Kathy Edens finds that she can write content all day every day, but when it comes to fiction, she's terrified of the blank page. Her secret? Scheduling procrastination into her writing schedule.
I am a writer afraid to write fiction.
Really, it goes beyond being afraid to write. I’m obsessed with the notion people will call me out, expose me to the world as a fake and a fraud: "See her! She can’t fool us; she’s not a real writer." Even though I make my living writing.
I know I’m in good company. A lot of writers, past and present, feel the same way. But knowing doesn’t help me write.
Why it's not writer's block
I can’t say my fear is due to writer’s block or I’m suffering from it. I still write every day and meet all of my deadlines. But there’s a fundamental difference between writing copy or content for businesses and writing fiction. One is easy to research, re-frame in your own words, and cite your sources. The other takes your heart and soul.
I recently attended a webinar by the author Jerry Jenkins. He stated he doesn’t believe in writer’s block, and I would have to agree. I know when I sit down at the keyboard, I must write, not just because it’s my job but because I feel compelled.
Why then can’t I funnel that same energy into writing fiction?
It's more like anxiety-induced procrastination.
My fear manifests itself in procrastination. I can find dozens of ways to avoid writing fiction. My favorites are taking writing courses, reading books about the craft of writing, and generally procrastinating by researching famous authors’ writing processes. I’m a VIP member of Writer’s Digest and love their webinars. These are just a few ways I spend time instead of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
However, Jerry Jenkins said something else in his webinar that changed my outlook:
"I schedule in procrastination."
Jerry Jenkins is prolific with almost 200 published books. And he procrastinates? The difference is he’s learned to harness procrastination and make it work for him. He bakes a couple weeks of procrastination into his writing schedule for every novel—and he still always meets his deadlines. Jenkins said procrastination is important for him to percolate an idea and work it out before he sits down at the computer.
I can embrace that.
Incorporating procrastination into your writing schedule
Since I don’t believe in writer’s block, when I’m at my desk, I know it’s time to write. I have no problem starting on my content workload first thing in the morning. So, I scheduled in fiction-writing procrastination in the top spot on my agenda each morning. Weird concept, but stick with me.
When I get up at 4:30am, I’m ready to start my work day. I have clients around the world, so more often an early start is necessary. But since I’ve been procrastinating on fiction for 20 minutes first thing every morning, I let my mind percolate on plot holes and "what if" scenarios for my WIP. Much like Jerry Jenkins does. I also write in a process journal where I keep notes on my writing life. Now, for 20 minutes every morning, because I scheduled in procrastination time, I’m focused on fiction writing.
Which compounds most mornings into an hour or more actually writing fiction. Good grief. It works.
It's all smoke and mirrors.
Scheduling in procrastination won’t work for everyone, especially if you’re prone to procrastinate on social media or by binge-watching Netflix. I know my procrastination time is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors game to trick my mind into working on fiction.
But it works for me.
And something tells me I’m not the only one who puts off writing through fear-induced procrastination. If this sounds like you, what can you do today to trick your mind into focusing on your writing?
Kathy Edens is one of the bloggers on the ProWritingAid.com team where she writes about, well, writing. ProWritingAid helps writers just like you self-edit manuscripts in less time with amazing results. And it’s free to use. Drop Kathy a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to chat about procrastinating or anything writing related.