • If you are called to lead and wait to make a decision, you are stalling.
  • If you obsess over your blog stats, you’re stalling.
  • If you call a meeting only to schedule another meeting, you are stalling (and killing the productivity of your entire team).
  • If you spend two hours having coffee to talk about creativity, you’re probably stalling.
  • If you go to a conference to hear something you already know, you’re stalling.
  • If you’re “mulling it over” or “weighing my options,” admit it: these are stall tactics.
  • If you begin a tough conversation with false pleasantries (e.g. “With all due respect…”), you are stalling.
  • If you ask for a second opinion or wait for more information, you’re most likely delaying the inevitable — doing something.
  • If you often say, “I dunno… what do you wanna do?” you’re still stalling. (My wife hates it when I do this.)
  • If you’re “just checking in” on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), you are stalling.
  • If you’re taking multiple bathroom breaks in an hour, you’re stalling (or you’ve got an infection).

Stop it

I hate stalling. And I do it all the time. It’s time to stop stalling and start creating.

Decide. Make a difference. Act now. We don’t need you next week. We need your heart — your passion, your pathos, your love — today.

We can’t afford to wait. You can’t, either. Consider the opportunity cost of stalling. Is it really worth it?

So… what’s on your stall list? Share in the comments.

117 thoughts on “Stop Stalling, Start Creating

  1. Dang. I don’t even know what to say…

    I could make some excuses, but I know I would be stalling.

    I wish I had to peace and security to step out on something and begin to move forward, but I am crippled by fear right now that I can’t let go. 

    1. thanks for being honest. fear is a nasty thing. maybe start by assuming that you WILL fail? (because you might.) now that you know you won’t succeed, think of the worst case scenario… is it really that bad?

  2. Clicking to see what Jeff Goins wrote on the blog today…stalling.

    Stopping to leave a comment…stalling.

    Checking my word count every other sentence…stalling.

    and man, oh man, do I spend to much time looking at stats.

      1. Responding to a reply by Jeff Goins…stalling

        Hey man, you do good work. Keep it up! Also I try not to think of blogging or cruising other blogs as stalling as much as “getting the creative juices flowing” at least that what I’m telling myself.

  3. You caught me red-handed, friend. I’m definitely guilty of this. We all are. We stall out of fear (or just pure procrastination). Either way, you’re not going to get where you want to be by doing it. Thanks for the wake-up call. 🙂

  4. Invest more time in starting my real estate business…….Stalling
    Create a Family Mission Statement and start acting on it….stalling
    Working out more consistently if for no other reason than for my health….stalling.

    Yep – my intentions are right but not putting them to action.

    Guilty as charged.


    1. Whoa Rob. When my twins were born, I suddenly had 4 kids 5 and under. You have a very valid excuse. I remember doing laundry at 11:00 at night. I had very little time for anything outside of things related to home and child rearing. You have your job, children, and your wife all requiring time and attention, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

        1. It’s definitely a tough job, but one I would never change if I had a do-over. If I could offer some unsolicited advice, based on my history, it would be to keep your marriage #1. Never stop dating your wife. Long story….

  5. Is laughing also considered stalling?  If so, I am stalling, and gulty as charged because I am here and not in the middle of my rewrite.  Thanks for the post.

  6. Is sticking my fingers in my ears and going “la la la can’t hear you!” an acceptable reaction to this post? Because that’s how it makes me feel. It hits a little too close to home for comfort.

    Of course that is just my way of saying THANK YOU for saying the things I don’t want to hear.

  7. Such a perfectly timed post for me today. I’m stalling on a short story collection, several blogs, all hoping that stupid muse will get her butt in gear. But I have to show up. Great Post!

  8. Anything that’s easy (at least in my life) is probably a form of procrastination.

    Those supposed “bathroom breaks”… that’s a good one.

  9. Oh boy. You caught me. 

    I heard that podcast too, it had a lot of great advice. You really went a step further with this post about stalling, though. 

    I stall all the time, it’s true. I’m probably most guilty of weighing my options or mulling things over, but you’re right…it’s definitely stalling. Of course you should think decisions through before making them, but there comes a point when you really already know what the best decision is…you’re just too nervous to make it. So you stall. 

    Fantastic post as usual, and a great reminder. Thanks. 

  10. Oh goodness, what isn’t on my stall list? As someone who is new to writing from home as my primary (if not most time consuming) occupation, it’s so hard not to get distracted! Just a few: tidying the house, running errands, reading blogs, checking email and Facebook and Twitter, getting stuck in the Thesaurus….

  11. I so appreciate how you tailor posts just for me. We both know I need to write a darn book. Now just tell me how to get from recognizing that I’m stalling to actually doing something about it. Next post, maybe. 🙂

  12. Stop writing posts like this. I’m comfortable in my procrastination and my delusions that I’m actually accomplishing something. If I read posts like this, I have to work harder at not moving toward anything. Please stop challenging and inspiring me.

  13. Wow, you never fail to shake things up.  I plan on making a stall list as soon as I get home from work tonight.  I stall all day long, and I climb into bed every night feeling disappointed that I didn’t get more done (or that I failed to actually start anything).  No more.  Thanks for this!

  14. Wow!! that’s a smack in the face post – a wake up call.  A truth that cannot be denied or covered.  I stall big time – instead of writing, I read how to write.  The resistance is enormous and I know it will go once I start and yet I stall…….big time.

    Well, now that I know that I am stalling, I cannot any more, Can I?

    Thank you very much for an inspiring and motivating post.

    Padma Ayyagari

  15. My biggest stall tactic is: Waiting on God to make it clear. 

    Granted, sometimes that is a legitimate season of waiting, but I’ve found that I tend to use waiting on God as an excuse not to push forward in things I should be moving forward in. 

    Great post Jeff! I don’t want to stall anymore either!

  16. Unfortunately, I found myself nodding at some of these {and laughing out loud at the last one…so much that my kids had to ask me what was so funny.}

    Thanks again Jeff.

  17. Dan Miller says the danger for us as Christians is what he calls “sanctified ignorance” where we say “Lord please show me” and we sit around and wait and do nothing. It’s a stall tactic and the Lord doesn’t honor that!

  18. I had four hours to sit at Starbucks and write this afternoon. I stalled the first one, worked for awhile, and then found this post on Twitter and felt the need to comment. I’m stalling again. Gotta go!


  19. Nice post. You made me laugh. No more excuses now. My excuse was that I didn’t like the word “procrastination”. I’ll post “Will you stop stalling already, Kenley?” on a wall in my computer room.

    Thank you!

  20. YouTube and Facebook are my big stallers. I’m probably better off if I just flip my wireless switch to off. But this post helped me realize that I undoubtedly stall way more often than I realize.

  21. As I read through your list of different ways we stall I was tempted to say “Now wait a minute! That’s not stalling!” But then I had to stop myself each time as I realized the truth of each statement (that and I didn’t want to sound like a fool to the preacher across the hall). I keep telling myself that there is more I need to read, or I need to gather more information before taking action, but the truth is, it is well passed time to start. So I am going to stop stalling now and get to work… really.

  22. Alright… So it all started when I felt a connection with “obsessing over stats”, but I could live with that. When you hit on the “false pleasantries” you got me. I never would have considered that stalling. After reading your post, I must concede… false pleasantries are definitely stalling. Great post. It was entertainment combined with a sharp reality check. Thanks!

  23. Dude, you suck. Stop calling me out like this. I stall all the time. Jerk. 🙂

    Seriously though I need to hear (or read, whatever) this because I have a big problem with stalling and distraction. I know what needs to be done and that I am actually capable of doing it and instead I do something else that has near zero added value.

  24. If you begin a tough conversation with false pleasantries (e.g. “With all due respect…”), you are stalling.
    You nailed mine. 

    I know that God has put me in the middle of a ministry that is changing the world and yet so often I find it hard to even ask my closest relatives to buy into the vision that God has given. 

    I can not wait any longer for, “buy in” and “ownership” to happen in the people around me. 

    I have to make “big asks” apologetically knowing that what I’m doing matters!

    Thanks for the encouragement Jeff.

  25. Nice one, Jeff.  I often find that I even stall on getting real rest, messing around with things that don’t matter instead of recharging.

  26. I’m following and taking part in a challenge called #SHINEonline on twitter, which is about making a commitment with each other to post meaningful content a particular number of times a week (the reccommended is 2). It brough to my attention that the 23rd of this months marks 100 days until the end of the year!

    That being the case, I decided to do a 100 day challenge for myself (and anyone else who might want to tilt the windmill until the end of the year), to accomplish something every single day. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be meaningful, it must be ‘on track’ to some over-arching goal.

    On my list of appropriate things to achieve is completing my dance class, at full energy (hey, YOU bounce as hard as you can for an hour, trust me it’s an achievement), completing sections of the THREEE (yes 3) novels that are plotted and arranged on my hard drive and just need actualy WRITING, blog posts that are useful (not just ‘what I had for breakfast’ or ‘hey look what I found’), plus some home improvement goals I’ve set for myself.

    I actually came up with the idea from one of your previous posts, ‘what would you do if you couldnt fail’? No failure for 100 days. If anyone else would like to join me BTW, I’d love the company!

  27. Wow,  I never would have thought of obsessing over stats as stalling…but I’ve had a project on my whiteboard for two days that I haven’t started writing because I’ve been reading the same stats about it over and over.  

    Constantly checking my calendar to see if there’s a meeting coming up (in other words, deciding if I have time to start a new task before the next thing) is also a big stall tactic for me.

  28. On my stall list?  All the books about writing and books by authors I admire and want to emulate which I HAVE to read before I can possibly start to write anything. 

  29. Thank you for this post……. challenging, honest and REAL. I’m a new “follower”… found you from Jon Acuff’s guest blog. 🙂

  30. If you like planning and not executing, you’re stalling.
    If your to-do list looks the same for 3 days, you’re stalling.
    If you were a Russian leader in the 30’s, you’re Stalin…eh?

    I don’t have time to read blogs, but I don’t have time not to read yours. Keep shootin’ it straight, we need more of it.

  31. Obviously stalling is a very common human trait and I am no exception; indeed, I think I may be stalling right now.  I’ve learned to allow myself some stalling but know when the time has come to just do the work, whatever it may be.  And Twitter I try to do while a passenger in the car, waiting for an appointment, taking a break from working.  I don’t always succeed.  Twitter on my desktop is so much more compelling than my iPhone.  Nevertheless, I just do the best I can.  It’s all any of us can do.  Did really appreciate your thoughts on the subject, though.

  32. loved this, “We don’t need you next week. We need your heart — your passion, your pathos, your love —today. We can’t afford to wait. You can’t, either.”  thanks for inspiring me while i was stalling!

  33. Brutal…and true. I copied this post to my desktop so I’ll be forced to read it everyday. 

    Is “thinking” stalling too? cuz I think a lot about things I could write about and then …don’t.  I read Ryan Vanderbilt’s piece called “Thinking was Ruining my Life” in End Malaria and it stopped me dead in my tracks. He was actually talking about me! 

    Note to self  – Think less. Write more.  

    Thanks for the boot Jeff.

    1. it can be. depends on what you do when you’re done. here’s my thought: if you have all the information you NEED to make a decision and you need to think about it, you’re stalling. if nothing actually changes as a result of your thinking about something, then you were just wasting time because you were afraid to make a choice. i know this, because i do it all the time.
      appreciate your reading this.

  34. You’re freaking me out.  You have surveillance cameras in my house, don’t you?  Too many of those are dead on.  Seriously creepy.


    ….I think I saw this on an episode of The Twilight Zone….. 

  35. Great thoughts.  Sometimes I trick myself into thinking  the very things that are keeping me from actually doing anything creative are helping me PREPARE to be creative.  They’re not. Thanks for the reminder, Jeff!

  36. So, Jeff, if I wear inspiring socks like the ones in the photo above (and are they Stephen’s, or are they yours?) will I be able to write like either one of you?
    Seriously, I really like this piece. Right now I’m stalling myself from finishing 3 projects (that WILL be done today, but I wanted them done EARLY—and I can see right now, just how uncommitted I am to EARLY). The longer I write this, the more I stall; but, it was either write it now or not at all. Now, on to the next event, to keep those project-promises I made to myself. The day is still almost young enough!

  37. I’m
    seriously falling in love with your blog. If there were options to
    marry someone’s intellect, you’d have me down on one knee. Can’t…stop…..reading…your work!

  38. I had a creative writing teacher who said that we ‘ladies’ couldn’t show up on the page not being properly attired.  Guess she saw housewives of the time as messy & unkempt.  So, for me its always been a process of total shower/dress/hair/make-up/shoes.  Just like I’m going out to an engagement.  Do you know how much much work? how long that all takes?  By the time I am ready, if I had any ideas, they are long gone for the day.  I would think I was working in the wrong profession but I hate all that fooling around.  Think I’m going to have to reprogram myself to just sit down and get the words out.  Oh sigh . . . . .

  39. Dont have a stall list but I noticed that my mother does this all the time. Obvious, absurd stalling. Everytime there is an issue, she brings up small shit thats i rrelevent. Jumping off subject asap. Then she gets mad when we point out that we can see she doesntreally care. Shes really good at playing stupid and it really pisses me off during a crisis. Does anyone(just curious) know anybody who stalls their way out of situations? Because I never see this crap out of anyone else. Its scary to have a parent like that sometimes. We could be talking about blowing up a school or something and she”ll bring up something completely not serious; like washing out your boxers and socks or your jacket or pants on the floor .its like dating a schizophrenic self medicating on ten different drugs. Its a tough to deal with defense ptsd defense mechanism that I never see with anyone else

  40. Thanks for the tips Jeff. I can relate to all of them, as I do all of them. My indicator when I stall on something important is I get a sore lower back. When I stop stalling and get in the flow the niggle goes away.

  41. I think I do more stall than creating most of the time. I hate it! Thanks for the post. Great tips. Now I need to quit stalling and write my own long-overdue post!

  42. You basically hit the nail on the head. I’m supposed to be writing some articles right now, but guess what? I was on Facebook, and came across this post you shared. Thanks for the reminder to get off my butt and do what I’m supposed to be doing!

  43. I was just talking to myself about this very thing not just 10 minutes ago. I get up. Roll a few paint strokes across the wall. Sit down. Play Temple Run. Get up. Repeat. Now, I’m on the computer. It’s sickening. I get the message. Back to painting.

  44. Jeff, this text is so true! Thank you! I´m afraid that I´m a master at stalling. Here in Finland we (senior students) have had the past 3 months free from high school so that we could prepare for the entrance exams and guess what I´ve done? Everything but preparing! Here are a few of my ways to stall!

    The stall list

    If you are reading the back cover of a school book for several times but not starting to read the actual book, you´re stalling.

    If you go to sleep at 8pm instead of finishing the day´s job, you´re stalling.

    If you find yourself baking a cake instead of writing an article, you´re stalling.

    If you are browsing old photos of you even though you should be doing something else, you´re stalling.

    if you ”prepare” to write by reading your older texts, you are stalling.

    If you go for a walk five times a day, you´re stalling.

    If you watch TV instead of writing, you´re stalling.

    If you write short stories although you should be studying, you´re stalling.

    If you go through your clothes cupboard and try all the clothes on instead of working, you´re stalling.

    If you find yourself trying to raise an avocado tree out of an avocado seed instead of studying, you seriously are stalling. (Yes, I´ve done this and no, it didn´t work.)

  45. I never stall. I cogitate. No, seriously:)

    Cogitating is my go-to tactic whenever I have a difficult project to begin. I have learned that the only way through it is to park my butt at my desk and get at least one small piece done. After that, the rest tends to come more easily.

    The key is recognizing what you are doing, or you will never stop doing it!

  46. When I get a strong urge to wash dishes, I know I’m into major stalling.

  47. Thanks for posting this. Though reading this was a result of me stalling, it really made me fess up to the fact that most of what I do is, yes, while related to what I want to do, NOT doing it! So, thanks! I’ve heard action feeds motivation, so take the first step and make something, and hopefully this will fuel more. –NP

  48. If you read loads of blogs daily, fear to write even a
    blog post, plan often and never rise to create, postpone creating materials
    for children, get busy with other stuffs beside your dream that truly matter, you aren’t
    just stalling (that’s me), you are lazy and tumbling over in the stall box.

  49. The top comments below here are 3 months, 5 months, one year and 2 years old. All under the heading of “discussion,” I believe. If so we need to life approx. 5000 – 10000 years to see the discussion getting off the ground, though more likely, we are all stalling. Stop comments, stop looking toward writers and other “how to” specialist; they all reinterpret the world with hindsight. Find your own way, find it by yourself. Oh, it does include quitting.
    Thank you for your attention.

Comments are closed.