Writing anxiety can be crippling and can hurt your career. But more importantly, writing anxiety eats away at your mental wellbeing. It cuts deep into your soul because you feel like a failure. Sometimes you must fight for every word. But sometimes you feel like you can’t write anything down until the words are perfect because someone might read them. Then when the words don’t flow from your mind to the screen, you beat yourself up. It feels like something must be wrong with you because you’re the one who calls yourself a writer.

Writing anxiety is sometimes called imposter syndrome. You feel like you’re not a real writer because writing must be easy for “real” writers.

Not everyone experiences writing anxiety in the same way. But no matter no matter how writing anxiety has hurt you, if you’ve suffered from writing anxiety, you are not alone.

I know how you feel. I know because I suffer from writing anxiety, and I want to share with you what it feels like for me to have writing anxiety. Then I’ll tell you how I deal with my writer’s anxiety.

Magnetism and Writing Anxiety

magnets
                          Source: artshuntsville.org

Imagine you have two magnets sitting on a table. The two magnets are facing each other with opposite poles. You push the magnets closer together, and, because two opposite poles attract, they snap together basically on their own. All you had to do was give them a little push and everything clicks into place automatically. No real effort involved.

Now imagine a different pair of magnets. These two magnets face each other with two sides with the same poles. You give one side a little push toward the other. As the magnet moves forward, it hits an invisible barrier.

That is how writing feels for me. The words either flow from me at the slightest touch or I am repelled when I go near the keyboard. Then I get frustrated and tell myself I’ll try again later. But that kind of thinking is dangerous for productivity. We all wish writing could be as easy as the first example all the time, but it can’t. We just have to find ways to work around or work through the times when writing is like pulling teeth.

Modern society conditions us to seek instant gratification. We are trained to take the quickest, easiest way to happiness. That might sound like a good thing, but for a writer, it can be detrimental because we’re not trained to think of writing as having instant gratification.

Writing is a long, slow process. Books can take years to write, and it can be hard for those of us who struggle with anxiety to take joy in the paragraph when the 300-page book isn’t done. Books take time to write, and everyone needs writing practice to produce good work. Unfortunately, as people trained to want everything to happen right now, it can be difficult for people to take the time to do the hard work of being a writer.

This is where your writing anxiety gets you.

Have you ever noticed that when you sit down to write that you seem to be attracted to everything else? It’s only when you sit down to write than you realize you need to clean your house, or you feel compelled to check your phone/Facebook/email for the fifth time that hour. There’s a reason for that. Your writing anxiety plays with your head. It uses the magnetism in your mind to sabotage your success.

Your anxiety knows that writing is hard, and that, no matter how much you love to write, you might just choose to watch terrible Syfy channel movies on repeat than sit down and write. That’s because deep down you’re scared. Maybe you’re scared of what people might think of you when you pour out your heart and soul to them. Or scared of failure (or even success). Or to admit to yourself that maybe, just maybe, you think you were wrong and maybe you made a horrible mistake studying English and telling everyone you were a writer even though you haven’t written a complete story in years.

Your anxiety takes advantage of your fear by making your brain magnetically attracted to anything but the tool you’re using to write (Word Processor/notebook/napkin/etc.). Your mind becomes a magnet with the same pole as your writing tool, and you are repelled away from writing to some distraction. Like checking email or surfing the web.

The deeply insidious side of this is if you let yourself be distracted, and tell yourself you’re just not in the mood to write, then you are more likely to form a habit out of it. Why push against that force repelling you, your anxiety says? It takes so much effort, so why write? The gains from your efforts might never come, your anxiety says, but you can get that endorphin rush right now by checking Youtube!

Let’s take a deep breath, and dive into today’s writer meditations that can help you shift your mindset about writing. And maybe help you get words out a little easier.

Two Pieces of Magnetic Writing Advice

All this talk about magnets is a great review of grade school science, Matt, you say, but writing anxiety is a serious issue. How does this help you solve your writing anxiety? What do you when writing is hard?

You think like a magnet and work smarter, not harder.

  1. Shift your mind’s magnetic pole.

It can be exhausting to push passed the wall your writing anxiety creates and write day after day. Your anxiety tries to repel you from writing because writing is hard, and there are so much easier things to do that will make you happy in the short term.

You can beat your anxiety by shifting your mindset.

For example, my writing anxiety flares up when I think about writing a paper or an epic story all at once and people reading it. Of course, you don’t have to write anything in a single sitting, especially not something long like a novel. But if your writing anxiety is anything like mine, reality doesn’t matter.

I came up with a strategy to help me get passed my anxiety’s repelling force by tricking myself into writing. I write extensive notes before I start my rough draft. Then once my notes are extensive enough, I copy and paste them into a new document and expand them into a real draft. Writing notes doesn’t make me as anxious because I know people will never read my original notes. It takes the pressure off me, and it helps deal with my perfectionism.

  1. Push through the repelling force when you must.

If shifting your mindset doesn’t help you to write around your writing anxiety, then you can push through your writing anxiety. If you apply enough force to the magnets, you can force like poles together. Similarly, you can write through your anxiety. Many professional writers have talked a lot about becoming a professional author means being able to work through any hardship. Whether that hardship is time constraints, sickness, anxiety, etc.

And that is true, but still I would advise you to work smarter, not harder. If you feel like writing through the anxiety by force feels like banging your head up against a wall for eight hours without results, maybe it’s time to try another tactic. Writing through the anxiety is not the only solution to your problem.

 

This is all just my opinion though. I’m not a mental health professional. I’m just telling you based on what I have experienced works for me. It may not work for you, but I hope it does. Writing anxiety is awful, and we all need ways of dealing with it.

Speaking of which, I want to hear from you. Tell me in the comments if you have or currently deal with writing anxiety, and, if you do, how you deal with it. It’s always helpful to share, and maybe you’ll feel better just by writing about it. I know I do.

Until next time, happy writing everybody.