Anxiety and the writer

Most of us have to confront similar fears when writing a novel or a book, whether we intend to publish it or not.

“What if no one likes my story? Or what if they say they do only to spare my feelings?”

“What if I publish it, and I get all kinds of negative reviews, saying things like, ‘Ugh! What a waste of money and the time I spent reading this drivel!’ or ‘I now consider myself duly warned about this author. I hope I can at least spare the readers of this comment the agony I suffered by reading this book.’ ”

“What if someone I know recognizes a character in my story and, thinking I was consciously or unconsciously creating a character based on him, gets angry with me, and no matter what I say, he won’t believe that I didn’t have him in mind when I created that character — who, by the way, turns out to be an arrogant, self-serving prick?”

Some of those fears come to mind even before we’ve finished the story or book.

“What if I finish this, and it’s crap, no matter what I do to try and fix it? What if it’s never good enough to publish? What if I ask a friend to read it, and he either rips it apart or damns it with faint praise? Won’t that just confirm what so many people already think of me — that I’m a no-talent loser with delusions of being the next Amazon #1 best-seller?

Or the next darling of the literary fiction world. Whatever.”

And suddenly the very idea of finishing the book or novel becomes the thing that threatens to drag you further down into the slough of despond.

Or the bog of eternal stench (Labyrinth fans?) Or something equally depressing.

But there’s something about finishing a book or a story that defies every bog, slough, and Pinterest binge.

“I wrote a book (or novel). A whole freaking book (or . . . yeah)! I am AWESOME!”

Don’t deny it. You’ve done what millions of people have said they want to do “some day.”

How many published authors out there have had to confront and triumph over paralyzing anxiety in order to get to the finish line? It’s different for every one.

All writers (published or otherwise) have a certain degree of anxiety when tackling a new project. Some have more than others. We all have our hurdles to jump.

Writing a book or novel from start to finish is not a cake walk. But there should be cake. A whole freaking cake. Or a pie. And a glass of wine. Or a really good beer. You’ve earned it.

Or, okay, if you’d rather have something healthy, just . . . don’t eat it in front of me, okay?





10 thoughts on “Anxiety and the writer

  1. I’m all for celebrating with a nice drink or two upon finishing. Writing a whole book is pretty fantastic. Even if it’s the worst book in the world, it’s made of sheer effort, and that’s something to be proud of–and you know what? I’ve read “The Last of the Mohicans,” so there is no way you could have written the worst πŸ˜‰

    The gap after finishing while letting it rest before editing is the worst. “Did I make something good? Bad? Just plain forgettable?” But then I read the first page after a couple weeks and it’s just fine. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now, I’m torn between diving back into the novel I was writing for NaNoWriMo (I was going to make January my JaNoWriMo and finish the first draft, which I neglected for all of December) or into the new non-fiction book idea that I’ve been fleshing out lately. I’m a lot closer to finishing the novel, and I don’t want to neglect it for another full month, but I’m also excited about the book idea. I know it’s not a bad thing to give my brain a playdate with a new idea, but I’ve GOT to finish my novel’s first draft. I need to know I can do it, even though I dread the editing stage. πŸ˜‰ And that gap you speak of … you nailed the anxiety I feel about that, too. Thanks for the thoughtful and encouraging comment. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you’re inclined to listen to a stranger, I’d say finish the novel and then spend that gap before editing working on the non-fiction. Or set word goals for your novel every day and spend whatever time you have after that on the non-fiction. Whatever gets the most done in the shortest amount of time, I say!

        Glad to help; I love reading about other people’s writing processes!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds like the best way to approach them both. Plus, the new book idea will distract me from whatever anxious thoughts come to mind regarding my novel’s first draft during my break from it. My goal is now to finish my novel’s first draft by my next birthday, which is a little less than a month from today. Thanks! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You nailed the highs and lows of writing. Theres no other process like it, and so many things to juggle. But the terrible thing about finishing a first draft, is the editing afterwards when it all starts to seem like some delusional piece of crap that no longer makes sense after the 100th time rereading it πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! When I’ve been able to suppress the fears that what I’m writing is crap — by just focusing on finishing my first draft — those fears become a lot louder during the editing process. I have two projects underway, right now, and I want to finish them both. I can’t even allow myself to think about the fears connected with publishing right now. I just want a finished story and a finished book. One thing at a time, or it becomes overwhelming, and paralysis sets in — at least for me. I want to reach that finish line so badly. I’ve edited other people’s academic papers, and it’s grueling work; I’m not looking forward to editing the first draft of my novel. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The worst thing I’m finding, is going over the same lines, same idea, same thoughts – they start to merge into a blizzard of ideas inseperable from the other. So I’m printing it off asap, reading it over a third time, then i’ll get someone else to look at it, for perspective and feedback. Good luck on your writers road.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a good idea. I know I was hoping to not have to pay someone to edit my story — mostly because we don’t have money to spare — but at some point, after I’ve given it a go — I’ll no doubt need someone else to take a look, for their perspective and to give myself a break from it. Good luck to you, too!


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