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Writing Anxiety: How to Overcome it

writing anxiety

Before you can use Fictionary to edit your first draft, you have to write your first draft. That can be a daunting task and may even cause writer’s anxiety.

Editor, writer, and creative motivator is here with some great advice on how to get that first draft finished. And when you’re done, after you’ve celebrated, we’d love it if you tried Fictionary and let it help you turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Over to Erin…

What Is Writing Anxiety?

How to Overcome Writing Anxiety

You know the feeling. You sit down at your computer, ready to write, and that blank white page glares at you, the cursor blinking accusingly, your heartbeat throbbing, underarms pricked with sweat. You start to hyperventilate. Anxiety.

Anxiety is not nice to writers. It’s a bully. It breaks you down. It whispers mean things in your ears like you can’t write, you don’t have anything to say, you’ll never write a book.

I’ve gone toe to toe with that bully, and she is formidable, let me tell you. And if you don’t do something about it, it can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.

So, now that we’ve established that anxiety does not make a good writing partner, let me ask you, why do you write? Hold on, I bet I know the answer. It’s probably something like, “it’s a passion.” Or it’s something in you, and you can’t not write. You love it. Right? Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it, especially since, let’s face it, writing is hard! Particularly if you are writing a novel.

And if you’re like me, you buy books, you scour the Internet, you take classes, and gobble up as much information as possible. With all the information out there, some resources advising this, others advising that, some calling an idea one thing and someone else another, sometimes it’s even downright overwhelming.

Take heart! The best thing about learning to write better comes from all the things you’re probably already doing, but what’s more is that the best way to improve your writing is by doing it. There is no wasted writing. Every single time you write, you are learning how to write better.

But before you sit down to that terrifying blank white page, let’s do a few things to ease your fears, to get you excited to sit down at your computer and write. Because you can do this. Trust me, you can. It’s all about mindset. The anxious mind has its own agenda. Your job then is to direct the anxious mind into a more productive direction: the writing mind.

Steps to Overcome Writing Anxiety

First, consider making your writing area a space you are comfortable in. If you have a desk in a designated place in your home, you might hang a bulletin board on which you pin inspirational quotes, images that represent something positive for you, pictures of your family, whatever makes you feel good.

Or you could create a vision board, a visual representation of what you want to create. Place candles or other scented items in your space—whatever makes you feel good and excited to sit down and write. Make it a sacred space.

Meditation has been proven to lower stress, improve concentration, and increase happiness, along with myriad other benefits.

  1. Sit down at your desk. (You can sit anywhere really, but I find if I do this exercise at my desk, I come to associate it with peace and calm instead of anxiety about writing.) You can play some soothing music if you want to—YouTube as some great meditation channels.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe in to the count of five.
  4. Hold your breath for three.
  5. Breathe out for seven.
  6. Take two normal breaths.
  7. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Focus on your breathing. If you have a thought, observe it and let it go. Don’t struggle. Let your muscles go slack.

Alternative Techniques to Overcome Being an Anxious Writer

Mind Map. Get some colored pencils or markers and a piece of poster board. Put your main idea (or your character) smack dab in the center of the page. From here, add ideas, subplots, characters, theme, setting, anything at all in varying colors. Just let the ideas flow and connect them however you see fit.

Flow. Open a blank Word document or a notebook and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Begin writing about your story idea. Write whatever comes to mind—do not censor yourself in any way. Forget the typos. Forget the bad grammar or misspellings. Your only job is to keep your hand moving. No stopping. Let the ideas flow, and don’t worry if they are good or bad. The idea here is to get those creative juices going.

Visualize. Visualize success! Do this when you are relaxed, perhaps after meditating. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself writing, the words just flowing from your fingertips onto the page. How does this feel? What does it look like? What do you hear? Engage all of your senses, and visualize this image as often as possible throughout your day.

Rephrase. Identify your negative thoughts and rephrase them positively. Instead of saying I can’t write, say I can and will write. What’s more, take the word should out of your vocabulary. Saying you should be writing only creates more pressure, resistance, and you guessed it, anxiety. Rephrase to say I want to write!

Conclusion: How to Get Over Writing Anxiety

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you. See it as an invitation to create. What gets put on the page can always be changed, but you can’t change what you haven’t written!

And remember,

“Creating something out of nothing is exciting. Filling the empty page with words, sacred words, is inviting.” ~Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Now get out there and write without writer’s anxiety!