For the last several weeks, the idea of writing a blog post has caused me a lot of stress. In fact, the idea of writing anything at all has made my stomach churn and my head spin ever since I’ve been out of school. For someone who dreams of making a living through her writing, that is not a good sign. Naturally, this only compounded my stress, since I couldn’t figure out what was going on in my head that made it so hard for me to do something that I’ve always loved doing.
I wouldn’t call it “Writer’s Block,” since I’ve had plenty of interesting ideas flit through my mind. The problem occurs when I try to get those ideas out from my brain. I get so overwhelmed with the idea of having a “finished product” that I can’t even get to part of a rough draft. That kind of brain-clutter creates a ton of pressure to just to everything perfectly the first time, and that pressure makes it impossible to even want to start. To me, the term “Writing Anxiety,” which I only learned last semester during my time as a writing tutor, more closely sums up my difficulty. While most people consider writing anxiety and writer’s block as the same thing, I think that writing anxiety has more to do with the execution than the creation of ideas.
I think that separating the two and learning to recognize when I influenced by my own worries and perfectionism instead of simply having a hard time finding ideas really helped me to come up with some strategies to combat this problem. My experience with other’s writing anxiety while working as a tutor also became really helpful when I recognized those same behaviors in myself. That experience led me to come up with four tips for conquering writing anxiety.
Conquering Writing Anxiety
1. Learn about your writing process
During my tutoring experience last semester, I made this spiffy little Writing Process Handout that I was really proud of. I had one of the professional tutors look at it, and even though she said it was really great, she mentioned that it may have been a good idea to not make it as linear-seeming as I did. She explained that even though the steps remain mostly the same, people all develop their own versions of the classic writing process over time. She suggested changing the layout so that students wouldn’t feel pressure into doing things in a way that doesn’t work for them.
Learning to appreciate your own writing process is incredibly helpful if you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the idea of making something perfect the first time you try or if you feel like the way you’re comfortable brainstorming, writing and editing doesn’t follow what everyone else is doing. The way you write is shaped by who you are, and that means that you can’t do your best work if you’re trying to fit into a mold made by someone else.
2. Focus on the Moment
I’ve had a hard time focusing on writing out new ideas for scenes as they come to me, especially when they’re new ideas that have just popped into my head. Instead just writing and seeing where my characters and imagination take me, I get wrapped up in trying to create a full-fledged plot from a single scene or spark of inspiration. That can become very discouraging, and make me lose my enthusiasm for whatever idea I had in the first place. This happens often with blog posts as well, where I’m worrying more about organization and what photos to use than I am about just creating content that I can go back and polish up later.
For me to get back into the swing of writing, I’ve had to readjust my thinking so that I’m not viewing every scene I write as a part of a future novel, or every post as something that needs to come completely together all at once. I have to simply appreciate any time I spend writing as a time for me to hone my skills. I also know that getting an idea down on paper means that I can go back to it and maybe find inspiration from it later, but if I leave it in my head, then I’ll probably forget completely about it and never be able to draw inspiration from it again.
Write to the People Who Love You (Even If They Will Never See It)
I am fortunate to have several people in my life who are always willing to read and comment on my writing. Some are fellow writers want to help my writing become as strong as possible, and others are just people who care about me and know how important my writing is to me. It doesn’t matter if I’m just having a bad confidence day, or if I’m just having feelings that I don’t know how to talk out loud, they always have something encouraging to say. I’ve gone to them so many times, and I have never regretted it.
It’s easy to get stressed about writing things for publication and knowing that you might not have any control over who ends up seeing it. That’s why I like to imagine a friend reading my work as I’m writing it. I know that they will take my ideas and feelings seriously, so there’s nothing that I can’t write for fear of them judging me. It doesn’t really matter if they end up seeing it or not, just that I know that there’s at least a few people in the world that will take me seriously and find validity in what I’m saying.
Choose Faith Over Fear
I am usually not a very positive person, if I’m completely honest. I spend way too much of my life imagining worst case scenarios. It’s not a part of myself I like, but the comfort in preparing for the worst and usually not getting it is part of what keeps me doing it. Unfortunately, nothing can prepare me for when I start thinking about my writing future and wondering if I’ll ever be remotely successful. I start looking at all of my unfinished projects as failures, and then start feeling guilty about how many ideas I’ve left behind.
When negativity hits and you find yourself imagining a worst case scenario, the only thing you can do is find some perspective. I remember that I haven’t even turned twenty yet, and that I have done a lot of work to get as far as I’ve come. I think about the amount of time I still have, and choose to place my faith in my ability to make things work. It’s important to remember that writing –and life- isn’t supposed to be easy. If there weren’t problems we had to solve, then we wouldn’t be able to improve ourselves and move forward. Roadblocks are the price you pay to walk on the path to greatness.
Moving past barriers in your writing is hard, especially when they’re not familiar obstacles, but it’s not impossible. The ideas listed here are just some that I’ve discovered from my own difficulties. They can make good starting points, but learning about your brain and how you write is the best way to make sure you succeed.
Do you have any suggestions on how to cope with writer’s block and writing anxiety? Do you have a story to share about your own writing struggles? Share your responses in the comments below, and don’t forget to spread the love on twitter with @SpunFromInk. If you have more personal questions or responses, feel free to email me at SpunFromInk@gmail.com