4 Tips To Overcome Writer's Anxiety

4:03 AM

A daily writing session is a lot like going to a pool to swim laps. (Bear with me on this). Presumably, you want to swim your laps or you wouldn’t have come; you’d be disappointed if you got to the pool to find it closed. Yet when the time comes, there you stand at the edge, making excuses not to get in. Not just yet.
Many of us have this same push-pull feeling about our writing. Why? Not just because it’s work, I think–most of us get up and go to school or work every day, or tackle minor projects like laundry with a matter-of-fact attitude. Writing, if anything, should be something we’re happy to begin. The very fact that you’re reading this, after all, indicates that writing excites you. 
But that, in itself, might be the root of the problem. An uninspired day at work or school is no big deal; it happens all the time. But we bring real emotional freight to the blank page. Writing should be enjoyable, but what if it isn’t? What if we don’t find what Stephen King calls “the hole in the page” and fall into it? What does that say about us? Does it mean this project–or our writing in general–isn’t meant to be?
This is classic performance anxiety, and performance anxiety spurs us to find something, anything, to do other than writing. Fourteen years after I published my first novel, I still wrestle with these feelings. In those years, though, I’ve learned some tricks to get past them.

1. Re-read yesterday’s work. 

At first, this is just reading. Then I find a place where I obviously omitted a word: “He hefted the out of the trunk” should be “He hefted the groceries out of the trunk,” so I fix that. Then I start making other light corrections. So now I’m not just reading, but editing, a shift from passive to active. Then, when I come to the end of yesterday’s material, it seems very natural to just start writing. Hey presto! I’ve eased myself into my daily session without taking a jarring plunge. And something which makes that even easier is…

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