Day 12: Writing Anxiety

22 04 2009

Hello, my name is teetah, and I had writing anxiety. It’s been four months and 2 weeks since my last post. During the past several months, overwhelm and perfectionism have had me freaking out about everything, especially my writing. That includes my writing here.

In an effort to alleviate this anxiety, I consulted a variety of books, websites, and other writers which only seemed to make matters worse. I read the introduction to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style written by E.B. White’s son-in-law. In the essay, he describes how White fretted over every word and punctuation mark, revising and sweating some more even as he put the envelope containing his latest manuscript in the mail. Then he’d sweat some more while trying to devise a way to get the envelope back. I won’t bore you with the other stories I’ve read from books on procrastination and some of the personal advice I’ve received. All that matters is the message I took from it all: who am I NOT to be anxious about writing?

I let things get so bad that I dodged my one editor’s calls, emails and text messages for weeks and all he wanted was a 500-word article that I’d already researched, done all the interviews for and outlined.

It’s at that point that I read this and this about labeling fears and then killing them, then promptly realized that when I was in college and even a reporter at a daily, I didn’t have anxiety. Sure I’d be peeved if I waited a long time to write something because waiting til the night before was a habit. I didn’t know how to start things early ’cause people in my house never started things early. We just stayed up late and got it done, no anxiety necessary.  And if it was anxiety, I certainly didn’t know it, but when I started reading procrastination books and all that kind of self-help literature that does more harm than good, I wound up doing just that. Those books helped me pull out all the things that were “wrong” with me, but that’s about all reading them did.

So yesterday, I pulled every single self-improvement and professional development book off my bookshelf (about 80% of the books I had left since the first time I whittled down my books in January) and donated them to the local library.

Shortly thereafter, spent the rest of my day between my futon and my dining room table cranking out that 500-word story which my editor, though peeved, was excited to see in his inbox. Today, after a brief misunderstanding about an assignment, I did a house viewing and wrote the 500-word article about it in two and a half hours. I could’ve been anxious about it, but I didn’t have the time, just like in the newsroom.

I don’t know if this means everything is cured forever and ever, amen. But I do know that as long as I’m real with myself and my expectations don’t become super high and I no longer think everything ever created is wrong with me, when really, it isn’t, I should be OK. Or so I hope.

And no, I’m not going to go back and edit this as I normally would. However random and awkward it reads is how it reads.

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One response

10 05 2009
Jose Luis

Hi teetah,
Im disseminating this new interview with Natalie Goldberg and perhaps it could be helpful for you… ; )

http://www.futureprimitive.org/interviews/156

warm greetings
JL

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