I have a problem with making myself write. I hesitate to write because I become nervous and anxious about doing it. As someone who has been relatively confident throughout my life, I don’t know why I would be afraid and nervous and, for the lack of any better words right now, unconfident about writing.
There’s nothing specific that makes me afraid about writing; I haven’t had anyone say “you’re a terrible writer” or, “you shouldn’t write about this.” Instead I just get the idea in my head that I’m not good at writing, or that I don’t have any significant ideas that are worth writing about.
And this doubt and anxieties are bull! I absolutely love writing; I love being able to tell stories that I find I can’t tell when I’m talking to people, I like creating characters, I like the physical act of writing with a nice pen on quality paper. But then I become excessively anxious about putting words down and I decide to not write for week and weeks. That, of course, then turns my anxiety into more of a problem, because when I finally do go to write I can’t seem to actually get anything out because it’s been so long since I’ve written.
This is the point when I think I have the most doubts about not having anything useful or unique to say … or, really, anything to say at all. And even though I acknowledge the ridiculousness of these thoughts, my anxious little brain doesn’t care. And then there is the feeling that that everything I have written has been said, but possibly probably definitely said better than I will ever say it. I also worry that whatever I write is trite and clichéd.
I think I know one of the reasons why I feel this way: I read too many amazing books by amazing authors.
Actually, this really isn’t a problem. The real problem is that while I’m reading these books I then compare myself to authors who have been writing for 20, 30, 40 years and have won Nobel Prizes or Man Booker Prizes or what-have-you. It’s absolutely silly for me to look at these authors and their vivid, wonderful stories and I say to myself that I’m never going to write as well as these established authors.
And I might not ever be as good of a writer, but that doesn’t really matter. And a sure-fire way for me to never be as good is to worry about how I’m not a good writer now. But that takes time, and I think the important thing now is for me actually enjoy myself while I’m writing – to like the process and the topics and the general feeling of getting thoughts down on paper.
My other two anxieties I have about writing go hand-in-hand. Often when I am writing I tend to hold back on my feelings. I think too much about how I don’t want to be perceived as foolish or too emotional. I think I’m quite closed with a lot of people, and writing what I feel just opens up this whole fear that people will recognize who or what or why I am writing an emotional piece and possibly judge me for that.
I think this comes from the fact that I tend to be a private, not very outwardly emotional person. So when my writing is emotional or personal I become very uncomfortable at the prospect of any hypothetical readers sitting and feeling what I feel. And then I begin to “self-censor” myself and not write things that I really want to write.
So, here it is, all my anxieties laid out on the table. I’m not sure if there is a solution to my problems. Or, at least, not a particularly profound solution. My anxieties about writing just have to be worked through, I think. I have to tell myself that the more I write, even if 90 percent of it is crap, I will get better, eventually.
The next thing I have to do is perhaps a bit harder: I have to actively seek an audience. Just writing that makes me panic a bit. But the truth is that any feedback is better than no feedback. And I’m at the point where I’m tired of sitting on stories that I really enjoyed writing and think are good because I’m afraid a friend or a family member won’t like it. What is the possibility of someone I love reading a piece I wrote and saying “oh, Elizabeth, that was really bad. You should never write again”? In reality, they’re more likely to praise me and not give me any criticism (constructive or not).
So I’ve made a goal for myself to try to write most or all of a short story each week and show it to a friend. It’s not a difficult goal to keep, and I think it allows me to be flexible if I have some days of self doubt.