Monday, April 27, 2020

How to Accept Your Writing Anxiety, and Spend Time on the Craft

I've wasted a lot of time in my life.  I've thought too much about what people will say or what they're gonna think.  And sometimes it's over silly things like going to the grocery store or going to the post office.  But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special.  All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn't good enough.  But you don't have to bother with that nonsense.  I wasted all that time so you don't have to. Julie Murphy, Dumplin.
You Worry Too Much

Even on a really good day, writing can feel like climbing Mount Everest. 

The feeling you get when you know your nerves are starting to get the better of you.  All that pent-up fear of people criticising your work comes knocking on your door.

The thought of writing anything let alone a book feels disconcerting.

And the possibility of writing something that will eclipse all the other books out there feels impossible.

Then that horrible nagging thought that your writing will never be good enough for publishing starts nagging at you again.

Add-on the fact that you want to write something that has meaning, or embodies something that is deserving.

And well...

That about covers it.


Use Your Fear and Start Writing

When you're doing any kind of creative undertaking fear seems to be a necessary part of that process.  You might start out with it hanging over your shoulder as you write your first page, or be there at the end when you need to finish your book or story.  Anxiety might linger at the edges, hardly detectable, slowly gnawing away at your confidence.  On the other hand it might be this unwanted friend - not unlike the voice of your inner critic, who wants to talk you down and fill you with self-doubt.

Unfortunately all that worrying leads to ineffective writing, and writer's block.  Instead of directing all of your energy on the job at hand, your anxiety takes over. 

The question is what is it you fear most about writing? Is all that fear connected to your writing really worth worrying about?  Or can you turn it to your advantage, and use it to make you a better writer?

Criticism Scares Me

What other people think of what I write is more important than what I think of what I write.

Literary Agent Jane Friedman points to this as being the writer's worst fear, which can be traced back to the lonely nature of writing, and the constant need for approval, either as feedback, or approval from publishers.

Showcasing your work is a truly frightening thing, and there isn't a writer anywhere that doesn't fear being criticised.  Does that kind of judgement really matter?

When It Does Matter

In order to develop our writing we need to hear other writers and editors' thoughts, so we can improve as writer's.  The opinions of others matter if we want to represent our stories and characters correctly.

When It Doesn't Really Matter

There's no way you'll ever please everyone all of the time.  It's just impossible.  Every draft you make will change your manuscript anyway, so worrying about other people's criticism is pointless, and will take you away from actually writing.  At the end of the day, if writing is your passion, the only person you need to please is yourself.

Chase Away Your Fears

Mediocrity, or not being good enough are fruitless in your endeavour to flourish as a writer.  You need to move forward and not be constantly chasing your tail.

There's no such thing as a perfect writer, and all writers have to start somewhere (the bottom of the pile).  Everyone messes up, that's how you master your craft.

Giving up because things don't hit the mark first time will never make you a good writer.  Putting in the time will.

Spend Time on the Craft

When most writers start out they become easily discouraged after writing a few paragraphs that their own writing isn't anywhere near as good as their favourite writer.

This comes about because we all have this inaccurate perception of our own ability, brought about by our love of books, and the natural feeling that some-how we naturally absorb all that we read, giving us the ability to write just like the authors we read. This is not helped by the amount of authors that have made it big on their own first attempt.

The big mistake is to think that writing talent is somehow genetic or other-worldly, and only given to the fortunate few.

For those of us not born with this ethereal gift there is another way.  Thankfully.

A way that takes patience and years of hard work, but is worth more than any natural talent.  That is to Just Write and learn the craft through creating books, articles, essays.  Anything you want to write about.  You can do, it's all there, you just need to write about it, or create new stories. 

This all comes through hard work and lots and lots of practice. 

Where Do I Start?

Concentrate On Your Method

Instead of focusing on your finished novel or non-fiction book, take it a day at a time.  Take the time to think about your first 500 words.  What will they be?  How will my book sound to the reader?  Learn to appreciate your daily writing routine, this will make your work more satisfying, and feel less like a marathon.

Try experimenting more with your writing, there's no harm in writing a bad scene, if it's not going to get used in the final draft of your book.  By moving your attention to your daily writing routine, this will take the pressure of the need for perfection, helping you improve as a writer.


Just Write

A phrase I use a lot in my blog posts is Just write.  You can read as many books on writing productivity, go on courses of the same, but it really just boils down to just writing. 

You're the only one who can sit at a desk and practise your writing craft.

The only person that stops you is you.

So get to work!

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