I’m sure there are some of you out there right now thinking “Wait a minute? You’re a WRITER! How can you be afraid to write?” I’m sure you’d be surprised at the number of writers who have the same fear; the fear that whatever you actually write down won’t be good enough. The constant recurring “Why even bother to write this down? No one’s ever going to read it.” It’s a valid fear that many writers struggle with. Unfortunately, I’ve let it get the better of me lately.
There are few things more unnerving to a wordsmith than a blank page. I’m sure some artists feel the same way about a blank canvas. In my case, I think part of the issue is that fact that there are just so many possibilities that could go onto that blank page. There is so much data and so many different stories playing in my head at any one time, that it’s difficult for me to actually sit down and commit them to paper. Especially if I feel they aren’t quite ready yet. What does that even mean? I logically know that there’s nothing ready about a first draft. That’s why it’s a first draft. A large part of writing is rewriting, and quite often, more time is spent on editing a story than on actually writing it. Not because the story isn’t good enough, but because it can be even better! The problem starts when you listen to those voices in your head that say you can’t do something. Those voices that make you question why you started something in the first place. Let me tell you, those voice can be very insistent, and speaking as someone with anxiety, they can be very loud.
Once those voices overshadow the voice of the storyteller, it’s all over. You find other things that are “more important” to spend your time doing, like the laundry or the dishes or making a five course meal because it’s Tuesday. These things aren’t really more or less important than your writing, they’re just safer. You know how to do the dishes and the laundry, and that five course meal? Well it comes with instructions! Instructions that assure you that following them will 100% guarantee you success! Well, perhaps not 100%, but you get my point. What else in life comes with an assured success rate? Nothing. So you continue to live each day dreaming about what you would like to do, but feeling that you’re just not capable of doing it. For some people, that type of existence works. I, however, am not one of those people.
You see, no matter how loud those voices get, or how many “more important” things I come across, there is still raw data in my head. There are still stories in my head. No matter what else I do, they’re there, haunting me and wishing to be told. After a while, they’re just as loud as the doubting voices, and there’s a full blown argument in my head which really sets my anxiety off. So what is a storyteller to do when the overwhelming load of information gets to be too much? When those voices start shouting at each other and make it too difficult to concentrate on anything? Well, some writers would drink or imbibe other, less legal, substances. And where this worked for them each with varying degrees of success, many of these cases really did not end well. I’m not interested in not ending well. That just doesn’t sound like a lot of not fun. The only option left is for me to sit and write, no matter how antsy and restless and out of focus I feel. I’ve already gotten up from this blog post twice: once to tape off the trim in my office closet (soon to become The Craft Corner) to prep it for painting, and once to take the clothes out of the dryer and move the clothes from the washer in the dryer. I find that sitting and writing for short periods of time, until I can no longer sit and focus on this task because something else is nagging at me, works. When that nagging thought and restless movement get to be too much, I get up and perform that other task until it’s complete or until a piece of writing comes to me that needs to get put down immediately. Writing is a calming thing for me, but sometimes the restlessness gets to be too much, and I need to focus on something else for a while. And you know what? That’s okay. Not everything I write down at a given point in time has to be profound and perfect in it’s first incarnation, and it doesn’t have to be finished in one sitting. Kudos to those who can finish a novel in a month and write something (with some editing of course) that’s wonderful! I’m not one of those people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Having anxiety and feeling overwhelmed is not something to be ashamed about, and it’s not something worth stressing over. Putting on some classical music, or taking some time to sit and listen to a guided meditation, or going out for a walk, or even the act of doing the laundry, all of these things are what help me refocus and calm down enough to move on. The trick is to find what helps you resettle and refocus, be it taking a relaxing shower or bath, Tae Kwon Do, or perhaps a long run, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it settles you and helps you refocus on the story in your head.
Be gentle with yourself. Don’t judge yourself for not being able to accomplish things “like normal people” do. Guess what, there is no such thing as normal. You are just as valuable and just as important as those people around you that you feel are somehow better than you. What you have to say and how you feel is just as valid. Never sell yourself short no matter what those voices in your head tell you. Yes, there are probably people out there who won’t enjoy your story or who don’t like you for some reason, but there are just as many people who will like your story and who do like you whether you know them or not. You never know who you’re inspiring just by being you. Never apologize for who you are for any reason. There certainly isn’t any reason to apologize because you don’t or can’t do things with the same speed or in the same way as someone else. We all accomplish things in our own time and in our own way. That’s all that matters.
Hello, my name is Mandie. I’m a writer with anxiety, I will no longer allow it to hold me back.