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#WritingCommunity What Makes You Anxious as a Writer?

Perhaps my truest antidote to anxiety as a writer is to sink in to writing. What is yours? Do you get anxious as a writer or am I the only one?

As a writer, I’ve realized that one of the things I need to get a handle on is my anxiety.

Not writing gets the writer in me anxious, but so does writing.  When I’m not writing, I obsess over the fact that that’s what I should be doing instead. When I am writing, I’m often worried it is not good enough. In both cases, I need to sit down with my anxiety and watch it till it passes. It goes away, but when it returns it feels like it might never have left.

When others read my work, it is lovely in a way, but again, it is worrisome, especially when it is the advance readers. What if the whole novel has been a giant waste of time?  I’ve actually started writing new novels just to stop feeling anxious about the last one.

Some days, I get anxious about all the things I want to read and write, and spend half the day paralyzed, staring at the screen because that list is so long. I need to then give myself timeouts–even set timers to write, where the mandate is that I need to focus in the moment and not think about what has not been done. Break that list down into manageable chunks in order to reduce the overwhelm.

Thankfully, You Beneath Your Skin has been generally well-reviewed, and the stray troll reviews of lower-starred takes have not gotten to me. That could be my training with rejections–I’m not overly affected by them–they sting for a minute or two and then I move on. The number of submissions I send out might have something to do with it. October hasn’t been great for me in terms of submissions, so in November I’ve decided to send out five submissions a week, other than everything else I’m to do. Unsurprisingly, this is leading to heightened anxiety!

The root of anxiety for me as a writer is low confidence in my abilities, coupled with high performance expectations–I know this, and work on it a little everyday, so I’m not a mess. The writing journal helps. Also, the group I’ve started off: We Embrace Rejections. I also find that dipping into books like The Artist’s Way and Writing Down the Bones, as well as timed, prompt-based writing exercises purely for fun help a lot.

I was commissioned to write a 500-word prompt-based piece for Visual Verse this month, and to do it in one hour.

It made me nervous for a few minutes, but I remembered that I’ve done this before more times than I can count:

This was an exercise at writing a story in ten sentences, each sentence with a number in it. This was based on a sketch by a writing friend. This one was a dark piece, inspired by a very sweet picture.

So I let go, and put pen on paper for half an hour, spent another half tinkering with it, and the story was ready. The first part  is with the picture in the header– that picture was the prompt I was given. The complete story is here.

Perhaps my truest antidote to anxiety as a writer is to sink in to writing. What is yours? Do you get anxious as a writer or am I the only one?

Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

It is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. while I do not consider myself a writer, I have little anxiety because whenever I do write something I let my heart do the talking, rarely go wrong… 🙂

    Until we meet again…
    Hope all is well in your part of the universe, each and every day is filled with love and happiness and life is all that you wish for it to be!.. 🙂

  • soniadogra says:

    A lot of it feels like me… Anxious about writing and equally anxious about not writing. Also, the list of to-do way too long and then breaking it into chunks. I try five submissions every month. So I’m in awe of you there.
    I did think of following up this challenge but something or the other was lined up. Although this looks like a great exercise to work on one’s writing.

  • I know exactly what you are talking about.

  • The title of your blog made me laugh because my immediate response was ‘everything’. But you’re in very good company. I’ve just been reading Steinbeck’s Journal of writing East of Eden and there is a very anxious man laid bare! The Artist’s Way and Writing Down the Bones are excellent places to go for help and encouragement. I love both of them. Good Luck with your writing.

  • Powerful flash–well done! I’m an anxious writer, for sure, but I know that and use it–kind of store it up until I feel like I might burst, and then have a very good writing day, most days. Today, I was anxious because I had absolutely no idea where a scene was going to go, but I broke through. Now, I’m anxious I won’t be able to finish it successfully, but if I do the great feeling is worth the anxiety!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for reading the flash, Rebecca! And I use your technique as well–fill myself with anxiety and then it all bursts and the writing flows 🙂

  • epsnider says:

    My anxiety stems from my ineptitude when it it comes to electronic and computer skills. Once I get started writing the words flow fairly easily, but i admit to being lax when it comes to punctuation and spacing. I absolve myself from all blame and instead blame my computer. To retaliate my computer hides or destroys blocks of written work that I have slaved over for hours.
    At this time I am anxious About the publishing and illustrating of my children manuscripts:
    THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF LORI AND BONNIE B BUNNY’- hopefully to be published as a series of six story picture books or a chapter book for early readers. Any suggestion welcome.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I have very little experience with picture books, but wish you all the very best, ELaine. A series sounds exciting!

      I have my MS Word set to autosave, and my works in progress set to auto-backups, so that part is sorted out. I got help to do both, so maybe you could ask someone to help you as well?

  • I’m sure you’re not alone in being concerned about your writing Damyanti. Being a perfectionist in what you do is not a bad thing unless the realization nothing is perfect affects your physical condition. A little help from a doctor helps with that. To me writing is a hobby and a pleasure. I’m delighted if someone enjoys what I’ve written but if someone is critical I take that on board and look for legitimate points they may have in what they criticize and try and improve. Of course some people criticize just because they are like that. Those kind of people are to be pitied and you just shrug off their comments. Why don’t you in an honest appraisal of your skills in writing realize that you are a gifted writer and a good person along with that. I certainly think you are and so do the majority of your readers. Time to give yourself a pat on the back, 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Ian, you’re good for a girl’s ego–thank you. There’s a lot of room for improvement for me, both as a person and a writer, and I try to live with that the best I can. I do enjoy your writing, but you already know that. 🙂

  • setinthepast says:

    Everything makes me anxious!

  • Birgit says:

    If one does not have anxieties I would wonder/worry about them! I believe a healthy amount of anxiety makes one overcome their fears, create better story telling and writing. You want to do a great job so you will peruse over it more than once until you feel you can’t do any more. Great job on the story!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      A litttle anxiety is a good thing, I agree, but only a little. Thanks for the kind words!

  • You wrote that in an hour?
    Colour me awed and humbled.
    And grateful to read it.
    Anxiety lives with me. Often. And strives to take control. Sometimes she does, for a time, but I strive to learn from her, face up to her and move on.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, I did, Sue, and it is nothing to awed about–I’ve just had tons of practice at it. I enjoy prompt-based, timed writing, and a lot of my work comes from there. Thanks for the kind words though–you’re always very supportive.

      Join the club on anxiety. My anxiety seems like an estranged twin of yours.

  • Asha Seth says:

    It is weird. I know I had ordered the book. I know I had kept it safe on my office desk. Then office closes for lockdown and now is reopened but my book is nowhere to be found. I just wish whoever stole it read it. Otherwise, what a waste of my copy!
    I shall try and find it and then read it, Damyanti.
    I hope you’re well.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Oh no, Asha. So sorry you misplaced your copy. Happy to replace it for you if you like?

      I’m coping, as you can see, but not very well. My new policy is to share my vulnerability, because I’m tired of people claiming on social media that they’re winning at everything, all the time. We win some, we lose some–the important thing is to keep showing up, regardless.

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