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The Writer's Curse: Anxiety and How I Overcome It

Today's post is more a ramble that I have attempted to edit so it makes sense, and it's certainly an example of my thought process.

First, let me point something out -- Not all writer's experience the same level of anxiety as I do but, for those who do I'm one of them.  I know I'm certainly not alone.

There was this meme going around Facebook a few weeks ago that described the mind of someone creative as being like a browser with a few thousand tabs open all the time.  I cannot stress how true this is.

What it forgot was the constant sense of dread and panic that comes from all that.  Think about it, or, better yet, open as many tabs as you can in your browser without crashing your system.  Now know that if you open even one more that your system will crash, but at the same time if you close anything you'll lose something you were working on because you don't have the option to save it.

The writer is like this especially if we have to balance a day job (and a life outside of either calling) on top of the creative work.

Every day it's the same.

I wake up, I get ready for my day, jump on the bus and go to work.  I deal with the day to day of my job and, in between, have flashes of insight (the "tabs") that if I close I lose.  I go home and I attempt to make sense and jot down those flashes of insight.  I then write or work on a project or two.  I make supper and deal with life.

I write.

I eventually go to bed -- if those flashes of insight let me -- and then the whole process starts all over the next morning.

Whew, wow.  Makes you wonder why I do it in the first place.  Well, the short answer is that I need to work to pay the bills and the writing has not quite paid for everything yet... it's starting to... but not quite.  I don't have any habits that would suck my income away but life in general is still expensive.

And then, every so often, something I write (and I write a lot... not all of it makes to shelves) is published either online or in print and a whole new set of anxieties rise up like little gremlins with very audible things to say.  The biggest one of them all is self-doubt.

Is my writing "good enough"?  Will people like it?  Love it?  Or, worse, hate it?  Will I say something that will offend someone badly enough that they stop talking to me... or if I don't know them at all will they stalk me to tell me off?

What will people think?

It's the most crippling barrier a writer can have but at the same time we crave that feedback like it's a highly addictive drug.  And it is... the worst kind, actually, because there's no way off it and what people see is the glamour of the book tour or the name in print.  They don't see the constant yo-yo of emotions, the frustration or the flurry of edits and re-writes.

So, how do I deal with it everyday?

Well, I will tell you what I don't do.  At risk of coming off like a cheesy Saturday morning commercial I will tell you I avoid drug use like, and excuse this next cliche, the bloody plague.  I try to concentrate on doing things that focus my mind into a task in which progress is visibly seen.  This usually ends up being another artistic venue as an outlet.  I dance (not gracefully, but I try!), and I find solace in music.  I'm no musician but I have an appreciative ear.  On the weekends I sail during the summer and I ski during the winter.

I go out and I continue to experience life to take my mind off the three million tabs, and I spend my time with family and friends.

I do anything that is constructive and takes me away from my laptop... unless I'm just spending time with friends playing an MMO.  Sure, it's not constructive per se but if I can't get out I still end up spending time with friends.

It doesn't make the anxiety go away but it does help me.

And that's the thing with anxiety -- no one solution is a cure all for everyone.  We're all a little bit different.  There's no problem with that.  We weren't meant to be identical clones of each other, which leads to another issue for another day (in this case a rant, but, again, I digress).

I think I'll go back to working on the next novel for now.  If anyone reading has experiences of their own to share regarding anxiety and what gets them through a day please feel free to share.

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