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?
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