Procrastination and the fear of beginning

Why I put things off

Richard McLean
2 min readMar 1, 2023

There are a couple of things I’ve been putting off for a while.
And whilst I’d been curious and unsure why, I’d never really stopped and asked myself why it was that I was putting them off.

Instead, I’d fobbed myself off and deceived myself with the answer that I was prioritising — that the things I was putting off weren’t as important or as time-critical as other things. But as I kept putting off the same two activities, I really could have stopped to inquire more deeply.

Instead, the answer came to me one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, as I was reading ‘Beginning’ by David Whyte:


I was unwilling or unready to expose my incompetence and discomfort in activities I haven’t done for years.

But, rather than acknowledge or face up to those feelings, which would involve allowing myself to not know and to fumble through or (heaven forbid!) to ask for help, I chose to postpone and to postpone and to put off the activities time and again.

Apparently, I’m more comfortable sitting with the associated, nagging guilt of putting something off than I am with the intimate discomfort of not knowing — and what that might reveal.

David Whyte

And now here I am, a couple of weeks after getting that powerful insight, and I still haven’t done those two things…

I’m going to take solace in the fact that David also wrote — in a different essay in the same book — that procrastination “can be a beautiful thing”, and be grateful that it “enables us to understand the true measure of our reluctance”. As he says, procrastination can help us “to learn what we are afraid of in the endeavor itself.”

And clearly I’m so afraid of what I’ve learnt that I’m writing this post and not doing either of those two activities…

‘BEGINNING’ and ‘PROCRASTINATION’ are both from the book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte 2014



Richard McLean

Chief of staff @ElsevierConnect (Academic & Government group). Mainly writing about getting from A to B, teams, & digital product stuff. Personal account.