Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Learning to say "It is good"

Take an insecurity and ratchet it all the way up and what do you get? An anxiety.

I've probably obliquely mentioned that I have anxiety issues before. But I'm one of those people who likes to (needs to, really) maintain a veneer of being calm and collected no matter how I feel on the inside. So while I'm projecting this...

There's a very real chance that on the inside I look more like this...

And the problem with the anxiety that I suffer is that it's general, meaning that at any given point in time I'm feeling strong anxiety about nothing in particular that manifests its self by making everything I want to do difficult. My anxiety isn't based on anything real or anything rational for the most part. And let me tell you, that drives me insane. Because I am a very rational and logical person. So I can sit back and examine my symptoms of anxiety and KNOW that there's nothing to be anxious about, no reason to argue about the possible consequences of every little thing, no basis to most of my fears. And yet, that knowledge has absolutely no affect on my symptoms. I simply can't control the physical effects of my fear. I can't stop the breathing difficulty or the rapidly beating heart or the muscular paralysis or anything else that I experience every time I need to make an important phone call. (That's right, I get severe anxiety from making phone calls. It's stupid and really, really inconvenient and I've been struggling against it for years with no results.)

Quite honestly, anxiety is something that people who have never suffered from it can't understand most of the time.

And I'm talking about this today because in addition to phone calls, trying new tastes, needles and other various things I suffer from anxiety of putting my own words out there for other people to read. I know that this is what's been holding me back for a long time as a writer. It was easier, once upon a time, when I didn't really consider publication as the goal of my writing. I just wrote because I couldn't help it and the only person I ever showed any of it to was my husband. Now that every word I write has the potential to be seen by the public...

Well, let's just say I even have a hard time hitting the publish button on blog posts. There's a part of me always second guessing myself, whispering "You could have said that much better with a bit more time". But down that road lies madness. If you start telling yourself that with a bit more work it could be so much better (even though it's true) then you'll never get around to publishing anything because it could ALWAYS get better. None of us are sitting down to the computer and typing up perfection on the first draft or even the 50th.

For me, this particular madness is preemptive. Before I even get a first draft down the voices are whispering to me, "Why bother? You'll never get it right. It will always fall short of what you want it to be." And that's probably true as well. It's probably been true of all the masterpieces of literature that were ever published. In one way or another, they fell short of the author's vision. And yet we have those masterpieces because at some point the writer looked at his or her creation and said "It is good." Not "It is perfect and could never get better" but simply "It is good."

I haven't managed to reach this point yet, but I'm working on it. I suspect simple discipline is necessary and I am admittedly not a very disciplined person in my habits. That's something I plan to work on this year.

So how about you? Do you struggle with this anxiety? Have you found ways of combating it? I could use all the tips and tricks I can get.


  1. It's a very common struggle with writer types I think. I feel the same way about everything I write. I have found that it's gotten a little better the more I share my work, though. I don't feel that same sort of panic when I hand off my writing to a critique partner anymore. I know my work isn't perfect and never can be, but like you said friends can help me make it "good." Well, hopefully. :)

  2. Yes! I wrote a post similar to this for a guest post and talked about the pressure we put on ourselves. It's a little different from uncontrollable anxiety, but we can paralyze ourselves with our own expectations.

    My first book was just released and I can see all the mistakes and places I could have written better. I finally had to step back and say, "Noticing those things means I've grown since handing it over to my publisher. I can't change it, and it's still pretty darn good, so let it go and put all the frustration into making the next book better."

    That's become my mantra. If you want to read the whole article you can find it Here.

  3. Well, I'm sure you know that Tolkien never really considered any of his stuff ready to go or finished or anything. If it had been up to him, he would have died with Middle Earth still tucked away in his writing room thing. Fortunately, for us, he had people there to tell him and make him do it. "It's ready."

    My post from today sounds like it's probably right up your alley.

  4. Oh my goodness.....I could have written this blog! Have you been looking over my shoulder?
    I used to beat myself up, almost on a daily basis. One thing I did that really helped me was read Stephen King's book, 'On Writing'. He said he replaced a nail with a spike for his rejection slips!
    Hang in there day!

  5. I used to be the same way with blog posts, often wordsmithing for days before I hit the send button. These days, I still go over them many, many times, but I'm training myself to be okay with the idea that no matter what I do, there will always be room for improvement, so I don't fret over it so much anymore. But you'd be shocked to know how many times I go over a chapter before I let even my CP see it, and yet I still feel embarrassed sometimes.

    Do you have a critique partner yet?

  6. I totally understand your anxiety as I have it myself. Sometimes I can't go to the grocery store. I also used to feel that way about my writing and then one day I had a good day where I just said, "Screw it!! I'm submitting." I talk myself down a lot, from my high ledge of anxiety. I have had to learn how to do that so I can function with work and stuff. You can do it. You can share your work. Pick someone you feel safe with, who is not your husband, and show them. Then find another person and show them. Just like everything else, take it in small steps, not huge strides. :)

  7. Funny, the blog posts I stress over the most tend to be the best.
    Start small. Toss your work to a critique partner. Then a couple. Start building up some success. It helps!

  8. I used to suffer from this, but found a way past it thanks to my favorite book (The Mountain is Young). Here is the quote I think of when I am struggling with the worth of my stories.

    “Your duty is to do, and thus to revere life.”

    If you are meant to write, there is a reason. That reason may not be everlasting fame and fortune. Those things are distractions that can steal your muse. Your duty is to serve your purpose and if that is writing, you shouldn't criticize the story gifts you receive. Take yourself out of the equation, and just write. That is how I find peace. Hope this helps you too!

  9. What Andrew said :-)
    Also, well... I guess it depends how badly you want something. I can't do public speaking for the life of me, but I used to try to force myself to attempt it, especially back at school. Now I think, 'it makes me suffer, I don't need it, so why should I torture myself?'
    Writing is different though... If you've got an inner drive to write, eventually those stories need readers. I love coming to your blog! If you can share your thoughts with us here, I'm sure you can start sharing short snips here and there :-) One rung of the ladder at a time...

  10. "I am a great writer!" Keep repeating the mantra and soon it gets easier to believe. :)

    Thanks for sharing


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