Many writers experience anxiety due to one reason or another. Some writers suffer from generalized anxiety, that is persistent and overwhelming anxiety that interferes with their daily activities. That’s another type of anxiety altogether.
There are many writers here on Medium who’ve been brave enough to talk about their anxiety struggles. Many of us struggle in different ways — some writers have generalized anxiety disorder combined with writer’s anxiety — while some of us have anxiety only tied our work.
We put a certain amount of internal pressure to write, write, write. We get anxious about writing itself — running out of ideas, writing enough, or whether or not our writing is even good enough. At times, we let our anxiety get the best of us until we freeze and just stop producing.
In fact, when I researched all of the brave writers who’ve written articles about anxiety here on Medium, there were so many who haven’t written in months or years. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those disappeared because anxiety had taken control of their lives.
Sure, life goes on, and especially as writers, we move on to other things. But, I’d put money on it that some quit writing because of those excessive worries.
Even famous writers, like Emily Dickinson, have suffered from anxiety. So, we’re in good company with our struggles.
Most of my anxiety today is writer’s anxiety, that is I suffer from the am I writing enough/is it good enough syndrome.
Sure, I do have a couple of personal issues I worry about, but I find that staying productive actually keeps those in check. And there are certain situations where I’d freeze if it would come to it.
For instance, I’ll never forget wanting to try out for a school play in junior high. It was a singing part and I had a pretty decent voice. So, I thought what do I have to lose, right? I hopped up on stage, made my way to the piano, cued the piano player, opened my mouth to sing, and my voice was not to be found.
I had such anxiety over performing that I froze, couldn’t utter a tune, and was embarrassed for life. Yeah, I’m pretty sure public speaking and performing is not for me. Ever.
So, some of us do have certain situations outside of writing that turn us into a nervous Nellie. But, believe it or not, there are a few things we can do to minimize the worry and anxiety that can plague us as writers. I’ve implemented a lot of these techniques and they work for me. Try some of these for yourself.
The first thing you want to do is to just sit and breathe. As deep as you can. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Another thing I do (a trick taught to me by a doctor) is I take a deep breath and blow it out forcefully, but slowly, as long and as hard as I can. It just does something to help clear your mind and make it easier to take the next deep breath.
Take a few deep breaths trying to make one set of inhaling and exhaling last to a count of 10. In other words, breathe in, count to five, start to breathe out and keep the count going till you reach 10. After you’ve done a set of five or ten of those, just breathe easy, eyes closed and relax. Once your breathing has placed you in a really relaxed state, move on to the next step.
So, meditation can be different things for different people. Some people envision a Buddhist or a yoga pose and various degrees of mental imagery.
To be honest, at this point in my life, it’s hard for me to physically find my way to such poses. But, on a good day, I’ll just sit on the floor with my arms relaxed, close my eyes, and the most important thing, clear my mind.
I’m blessed that I can do this easily because I’ve had so many people tell me they can’t do it. But, if you can, imagine your mind is a chalkboard and mentally erase it every time a thought appears. It really works for me. Do it for a few moments or minutes and strive for a peaceful feeling.
Then, “meditate” on the things that mean something to you. If you have side worries away from writing, about your family, your health, whatever, just think positive thoughts about those, pray if you do so, and just meditate and feel at peace about those things. Then, let it go.
Now you can concentrate on your writer’s anxiety. Think of a few phrases before you meditate and internally repeat those while you’re meditating. Could be things like, “I can do this,” “my writing is good enough”, “I believe I’m doing the best I can.” Pause after each reflection and just rest on it.
Go for a walk or step outside.
Another thing that sometimes helps my writer’s anxiety is to simply switch gears. Sometimes, I just get up and do a couple of chores around the house, but stepping outside is so much better. Sometimes, I bring a cup of coffee outside and listen to the birds. Sometimes, a nice little walk does the trick.
We really do need breaks from the computer and move away from it and distract ourselves towards something else. Breathing and movement are the things that get the oxygen in our blood flowing more efficiently. And, that can only help us to function better, physically and mentally.
Write ideas down as you generate them.
If you’re like me, ideas for writing generally come at the most inopportune times — when you’re falling asleep, doing the dishes, or while you’re in the bathroom. I’ve learned to always have my iPhone nearby and when something comes to me, I voice text it into my phone and go back to it later.
Sometimes, I’ve briefly identified a subject and a couple of core ideas for the content. In fact, these are the articles that end up taking me only like 30 or 40 minutes to write as the words come naturally once I’ve identified the main points.
Focus on your own strengths.
As writers, we tend to identify strong writers in other people. At times, we might even want to emulate them. We pressure ourselves to be as good as what we perceive them to be and write like them.
But, those other people are often writing about what they know. This is what makes a great writer. Someone who’s authentic and can write from a place of experience or knowledge.
Other writers probably look at your work and think, “Gee, that’s a great writer.” Seriously, don’t things always look better from the other side? Identify your own strengths and experiences and note them well. Then use those traits to your advantage when writing, implementing them throughout your work.
You’re your own kind of superhero, you know? You are the only person who can be you and you can’t be anyone else. And, that’s to your advantage when you use it.
Set reasonable expectations.
Go easy on yourself. We all have other commitments. Some of us are raising a family, some writers have day jobs, etc. You can’t expect yourself to do any more than you can reasonably do. And you can’t write for several hours straight or expect to always be “on”.
Take breaks, live a little, take care of yourself, and just let things flow naturally. Sure, set measurable goals and celebrate the small victories you’re sure to accomplish. It’s better to consistently have small progress than it is to overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at one time.
Network with other writers.
It helps to join a group or two of other writers whom you can find common ground with. Many writers feel the same way and are in the same boat. Writer’s anxiety is very common. When you see that you’re not alone and we’re all in this together, you’ll find encouragement and support in that.
There are a couple of great Facebook groups I belong to. One is Medium Magic and another is Medium Mastery. I’m sure there are others as well. Ask around. You might even think of joining a local writer’s group in your hometown or forming one of your own.
Remember, writing anxiety is more common than you think. But, you can get past it and thrive as a writer without all of that anxiety holding you down.
All the best to you.
Breathe, relax, write, and be happy doing the thing you love to do.
Thanks for reading.