Writing Through Anxiety
It is a lot, in these trying times, to find the focus and the drive necessary to accomplish what you set out to do. Anxiety has become a close friend for a lot of people, making functioning nearly impossible. Creatives have the added pleasure of struggling with a craft that can be equal parts rewarding and frustrating. When you’re already neuro-divergent, living with any disorder that alters your brain’s ability to process the world normally, being a creative can feel like trying to pull ideas out of quicksand.
I am, by definition, an anxious writer.
I’m a writer. Art has been both a joy and a trial for me for years. I’ve written in some capacity for over a decade. It went from journaling to blogging, with me producing stories in large quantities. Anything that entered my brain exited it in prose form. Some would call me prolific, but I just say my mind is overflowing with thoughts.
I also suffer from anxiety and depression. It waxes and wanes with depression sinking me to the bottom of a terrible ocean of blackness on more than one occasion. Anxiety is a constant for me. It’s a tickle of fear and worry that convinces me things are going to fall apart. It needles me and sometimes blooms to where I can’t think beyond the fear and panic. I take medication to keep the anxiety from swamping me. Even then, it still lurks.
It’s easy to lose the plot in all that. How can I keep writing when I’m literally panicking? How do I show up when my perfectionism – something I truly believe is a symptom of anxiety – tells me to hit delete? I have a few methods to help.
Option one: open a blank page.
For me, this is critical. Writing is therapy for me and I get no benefit from it if I don’t bother opening a blank document. My anxiety and depression sap my strength and tell me I don’t have the energy to write. It keeps me from bothering or desiring to write. If I open up a document, I overcome that first hurdle. If that means setting a time to sit down at the computer, I do that.
Option two: utilize prompts.
It isn’t often I’m totally blank once I open a document to write. Often, that’s enough because ideas are constantly swirling in my head. It happens though, I’m finally sat down at the computer and there’s literally nothing there. Find a meme that you like, either picture prompt or word, and let it inspire you. I’ve also made people give me a few prompt words and a story was born from that.
Option three: open your draft files.
Maybe you can’t think of anything, but you’ve already started plenty. Give your mind a break and use your draft folders to help you.
Lastly, you have to push submit.
This is the hardest thing for me to do. Or, I can hit publish or submit and it’s the wave of self-hate or fear that comes after. I utilize cheerleaders, people who love me and will encourage me, in order to overcome both issues. Find someone to proofread your stuff, cheer you on when you’re submitting work, and offer positive feedback after you hit publish. This can help me put a stop to the anxiety and perfectionism that makes me heap hate on myself. I value my cheerleaders so much for helping me when the anxiety tells me I’m trash.
But all of this is just options or ways to help me start/finish writing.
How do I manage my anxiety so I can write?
I’m not a superhero with ready solutions. Sometimes, I can’t do it. Sometimes anxiety clouds my brain too much, sometimes I’m too flat, and sometimes the little spark that is my creativity can’t break through. I’m too depressed, I’m too anxious, I just can’t write. It’s really easy to beat myself up about not writing. It’s my craft and what I love, so I can’t help telling myself to push through.
In those moments, I try to rest. I do something else and then come back some other time.
I think about my creativity in my mind’s eye, it’s that little happy spark that brings me joy, and I remind myself it’s okay if I don’t write today. That thing that brings me joy will still be there and on the day I make time to open that blank document, it’ll come forward to help me write.
I’m anxious and struggle, but I still get the stories written. YMMV, but everyone has that something that helps them get the words out even when the brain goes on strike. Find that way to let your creativity bring you happiness.