So I’ve been in one heck of a writing rut. And you know that writing is one of my favorite things in the world. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its drawbacks.
It’s not writer’s block… I have plenty of ideas.
It’s not writing burnout. I took the entire months of November and December off.
But for some reason, any time I sit down to work – or even think about writing – I am overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to be anywhere else.
And I am pretty sure I am not the only one who has experienced this.
With any artistic or creative endeavor, your emotions, your psyche and your mental health all inevitably get tied up with your work. The “tortured artist” is a trope for a reason. And while I’m not reinforcing that stereotype, there are definitely times when I feel pretty close to it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the best and worst things about being a writer. The good’s outnumbered the bad’s, but today we’re going to dig a little deeper into the not-so-great aspects as well as how we can overcome them for a happy and successful writing life.
Ever found these thoughts crossing your mind?
I am not a real writer.
I have no idea what I am doing.
I am terrible at this and should just stop trying.
If you have, then you too are a victim of imposter syndrome, which is really just a fancy name for self-doubt.
Writers who actually have a lot going for them find themselves distrusting their talent despite tangible evidence, discounting their achievements as luck instead of hard work, and worrying they will someday be expose for the fraud they really are.
So I don’t know about you, but when I come up with a scene for my novel, I see it play out in my head like a movie. Then I do my best to copy that onto the page.
But it’s rarely the same. And rarely evokes the same passion and confidence as what I originally saw. It’s just never quite as good. In fact, I usually hate it.
So I mess with it. I fuss and fuss and fuss until I end up with something so convoluted that it doesn’t even resemble what I’d imagined. You think, “Oh, I’ll try again later.” But then later never comes.
A lot of people equate this with writer’s block, but for me, it’s not the same. Writer’s block implies that you’ve run out of ideas. Writing anxiety is a whole different beast.
And as someone who suffers from debilitating anxiety in just about every area of my life, I can tell you it BLOWS.
In a nutshell, it’s feeling any kind of pessimistic feelings toward your writing, including the two described above. But it also encompasses wondering if anyone will ever like your work enough to buy it, whether your story is unique enough, and if the overwhelming process of querying will break down the weak mental confidence you’ve worked so hard to build up.
All the day to day difficulties of being a writer.
All of this sucks, it’s painful, and it REALLY interferes with your creativity and productivity. You second guess yourself, critique your writing too hard, and eventually avoid it altogether.
So how do you overcome these totally normal but frustrating mental barriers to become the best – and happiest – writer you can be?
#1 – Give yourself permission to suck.
Because we all do at some point. First drafts SUCK. No one but you expects the words to be perfect – or even good – the first time around. Just get it down on the page, and worry about fixing it later.
#2 – Force yourself to write.
People may disagree with this and tell you to wait for your muse or give yourself a break. And those are valid… In some situations. Eventually – when I know it’s due to the above reasons – I just have to sit my butt down and require myself to write.
If you need some help getting inspired or motivated again, these projects may help.
#3 – Deconstruct feedback and focus on the positive.
Part of being a writer is receiving criticism. But usually it’s well-balanced with things you are really good at. I am not saying you should stroke your own ego, but a reality check on what you’re doing well goes a long way.
#4 – Break it down into small chunks.
This is my biggest challenge. I am working on revising The Blood Between Us right now, and it needs so much work that I just panic and back away. But taking it one minute, one chapter, one plot line at a time helps me break it down into something manageable and un-intimidating.
#5 – Celebrate the small wins.
Get an agent? Awesome! Finish a chapter? Woohoo! Write one sentence? Great! Every little bit is worth being proud of, and that mentality will keep your anxiety from rearing its head.
Check out #WritersCheer on Twitter to find writers to celebrate with!
#6 – Practice affirmations.
We talked about this a little in my last post, and it sounds super hokey and cheesy. But damn, it works.
#7 – Stop seeking outside validation.
If it sounds hard, it’s because it is. In fact, writing pretty much revolves around outside validation whether it’s finding an agent or cultivating readers. But there’s a difference in looking for someone to endorse your writing and someone to validate your personal insecurities. Learn the difference and do your best to keep them separate in your mind.
#8 – Ditch the self-deprecating humor.
I am not telling you to lose the ability to laugh at yourself. But putting yourself down is just your insecurity crying out for help. And just like affirmations, your brain will begin to believe what you tell it and seemingly harmless can jokes can turn into destructive beliefs.
“If you’re one of those people who falls back on making fun of yourself… Not only are you begging people to think you’re a loser, but you’re begging yourself to think you’re a loser.”
– Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass
#9 – Freewrite.
Our novels carry a lot of pressure. They will make or break our career. So when you’re feeling doubtful or anxious, grab a notepad and just start writing something totally different. You’ll be surprised how freeing it will feel, and then you can return to your project with a fresh mind.
#10 – Take “aspiring” out of your vocabulary. If you write, you are a writer. You’re not trying to be one, you are not aspiring to be one. You are a writer. Own it. Acknowledge it. Let it be true.
#11 – Find comfort in the community. This one is huge. I literally could not do this without the support of my critique partners and friends.
Feeling alone? Next week I will be writing about how to find your writing tribe.
The overall key to overcoming these mindsets is to remember you are not alone and give yourself a little grace and patience with which to deal with your feelings.
How do you deal with your day-to-day writing anxiety? Share in the comments below.