I have been ruminating lately about fear—how it has helped by keeping me sharp and motivated, but also how it manifests as writing anxiety and blocks me.
“I made a decision a long time ago that if I want creativity in my life – and I do – then I will have to make space for fear, too. Plenty of space. I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”
Fear manifests in sneaky ways (I’d better mow-the-lawn/do-laundry/insert-chore-here and work on my writing after the house is clean). I call my writing anxiety or writer’s block “writer’s avoidance behavior” and I am very good at it. After all, I’m keeping my life in order, right? Who can argue with clean clothes and a trim lawn?
Another favorite trick of mine is to “prepare” to write. I do lots of research. Jot down ideas. Doodle with journals. Search the internet for visual images for inspiration. Draw maps of fictional towns and places. After all, that’s writing, right? Well, not really. This necessary work should be done in addition to, not instead of writing. But I need to be totally ready that voice inside nags. Honestly, when it comes to a creative endeavor, is anyone ever 100% ready to start? Many times a creative project can overwhelm a writer and make it seem impossible to create. So what do you do? How do you start?
How do you get over writing anxiety in all its guises and create?
Set an appointment. Same time every day or start small with a session once a week. Write it on your calendar. Show up so your muse can find you.
Start small. One half-hour a week. Or day. Or one page a day. That’s 250 words, which is do-able. Find a start you can easily do, take a deep breath, and begin.
Write (create) even when you aren’t ready or don’t feel like it. Your fear will try to talk you out of doing the work, but don’t listen. Once you’ve set your time, show up!
Don’t edit (or judge) while you are creating. Make your creative time creative time. Freedom time. Heart and soul time. Not judgment time.
Silence the voice that whispers, no one is going to like this. No one has to, not even you. You never have to show it to anyone. After your session, you will be surprised how much you like your creation. After a good night’s sleep, I re-read my horrible writing from the day before. Know what? It’s always salvageable and sometimes even (dare I say?) pretty good. As Nora Roberts said, “I can fix a page of bad writing, but I can’t fix a blank one.”
Perfectionism? Fageddaboudit! No one is perfect. Don’t think in those terms. Creativity is messy. So mess until your heart’s content.
Grab onto your fear, hold its hand, and then wave writing anxiety goodbye. You’ll be glad you did.