Archive

Posts Tagged ‘writing stress’

Pushing Past Your Writing Anxiety

December 15, 2009 1 comment

Over on the Writer’s Roundabout, Michele Tune wrote a touching piece on Overcoming Social Phobia. While I love everything she wrote in this post, I wanted to touch deeper into the heart of what social anxiety, and a host of other mental disorders, can do to us as freelance writers.

I too exhibit signs of social phobia. I cringe at going to the grocery store, and I am the guaranteed wallflower at most social events. If I even bring myself to go. I have a hard time socializing with others in public, although online is far easier. I don’t have to “face” people, rather I am safe and comfortable in my home, responding only when I choose to, and after composing my thoughts. I don’t feel “compelled” to respond right away, and I avoid saying something I may regret.

Yet there comes a time when “the Muse is on vacation.” You sit down with your pen or keyboard, and the words don’t come. What does come is a wall of anxiety, pushing past your logical thoughts, your moods, your emotions. They are all replaced by this intense internal static, that makes you want to scream and cry at the same time. Personally, mine feels like a lump of electricity crackling in the top of my chest, which expands to envelop my mind.

As freelancers, we don’t really have the luxury to indulge the anxiety. Words must be written to produce cash in the wallet. There are many ways to shove on, and produce no matter what. But ignoring the symptoms won’t make it go away, and the anxiety will persist, cropping up at the worst possible times. Here are my tips for dealing with freelance writing anxiety.

  1. Block outside distractions. If you must work on the anxiety-triggering project ASAP, create an environment as conducive to writing as possible. For me, this means turning on my mp3 player and letting the music block outside noises. If you can take your laptop or notebook and hide away in your special writing spot, so much the better. Light a candle, say a prayer, do what is right for you to create an area of peace to focus on inside of you.
  2. Switch writing projects. If your freelance writing can wait for fifteen minutes, switch it out for some fun writing instead. Nonfiction can give way to fiction or poetry, or even a burst of journal freewriting. Let yourself go, and write whatever is in your heart. Sometimes, your anxiety just needs an outlet, and you will feel much better after giving it one. Other creative projects work too, such as drawing, knitting, or other crafts.
  3. Take care of yourself. Go hop in the shower, do your hair, and get a drink and a snack. Rebooting your day, no matter what time it is, can give you a fresh perspective. Sometimes when we’re so wiped out, all we can do is start over, and try again.
  4. Talk to a trusted friend. There is nothing better than getting it all out, and discussing your concerns with someone who cares about you and your well-being. Your anxiety may be due to a writing-related issue, or it could be something completely unrelated. A fresh perspective can make all the difference.
  5. Give yourself permission. The last thing you want to do is beat yourself up for feeling bad! Allow your anxiety to exist. Remember that it is just a feeling, justified or not. There is a reason that it exists, and many times once you figure out the problem, the feeling will go away. Remember that you are a good, worthwhile person, no matter how badly you feel.
  6. Release the anxiety. Many times the anxiety feeds on our natural responses to it. We may clench our fists, jaws, and/or muscles. We may tense up and develop headaches or stomachaches. All of this makes us feel much worse. Take a few deep breaths, and visualize yourself letting go of the feeling. Create a space where you can release the pain, release the anxiety, and just let it exist, independent of you. While it may not go away, you can at least distance yourself from its immediate physical effects, and develop a more objective view of its existence and your responses to it.

Of course, if anxiety is impeding your ability to live your life, or is coupled with other symptoms, seek the help of a medical professional. There could be physical or mental causes to your anxiety symptoms.

What are your tips on pushing through writing anxiety? Share them here!

~Kimberlee

Photo Credit: Quapan

Advertisements