Sunday, October 7, 2012

Writer Anxiety

As writers, I think we all share a tendency for anxiety. After all, if you want to be published, there's a lot of waiting you'll have to do. Waiting on beta readers, waiting on agents, waiting on editors, waiting, waiting, waiting. With waiting comes a lot of time to think, and that is where the anxiety comes in.

Anxiety can affect a person in many different ways. At my child services agency, I get a glimpse of how anxiety can play out. Sometimes it's with physical/verbal assault, withdrawing, screaming, pacing, destroying property, lashing out at people-- it's incredible how many reports I get about the kids doing INSANE things, and the only explanation the report offers is "This client suffers from anxiety issues."

Sure, we may not be jumping people in the street (and yet as I write this, I remember, a writer did this recently...) but anxiety does still affect us, and can cause us to act without thought.

For example, anxiety may cause us to:

--> Respond to an unsavory review (Always a bad idea, even if you're trying to be civil.)

--> Prod a agent/editor for a response (Not always a bad plan, but if you're nudging a week after they got your manuscript, they may think you're not as well-versed in the industry as you should be.)

--> Jump to conclusions. (This is a big one. Anxiety can eat away at your thoughts, until you think, "So-and-so MUST think this, because it's been so long/hasn't been long enough/ect" This can cause us to act impulsively, which may reflect badly on our professionalism.)

--> Vent. (Venting is a good thing, but there is a TIME and PLACE for everything. Venting to friends and family? Go for it. Venting about an agent on a public forum? NOT SMART.)

--> Lash out. (Sometimes we get it in our heads that these gatekeepers in our way just want to crush our dreams. NOT TRUE, but thoughts can worm their way in when we least want them to, and this may cause us to send a hurtful email. Also a major career killer. Industry professionals talk, remember that.)

Even good writers make mistakes, and it's never a bad thing to take care of your own well-being. There's no sense in being miserable, so here are some tips to combat those nasty voices in the back of your head:

--> Do something else. Distracting yourself is the best way to get your mind off publishing issues. Write something else, work on your next project, or spend some time away from the writing world. Go for a walk, build a birdhouse-- do something productive. You get nothing done by worrying.

--> Kill those thoughts. Anxious thoughts can leak in at any time. I've found the best way to handle them is to shut them down immediately. Whenever I start to think, "Why hasn't my agent responded yet?" or the like, I immediately sweep them from my mind and tell myself, "This is something I have no control over." And I change my train of thought. I can drive myself mad if I don't change my thought process.

--> Relaxation techniques. Sometimes that tension worms its way into your muscles. Take some time to de-stress. Enjoy a bath, write in your journal, do something you enjoy that will not add any stress or anxiety.  If you're kinder to your mental health, it's easier to get back into that writing flow later.

--> Process through your worries. If you have some fear you cannot shake, start at the beginning and work through logically. Don't try to catastrophize the worst situation. Work it through and reassure yourself that patience is the best option (or perhaps it is time for a nudge-- just make sure you never send an impulse email.)

--> Educate yourself. The more you know about the publishing process, the less stress you'll face. Learn about wait times, etiquette, and the things agents/editors expect from you. That way, when you face a tough situation, you know how to handle it and you'll deal with less stress and anxiety in the long run.

What are your ways of dealing with writer anxiety?

Happy writing!



1 comment:

  1. Great post! Just found your blog through the absolutewrite website.

    I think writers are really alike in some ways. I know I get lots of anxiety, even when I know it's something silly I'm freaking out over. I think it's the little things that drive us crazy, like wondering if the agent we've sent out manuscript to is reading it right now. I can remember checking their twitter and wondering, "Is that about MY manuscript? It must be!"

    I try to just relax and keep writing now. Sometimes it's hard.