The Fear of Writing

The Fear of Writing

I have had such a busy week!

My office is spic and span. Neat and tidy, tidy and neat. I’ve filed my son’s school artwork, organized my bookshelves, and straightened up the knick-knacks.

I finally learned how to use HootSuite. No more spending hours every day promoting my work on social media! Instead, I spent hours scheduling posts to go out in the future.

I studied all of my stats, from Medium to my website to my Instagram and Facebook accounts, learning nothing but still feeling somewhat bolstered by the minor uptick in readership.

I bought a notebook and filled it with to-do lists and goals.

I continued reading and highlighting Zachary Petit’s The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing and started reading Kerrie Flanagan’s Guide to Magazine Article Writing.

Speaking of Kerrie, I completed 25% of her webinar on writing for magazines. I used the course handouts to brainstorm topics and read through every page of the 2019 Writer’s Market guide, jotting down which magazines to pitch to.

I perused dozens of saved emails from Lit Hub, Medium, and ArtsJournal, collecting book- and writing-related links along the way to share with my newsletter subscribers and social media followers.

I watched some of an hour-long video on NaNoWriMo prep and thought through a couple of ideas for my book.

My iPhone is backed up and updated, and I organized my apps into various folders to clean up the overall look of my screen.

I downloaded soothing classical music and created a playlist of songs to write to. I don’t like having music on when I write, but I may as well prepare something in case I decide one day that background music would be beneficial.

Clearly, I’ve been incredibly busy.

And yet…

I haven’t accomplished anything. I haven’t written. And the thing is, I knew the entire time I did all this stuff that I was wasting energy on tasks that served only to take me further away from accomplishing my goals.

I knew the entire time I was simply too afraid to write.

“Do you know what’s really at work here, when we thrash around with countless projects, never finishing any of them? FEAR.”
— Jeff Goins, "You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)"

It’s not like the week has flown by and I haven’t had a second available to write. I’ve had plenty of time to write. Let’s be honest: I work from home. I have nothing but time to write.

But, I don’t. I open FaceTwitInstaSomething and mindlessly scroll through the chatter, barely registering the words on the screen.

I read through books written by other writers about writing and feel overwhelmed by the information.

I use my cluttered workspace as an excuse for not writing, knowing full well it makes no damn difference if my desk is stark bare or under a pile of garbage; I’m not going to write either way.

I create playlists and mess with social media schedulers and find other distractions to avoid sitting and doing the one thing I always said I wanted to do: write.

Then I use the excuse that I don’t know what to write. Do I commit to NaNoWriMo and complete a novel? Do I focus on magazine articles? And if so, which magazines? What topics? Do I write another short story, despite the fact that my current stories are floating out in the world with no interest from publishers? Do I publish on Medium, even though these first-person rants aren’t likely to make much money or garner much acclaim? Do I focus on getting clients and writing web copy or brochures or, hell, grant proposals, since that’s what I did forever, even though it’s not really the type of writing I want to do?

Instead of doing any of it, I do none of it. I pretend to be busy. I lie to myself about what “needs” to be done. I publish pieces encouraging others to write even though I don’t have the guts myself.

Maybe next week will be different. Maybe, because the updates and the cleaning and the brainstorming have already taken place, I’ll put aside the excuses and actually write.

Or, perhaps, I’ll reorganize the kitchen. I noticed the cupboards looked a little cluttered down there.

A version of this post first appeared in The Writing Cooperative

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