How to Overcome Writing Anxiety
Every writer I know has some trouble sharing their work with others. It’s easy to get lost in our insecurities and dwell on the “what ifs” of life. What if people hate it? What if someone makes fun of it? What if it’s so bad that my entire family disowns me? I can joke about these fears on paper, but in real life, they can be debilitating. Writing anxiety can prevent just about anyone from completing work, partaking in class, or even sharing pieces with people. It can be exhausting to deal with, but there are a few tips on how to overcome writing anxiety.
1) Get Writing.
For my first tip, I’ll let you in on this very obvious secret: write it down. Whatever it is you’re working on, even if taking that first leap scares you, write it down. No writer has ever penned a first draft, submitted it, and had everyone tell them it was great. Producing quality work is an arduous process that requires a lot of editing and rewriting. But before any of that can take place, you need to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
If you’re too nervous to write an entire scene or first draft of a chapter, start small. There’s no shame in taking baby steps. Even if you write fifty to one hundred words a day, you’ll slowly break out of your own insecurities. Fifty words doesn’t sound like a lot until you see how much work has accumulated in a week and then a year. If you read your work back later and it’s awful, good! Work on it. Get people to read it. Keep moving forward.
2) Find your Support System.
I know that for myself, I have a contradictory fear where I’m paranoid that my work is dreadful while simultaneously believing it’s so good that everyone will steal it if they read it. Thus, my fear of sharing my work was born. I stayed like that for years… I’m still that way. But, I’m working harder each day to share my work with a supportive group of talented writers and editors who believe in my work. Not only that, but I know they’re willing to provide me with constructive criticism and help me get better.
This is what every good writer needs. If you’re only ever bouncing ideas off of yourself, you’ll only get so far. When you build a support system for yourself, your writing will only improve. Of course, it’s not easy to just hand work off to anyone, especially when you’re already anxious about its quality. But a big part of writing and honing in on your craft is pushing yourself. Find just one person you trust to share your work with. Presenting work to someone is sort of like presenting in front of the class at school. Once it’s over, you’ll realize that it wasn’t that bad after all.
3) Come Face-to-Face with Facts
A big part of sharing writing and coming to terms with your anxiety is facing reality. None of this will happen overnight. Don’t push yourself so hard that you’re overwhelmed. Don’t set unrealistic deadlines either. Work at your own pace and the rest will fall into place when you’re ready. Naturally, there’s a fine line between taking things at your own pace and actually working to overcome your anxiety. But, this is why baby steps were invented. So long as you’re moving forward in one way or another, you can rest easy knowing that you’re doing what you can to better your work and really, your life.
4) Work on your Anxiety.
Writing anxiety isn’t just about the writing itself, it’s also about your mental health. Finding a support system and jotting down your thoughts is all well and good, but you may need to go beyond that. Never forget that there’s no shame in asking for help. If you’ve noticed that your anxiety hinders your ability to do other things, reach out to someone.
Whether it be through therapy, a good journaling session, or confiding in a friend, working through your anxiety will help you in the long run. Don’t go at it alone, especially in this day and age. You’re not alone. Recognizing there’s a larger issue allows you to get to the root of your insecurities and anxiety.
5) Keep a Journal.
If you’re afraid someone will read your work, keep a journal. Unless you’re living with my mom, no one is going to read it. A diary gives you an outlet to confront your fears, work through your anxieties, and actually write without an audience.
Just about any successful writer will tell you that writing and reading every day is the key to unlocking your talent. So, take that small step and jot down your feelings and ideas. It’s another surefire way to get words down and to see how far you’ve actually come in the span of a few days.
These are just a few of the ways you can slowly overcome your writing anxiety. Remember, it won’t happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. You need to have the confidence in yourself to push ahead of your insecurities. You’re never half as bad as you think. If you work on your writing and start to build a support system, you may find that you’re much better than you gave yourself credit for.