Combating anxiety

Anxiety.

Mary - beta convention
In high school, I’d wake up early every morning to write before school. The habit of writing kept me going even though I never expected anyone except my best friend to read my work.

Fearing I’ll never measure up.

Worrying about EVERYTHING. (Are people going to think this post sounds stupid? Should I be working on something else instead? Why did I waste 5 minutes staring at my phone deciding if I should turn on my music or not?)

I’ve been plagued by these anxious feelings for as long as I can remember. In elementary school I was labeled a “shy” kid, but I was anxious. I was terrified of being ridiculed if I gave the wrong answer or because my voice has always sounded a little bit like Minnie Mouse. I didn’t want to take some else’s turn to speak. (Didn’t matter that they talked over me.) I was an obsessive rule follower … ALL THE RULES.

I finally started talking in class around the time I started writing, but I was still the shy girl. I remember my 11th grade English teacher writing a response in my class journal telling me that she would appreciate me sharing my thoughts out loud with the class more often. It was a struggle. I felt like I was repeating what someone else said. I’d been quiet for so long, I didn’t know how to build on a topic. I could think of a million things I wanted to say, but getting them to come out of my mouth was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

I still struggle with tripping over my words when I talk in front of people.

Even my writing causes me anxiety, especially when I’m stuck. My CPs get to hear me worry myself sick over trends and markets and whether or not I’m the right person to write my books. I hate that about me, but I think that’s a sign of being a conscientious writer. I don’t rush out with my first draft and declare that it’s the best thing ever written. I don’t know anyone who does that, but judging by some of the tweets and agent blogs I’ve read, there are people who are SUPER-confident in their writing. I apparently don’t run in those circles. But, hey, someone has to be proud of their own work.

Anxiety raises its ugly head all the time in my life. I’m writing this post because I’m anxious about working on a story for my day job, and I’m trying to reassure myself that I can put coherent words on a page. Writing is the thing I’ve always wanted to do, but sometimes, I don’t even feel qualified to journal, much less write for publication.

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t see past the fear beating inside my brain, often the best thing I can do is put on some music, zone out, and write whatever words want to come out.

I start, stop, delete, hold my breath, and beg my brain to make sense.

Get through one more sentence.

Finish the paragraph.

Take a breath.

Hands on the keyboard, don’t take both hands off the keyboard or the words might not come back.

Write the next word that comes to mind.

Write another, and another.

Soon I’ve got something. It might be one paragraph of my WIP that took me an hour to write or an article for my day job that seemed too daunting to approach, but the words flow. They haven’t deserted me yet. I’m still writing and still worrying, but I can do it.

I’ve survived this anxiety for years. You can too.

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