Does Anxiety Stop You From Writing?
I’m a perfectionist, which means I get anxious about a lot of things that may seem trivial to some. Cleaning is one of those things. It stresses me when small tasks begin to pile up and becomes one mammoth job. However, a major source of anxiety for me is also something I love to do.
I have Writer’s Anxiety. (Capitalised because it’s a Big Problem). Some people call it Writer’s Block, but I don’t think that fully captures the true meaning of the term. Writer’s Anxiety isn’t only about not knowing what to write. It’s also the intense emotions of doubt and anger that accompany it.
Why am I so anxious about writing?
In order to tackle those negative emotions that crop up when you write (or try to write), you need to figure out where the negative feelings come from.
I grew up enjoying writing and spelling in primary school. My teacher was amazing. She read Roald Dahl’s The Witches with all the voices. It was way better than any movie and I developed a lifelong love of books thanks to her. I feel I owe her because she helped to instil my passion for the English language. Putting words together became a hobby and eventually a source of income.
My negative feelings arise not before I write but after I’ve written a few lines. It’s the constant rewriting that gets me. I’m not happy with what I produce and I need to edit again and again.
I know this need for a perfect paragraph stems from my perfectionism. It’s something I’m trying to manage, but there are things I do to help beat Writer’s Anxiety.
How to tackle Writer’s Anxiety
There are six simple ways to decrease Writer’s Anxiety (because it might never go away but you can keep it in check.)
1. Identify your strengths
Focusing on the negative is something I do well. I’m a worrywart and I always jump to the worst-case scenario. But in order to deal with Writer’s Anxiety, the first step is to focus on the good things.
What are your strengths in writing? Are you good at grammar? Do you know how to empathise with your readers through your personal stories? Do you love the sound of words and enjoy creating interesting sentences?
You need to focus on your positives so you don’t fall into that pit of despair. Because it’s hard to get out of that negative place once you’re inside.
2. Find out what really motivates you
Writing might be your passion, but what is it that really motivates you to write? Do you want to be recognised? Do you want to spread your message? Do you want fortune? Do you want to share your ideas with others because it makes you feel happy?
Once you find out what really motivates you to write you will have a clearer idea of how to get there and that in effect will help to guide you through those times when you doubt yourself.
3. Get support
If you find it hard to keep yourself motivated, then you need to find help from people who can support you when you need it most. That could come in the form of friends or family to lift your spirits to tell you you’re doing a great job; or it could be someone you pay, like an editing service to jazz up that article you’ve poured your heart and soul into but needs a professional edge.
4. Don’t sweat it
Stress less by meditating, doing yoga, going for a walk. Did you know there are many writers who state that going for a short stroll helps to get their creative juices flowing? For so many authors, the first thing they do each morning is to go on a walk. Walking is an easy way to clear your mind, and you’ll be surprised by what it fills up with. Take a notepad just in case!
5. Take it slowly
It’s not a race to get to the end. As the old saying goes, what matters is the journey, not the destination. Take your time to give your writing room to breathe. By that I mean leave it for a day or two, or even a week. Then come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what a day or two of waiting can do for an article.
6. Celebrate the small achievements
It feels good to be told you’re doing a good job by others, but it’s just as important to remind yourself, too. Celebrate the small achievements such as completing a sentence that you’re proud of, submitting your first piece of writing to a publication, even if it gets knocked back or doesn’t really get noticed by many people. Be proud of your work because you’ve put all that hard effort into it.
While I know that there isn’t a quick fix for Writer’s Anxiety, it’s important to not let it take hold and stop you from doing what you love. I hope these few simple steps are as helpful to you as they are for me. You’re doing a great job, keep at it.
Lana Graham is Editor of Mama Write. She writes about parenting and her writing journey and lives in Sydney, Australia with her partner (her rock) and their three amazing sons. If you’d like my 3 Top Tips for being a successful new writer on Medium, then click here.
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