Many of us just know we have it in us to produce some good writing of value. Yet, either anxiety doesn’t let us get there or makes us so slow that there’s no progress over long periods of time.
Some of us lose ourselves in the rituals we develop around writing–getting coffee, cleaning our desks, decorating a study room. Others wait for the perfect moment when writing will appear with the muse.
I’d say the only thing that can exorcise writing anxiety is a few pages of writing itself. And the only thing that can make you better at writing is more writing. Lots of it.
So how do you stop worrying and start writing?
1. Practice drawing a blank: Set aside a block of time, maybe an hour, two hours or more, whatever your schedule allows, to just write. Try to get a grip over yourself as you sit at your computer and make a mental separation between yourself five minutes ago worrying over an assignment due tomorrow or how you were slighted by your co-worker in the afternoon or the stain on your white shirt that needs to be treated soon if it is to be removed.
A physical location such as a quiet corner or a cafe helps some people. Other lucky ones are immune to places but being at that mental quiet place is the only space that helps.
You have decided this is your time to write. So just do it!
2. Start at whichever point of the piece you are comfortable with: The beginning, middle and end of a piece only need to exist in the final format. While writing, you can start wherever the writing comes from. Sometimes, starting and leaving off sections and starting again at a new place helps. You have to be careful though that you are not simply ending up with a pile of scraps of pieces of documents.
In direct contrast to being easy on yourself this way, being rigorous also helps once you’ve got the flow going. Even if you find completing a piece distasteful or boring or dry, you keep at it. Often, the result is not too disappointing in the end.
3. Leave off writing at a challenging but easy spot to come back to the next time you’re sitting down to write. This way, you can look forward to writing and spend the first half-hour of the next session settling down with enjoyment. It’s easier to stop thinking of everyday worries at the beginning and feel a sense of accomplishment and develop continuity between writing sessions this way.
The challenge here is overcoming the temptation to finish and leave off at the previous session and also knowing when not to leave off in case the flow disappears the next day!
4. Develop a writing habit which you like: This blog helps me immensely as a continuous writing process. You can join a writing group or write a journal–whatever helps you. The key is liking this process in the big picture even though you might sometimes hate it as an obligation, as an additional thing in the to-do list at a daily level. A continuous process helps develop perseverance, tenacity, grit–all of which are essential to doing something worthwhile that may not bring immediate rewards.
Although you may not realize this at the beginning, simply doing more writing, of any kind, improves writing at any level for anyone of any age. I can testify to this having kept at this blog for more than a year now.
5. Develop a supportive group of readers: This may seem difficult at first, especially for people who are not at that level yet where others are enjoying what they write. You can start with friends and relatives or join a writing group so long as they don’t make themselves scarce whenever they see you approach with a sheaf of paper or a flash drive :).
Once you find a few people, it is always good to look for groups that are either at your level or a bit ahead of you with their work so that you get constructive feedback. It is also important to retain those readers who are supportive and like your stuff although they may not be good writers themselves.
Both critical support and emotional support are important to exorcise writing anxiety and different groups may have different strengths in this regard.