How Anxiety Prevents Me From Writing

Posted February 1, 2018 by Amber in Writing / 11 Comments

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I love to write.

I will do it until the end of time because I love meeting new characters and taking them on adventures.  I will write regardless of whether or not I am ever published, for the sheer joy of it.

The road to publishing terrifies me.

You can see my avoidance in some of my posts, actually.  Things like Is 28 too Old to Be a Debut Author? and Querying an Agent is Terrifying.  My doubt seeps through in everything I do and as I become older, it feel myself shrinking further and further back.  I am more aware of time commitments, people commitments, money commitments, and altogether I often feel like I want to throw myself in bed and hide under the covers until the monsters go away.

Because of all these massive to do lists with expectations I don’t quite understand or feel I could achieve on the path to publication, I have built in a simple roadblock for myself: “I have so many ideas, I want to write them all!”

While this is theoretically well and good, it also means that I have a stack of first drafts that I am actively avoiding.  I have a second draft with beta reader notes that I’ve buried in the dark abyss of my mind.  I have a WIP that I look at and decide to go fiddle with my Bullet Journal or pin more recipes on Pinterest (my recipe board is the epitome of my avoidance pile… I have 600 recipes converted to Paprika, and another 600 sitting in wait on Pinterest.  I don’t think I have that much time IN MY LIFE to cook that much).

Every once and a while, I give myself a motivational speech.  “This is easy!” I tell myself.  “Make a plan!  Use a notebook!  Daily goals!” and I get all sorts of excited about the whole thing.  “You can finish this WIP by March and start drafting immediately!” … And here we are in February and I’m way behind because every time I look at my plot notes, my heart stammers and that voice in my head whispers, what’s the point? You’re never going to do anything with it.  You’d have to figure out how to write a query letter.  Lots of query letters.  And what if you did get an agent?  You’d have to talk to them.  Maybe even in person.  And if your book got published you’d have to market it.

Marketing is my nemesis.  It terrifies me.  So many people, so many expectations, and I don’t know what I’m doing.  I barely market this blog, guys.  I just let the automated thing shoot out to Twitter and Tumblr when posts drop and sometimes I come say hi to you because I like books and you like books and I don’t know what to say.  “Hi, we both like books.  I liked your post about books.  I’m leaving now. *retreats*”

I can’t imagine doing that in person.  With people.  I am legitimately the most awkward muffin.  I don’t know what real people are thinking and even if I love my book (I would hope so) the idea of talking to people in person who are looking at me with eyes and judging me and I am not telepathic so I cannot read their thoughts and what if I am doing everything wrong and nope.

So I don’t write stories.  I write blog posts.  I go to see movies.  I play with my cats.  And then, a story blossoms in my mind with a desperate journalist and a time traveling inventor and they see all the most amazing moments in history and I want to go to there.

And then I remember.  And I falter.

Cycle repeats.

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Do any of you experience anxiety?

How does it affect the things you love?

What do you to do to push through the haze?
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11 responses to “How Anxiety Prevents Me From Writing

  1. Ooh girl yes! I think the majority of us feel that way. I’m currently getting CP feedback & trying to work on query letters while trying not to be overwhelmed by their feedback lol. I had a plan to query in March but I don’t know if that’ll happen. I’m trying not to let doubts falter me, & I keep moving forward one step at a time. I’m also anxious about the whole- getting an agent & talking to them thing, & the marketing thing. But I decided not to focus on that now because I will just give up haha. I hope you can push past! Anxiety is the devil.

    • Amber

      Not thinking about things is always a really good solutions! BTW, I love hearing about your writing journey with this WIP, I’m over at your blog lurking all the time. 🙂 You acquire CPs like magic, it’s amazing. You make it all look really easy. 🙂 So … know that! Even if you’re panicking a bit on the inside sometimes, you seem very chill and smooth on the outside! XD

  2. Oh wow, I relate to this SO MUCH. Yes, you are definitely not alone!!

    But I think I sort of had my wake up call about a year ago after I failed my black belt test. I realized I had poured forth literal days and weeks of my time into …what? A black belt test? I’m not knocking martial arts because I know it’s some people’s absolute lives and that’s great. But it’s not mine. It was just something I wanted to do for fun and somehow it consumed me until I was crying almost every night and hating myself. And when I failed that test, I felt ridiculous. I had poured all of this time and energy into something I didn’t even WANT that badly, so why didn’t I use all of those resources for something I DID want, like my writing?

    Basically, all this to say, I needed something to snap me out of it and make realize that if I was going to be giving that much of myself into something-time, energy, money, focus…it was going to be for something I REALLY wanted.

    • Amber

      On the bright side, though, you are going to able to DESTROY any ninjas you come across? But I’m so glad you found your wake up call… it can be a really liberating feeling to break free of those chains and dive into something that makes you happy! <3

  3. You’re a step ahead of me. I can’t even get myself to start writing any of the ideas that come into my head. I get overwhelmed by a novel as a whole, and then can’t even start. I think the best advice I have gotten is just to do a little bit as often as possible. You don’t need to tackle it all right away. If you edit one paragraph in a day, that’s progress! The best thing is that you still have your love of stories and writing. You’ll get there. There’s no rush. <3

    • Amber

      You know, I never really even think about a novel as a whole until it’s finished, or I feel like it ought to be. While I’m writing, I’m simply on the adventure. That’s my favorite part. :). But you’re right – looking at things in smaller chunks really helps. 🙂

  4. YES! Anxiety as an author is so common, I sometimes think it’s almost inevitable. But I try to interact with more and more writers to get the anxiety level a notch down because conversing with fellow people helps me come in terms that everyone’s floating the same boat, haha 😀 I do am really nervous which in turn increases my anxiety levels for feedback. I’m really working on taking some courage and asking for critiques and helpful feedback, but I hope that’ll happen soon. Great post!

    • Amber

      Critiques have always been nerve-wracking for me… less in what they will say about the book (I’m tough – you tell me it’s rubbish and I’ll shrug and try to fix it) but in asking for peoples’ time and asking that they are timely about giving the manuscript back. I’ve had four people criticize a different manuscript – two never got back to me, one was really nice about everything, and one was super helpful. This was four years ago and I still haven’t asked the others for their crits back. 🙁

      I hope you have good luck with critique partners and beta readers. 🙂 It will be nice talking with others about your novel just like we all talk about other books! 🙂

  5. One of my ex-creative writing lecturers has mentioned before that being fearless isn’t about having no fears at all, but being able to overcome them and it’s one of the most valuable advice I’ve ever received. Although I haven’t actually overcome my fear of publishing, I’ve managed to overcome (not always, but more than I used to) my fears of writing for the public to read by sharing my average to ‘bad’ works (either under a pseudonym or not, online and offline). This helps me build up some courage to post the ‘good’ ones now and then, and to accept every form of criticism with a level head. Small creative writing classes/workshops also help since everyone has to share and criticize each other’s works (a handful of people judging is usually easier to endure).

    Another valuable advice I’ve gotten is, to NOT stop writing and to always do your best to finish whatever you’re writing. It doesn’t matter if your works won’t see the light of the day, what matters is that you are aware of such and that you won’t lose this story to forgetfulness or whatnot when time has passed.

    Anyway, all the best!!! Just move at your own pace, one step forward at a time 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

    • Amber

      The advice from your creative writing teacher reminds me of Divergent and the Dauntless trials. 🙂

      I’ve actually been looking around my local area to see if I can take or audit a course as a refresher (I minored in Writing in college, but it’s been 7 years 🙁 ). So far I’m finding that a lot of local grit groups are based towards non-fiction, especially memoir. I live in a really rural area and have always been a bit like a fish out of water in my reading/writing tastes, but I haven’t given up hope yet!! 🙂