Writing with Anxiety

Having an anxiety disorder is always difficult. From getting out of bed to looking into the mirror and from saying hello to ordering food, general and social anxiety find way to take even my most positive thoughts and turn them on me. Even my favourite compliments can turn into my greatest enemies. Upon waking, if my first thought is the least bit negative or stressful, my anxiety plagues me horribly the rest of the day, and it’s difficult for me to accomplish anything. When I look in the mirror, I usually see that I’m unhealthily skinny, but I still think I’m pretty dang gorgeous. But on bad days, I’ll fixate on the fact that my face is slightly curved or on my deviated septum or just how stinking skinny I am, and then for days, I’ll cover my face when I’m talking or laughing or cross my arms to try to hide my “faults” from the prying eyes of other human beings. Saying hello to anyone can cause me great fear that I’m being clingy or annoying or awkward, even though saying hello is usually perceived as just that, a greeting. Ordering food or drinks at cafes and restaurants stresses me out so much. I get overwhelmed by the amount of choices (and I’m already super indecisive when I only have two options), but speaking with the person behind the counter, even when I know them, can cause me to freak out internally, although they think very little of what each person gets. And these are more minimal things that my brain tends to find overwhelmingly terrifying.

So when pursuing a career in editing and writing, my anxiety is a major battle. I know I am mainly writing for myself. But I do also write for others. So what others may think about my stories, blogs, and poems is incredibly important to me. I’m constantly receiving support and encouragement, but I do also receive critiques and negative comments. Usually I take those and use them as constructive criticism, even if they aren’t meant to be taken that way. I know I can’t please everyone, but I still like to take what each person says to mind.

Anxiety can keep you from writing.
I’ve struggled with this countless times. I let my fears of failure to meet my goals or my fears that people won’t like what I write keep me from writing. So instead of working past my worries, I dwell upon them, and they become all I can see. When I do sit down to write, I can’t get words out because I keep thinking about if I’ll use the right words, if people will be impressed with my plot or my characters, and if I’ll being able to meet my word goal.

Anxiety can stop you from sharing your work.
I don’t want to know how frequently I’ve written something for my blog or for reading nights and not shared it because of how terrified I am to hear what people think about it. I spend hours preparing it, I’ll even print it off or save it as a draft for my blog, but then I get to reading or posting it and back out at the last minute. The fear of what others might say overwhelms me too much, and I just can’t bear listening, even to the compliments and positive feedback.

Anxiety can take the positive feedback and encouragement you receive and turn it against you.
I do this constantly with many areas of my life, but I think the most difficult to handle is when it is in reference to my writing. Just the other day, I was told that my unique, sassy, and quirky voice in my writing is a favourite thing of my Creative Writing professor’s. She has encouraged me to pursue fiction and to never stop writing more than I could have imagined possible by a teacher. So when she complimented my bizarre writing voice, I couldn’t help but awkwardly blush and thank her as I searched the recesses of my mind for a response. But just a few hours later, I sat down to write for about fifteen minutes, and all I could think was that I’ll never be able to write that quirky of a voice again, even though it’s my favourite way to write. I sat, overwhelmed in fear that she is the only person on the planet who could ever like such a tone in fiction, despite the fact that I know of at least ten other people who have told me that they adore how I write.

A couple days later, a friend complimented my blog posts, saying that she could definitely hear my own voice flowing through my posts. Now this is something that should be happening, whether I try or not. But after she said it, I fixated on the fact that the voice in my head might be the one that people hear, and that is the last thing I want. I don’t want the negative thoughts that overwhelm me to plague the minds of my readers as well. I want my blog to be a place that people can read and be uplifted. I want my blog to be overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. But my voice can frequently be mingled with the voice in my mind that tells me everything is rubbish, so even the best of compliments can turn into anxieties.

Anxiety can cause you delete what you’ve written.
I’ve done this so many times. I’ve spent hours, sometimes days or weeks, working on a writing project and then been so overwhelmed by all the possible negative outcomes or the fears of how others may (or may not) respond that I delete the entire project from my computer and my blog and tear it out of my notebook (I’ve even burned some works before) because I’m too full of negative thoughts towards my abilities and those particular works.

Anxiety can get you to abandon writing.
This happened to me just earlier this year. I didn’t tell anyone that I had outright given up, not even myself. But I did. After losing my blog and about six months of work as well as all the feedback (positive especially), I didn’t want to try anymore. What if such a thing happened again? What if once I started writing again people didn’t like my work? What if I couldn’t meet the expectations that had arisen in the minds of my readers, friends, and family because of the previous website? What if, what if, what if? I completely stopped writing for about six months. And I wouldn’t let anyone call me a writer, claiming it was because I wasn’t actively working on any projects. I had abandoned writing.

 

BUT!!

 

Anxiety isn’t your master.
It doesn’t have to control you. You don’t have to succumb to the fears and the negative thoughts. I know it’s incredibly difficult to fight them, but once you start, each day tends to get a little bit easier. The fears may still be running through your mind constantly, but you can push them to the side and remind yourself of the truth and of the positive aspects of yourself, your readers, and your writing. Sometimes it might require additional help through medication, tea, yoga, breathing exercises, and the like, but you can fight your anxiety. And you can win.

Anxiety can be a tool for your writing.
Lately, I’ve been taking my negative thoughts about my writing and myself and using them as motivation to prove myself (and potentially others) wrong. When my thoughts are overrun with negativity about not being able to write in my favourite voice, I run through a few short writing exercises to get into that voice to prove to myself that I can and will write like that again. When I fixate on the idea that no one will ever appreciate, let alone like my work, I look back through the comments I’ve received on my blogs and from different writing exercises and critiques in my writing class and see that there are already many people who do, so why wouldn’t others? When I get scared that I won’t meet my word count, I create a special reward for meeting my goal and force myself to write until I meet it, thus proving that I can while getting a treat.

Anxiety won’t stop others from appreciating your work.
Even if you can see past the thoughts that others hate your work, there will always be someone who appreciates what you write. There have been things that I’ve written that I’ve been proud of and incredibly excited to share, but nearly no one has even given it a second look. But there has never failed to be at least one person who has come up and paid me a compliment on my work. I know it’s incredibly rare for me to read something and say “I hate this so much that I can’t even appreciate it!” I usually find at least three reasons to appreciate the things I’ve read, if not hundreds.

Anxiety may plague you, but you can overcome it, time and time again.
These negative thoughts might not ever leave. You might battle them day after day and moment after moment, but you can do it. Each tiny step to improvement is just that—improvement. Even on my best days, I struggle with my anxiety more than I would ever care to admit, but on those days, I tend to be so happy, positive, and focused that I can easily ignore the negativity or take it and change it into something positive. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Work through the hard days, take breaks when you need to, and open your eyes to how much you and your writing truly is appreciated. Because you are special, and no one could ever write about the things you do the way you do it.

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A Boggus Life

I am an eclectic reader and editor who solves Rubik's cubes, writes, draws and paints, and longs to live in England and France.

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