Let me paint a picture for you. It's the middle of the night, and you've just completed a chapter in your book. When you crawled into bed, you were excited with your progress. But as the clock ticks on, you start to dread what's on paper. What if it doesn't work? What if it's not good enough? What if I'm not good enough? What if I can't cut it as an author? What if I'll never get published? What if---
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone when I say that anxiety sucks. It's horrible for everyone, but as a writer, it's something that niggles at the back of my mind everyday. Even as I write this blog post I feel its cold claws digging into my shoulders. Will this help anyone? Am I making sense? Will anyone read it? What's the point?
The point is is that I'm sharing a story with you and revealing a part of myself that a lot of others might keep hidden. Our country is notorious for turning its back on those with depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses. You're called weak if you cry or share your feelings, or you're told to toughen up.
Well, I'm here to tell you that your feelings are valid. It's okay if you think you're not the best writer. It's fine if you think you'll never publish anything. You're allowed to feel all these things... for a moment. What you do with that energy is what's most important. Will you let it stop you? Or will you use it to push forward and be the best that you can be for yourself?
Even the greatest writers feel like they were 1. the worst at one point or 2. they still feel that way. We are our own worst critics. Your book may not be perfect, but that doesn't mean it's the end. Take the time to polish it. Work with someone you trust to go over the manuscript and make it better. Or, put the writing away for a day or two, take a breath, then return to it with a fresh mind and heart. Feel... and then move forward.
Here are a couple of things I do when my anxiety consumes me as I'm working on my novel.
- Breathe. Really, just close your eyes and breathe in and out.
- Step away. If you start hating your work, then it's time to back away from the computer or notebook and take a breather.
- Work out or do something else active. Get that serotonin moving again and let your brain rest. You might be overworking it.
- Do something else creative. It's perfectly fine to have another hobby to focus on when your writing gets to be too much. Researchers actually encourage it especially during moments like these.
- Support. Reach out to a support group. Post on twitter, facebook, instagram, wattpad,... wherever you feel safe. Believe me, someone else will be going through the same thing.
- Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your writing doesn't have to be perfect. You can always edit later. And if editing is the problem, then write for a little bit. Just try not to beat yourself down for it. You've got this.
- Use your coping skills. Whether it's taking your medication regularly, or doing yoga/meditation, take time to treat yourself mentally, so you can get back to the thing you love.
Anxiety is an awful thing to deal with, but it's not impossible to work through it and keep writing. Even if you don't believe in yourself, other people do.