Writing Anxiety

I’ve been struggling for a few weeks with writing anxiety. Every time I  think about my novel my heart races and I want to break down and cry. I’m beating myself up for starting a novel in the first place. Why is novel-writing so much harder than essay-writing for me?

After researching writing anxiety, I found an article on The Writing Center’s website at The University of North Carolina that explains writing anxiety and writer’s block:

“Writing anxiety” and “writer’s block” are informal terms for a wide variety of apprehensive and pessimistic feelings about writing. These feelings may not be pervasive in a person’s writing life. For example, you might feel perfectly fine writing a biology lab report but apprehensive about writing a paper on a novel. You may confidently tackle a paper about the sociology of gender but delete and start over twenty times when composing an email to a cute classmate to suggest a coffee date. In other words, writing anxiety and writers’ block are situational (Hjortshoj 7). These terms do NOT describe psychological attributes. People aren’t born anxious writers; rather, they become anxious or blocked through negative or difficult experiences with writing.”

In my particular case, the term writing anxiety is more accurate than writer’s block. I’ve never felt this type of anxiety associated with writing.

My anxiety is from writing about the unknown. In college, I wrote academic papers, and I’ve done a lot of personal essay writingbasically I’ve written a lot of non-fiction. Aside from a few poems, this novel is my first attempt at fiction and it’s a HUGE project. My expectations are too high for my first draft. I’m frustrated with the narrative discourse, and I’m having a really hard time grasping my character’s motivation. My story is all over the place and I need a way to wrangle it together.

I made a rookie mistake; I didn’t have a thorough outline. By using Jamie Gold’s romance beat sheet, I’m able to observe and organize my novel on a high-level and dissect the details.

I’m still dealing with writing anxiety, but the beat sheet has given me new direction. I also found a few methods for coping with writing anxiety that I would like to share with you:

  • Brainstorm/Outline/Organize

Sometimes you have to take a few steps back from your project and instead of writing your story you have to build your story. This is where the beat sheet can be extremely helpful.

  • Free Write

Give yourself 10 minutes with a pen and paper and  write whatever you want about your current project. If you can’t think of anything, or your mind goes blank, just write “nothing” “blank” “blah” until something comes, but you have to commit 10 minutes.

  • Find A Writing Buddy

Find someone who you can share ideas with and who is open for peer review. Try to find someone who has experience reading/writing the same genre you are writing. You will get invaluable feedback and will help with creative isolation.

Have you struggled with writing anxiety? How did you push through it?

Love & Cheers,

Rachel McKee