For a lot of people, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. It provides an emotional outlet, a chance to say what we think and feel, the opportunity to have a voice and be heard. Whether we publish our work or not, there is no doubt that writing provides an emotional release, as well as a creative one. Throughout my life, I have often turned to writing to soothe and comfort me. I’ve used it to combat and work through feelings of anxiety, loneliness and anger. As a young child, I wrote a diary religiously, and I still have them. Piles of notebooks filled with my inner thoughts and emotions, as well as my hopes and fears. There is no doubt in my mind that writing has helped me in my life and provided a kind of therapy when needed. For this reason, I would recommend it to anyone who needs to vent, to explore their thoughts and frustrations, or to find a way to be heard.
But weirdly, writing has been having a different effect on me lately, causing something close to panic. It took me a while to work out what was going on, but now that I think I have, I wanted to blog about it and talk about how I am handling this.
It started a few months ago I think, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when. You know that feeling you get before you do something scary? That lurch in your stomach? That tightness that feels like butterflies? I can only explain it as being similar to that.
This would happen at random times, for no real reason. I’d get that feeling strongly, sometimes so bad it made me feel like I couldn’t take a proper breath. Very weird. Even weirder, is that I had nothing to worry about.
Everything in my life is the same. My kids are all fine; I’m not unduly worried about any of them at the moment. My husband and I get on just as we always have. Our finances are never great, but they haven’t changed at all, so it’s not that. Everyone in my family is happy and healthy. There is nothing I can pinpoint that would come out of the blue like that and make me feel winded.
So, I’ve narrowed it down to one thing, one thing that I never thought would cause me anxiety. One thing that has actually been the solution to anxiety and fear and anger and any other negative emotions in life. Writing.
I’ve said before that writing excites me and it still does. If I’m walking the dogs, and I know that when I get home I’ve got some writing time, I get that lurch in my belly. But I know that’s genuine excitement. I like it.
This other feeling is more like a feeling of dread, which I cannot for the life of me understand because I still love writing, I still get excited, I still think it is the best thing ever. Writing dominates my mind more than anything else.
So, I started thinking, what is it then? I want to write, writing makes me happy, writing is so many things to me. Why is it suddenly making me feel like I cannot breathe?
I’m still not really sure. Writing this blog post is my way of trying to figure it out. I’m wondering if any other writers have ever experienced anything like this?
One thing I can tell you; the feeling goes away when I’m writing. By the time I’m at my desk in the evening, tapping away, whether it’s going well or not, I’m happy. That feeling is not there.
So why does it plague me throughout the day?
Like I say, I really don’t know. There are several possible reasons, which I’ve listed below, but to be honest, I’m not sure it is any of these. I just don’t know.
- too many projects on the go? It could be this. I have two books I am ready to release, but I’m waiting on further rejections from publishers for one, and beta feedback on the other, and then there will be the whole book-launch thing to get into…perhaps it’s the unfinished, unreleased status of these two books that is causing the churning feeling?
- too many projects waiting for be done? I know this bothers me, but I try to keep it in perspective. Having ideas for future books is a good thing, and I think I’m lucky. I keep track of the ideas on a page in this blog and some of them I am already working on when I can, but maybe this feeling of impatience and anticipation is adding to it, I don’t know
- not enough time in the day? This does cause anxiety, it’s bound to. I know everyone feels like this to some extent. Busy lives leave little time to get things done, and to-do lists get longer, and it can all feel overwhelming at times like you will never ‘get there’. But I keep reminding myself that everything changes next year when my youngest child starts school. I will have plenty of time to work on my books and my community interest company
- the community interest company? I do worry about it sometimes. It pops into my head that I’m crazy to be trying to do this. That it’s too ambitious, bound to fail, etc. I want to do it, I want to inspire and encourage my community to write, and I’ve already come this far; turning the writing group into a CIC, planning two projects, getting some funding, applying for more. I’m learning lots and I’ve got big plans, but every now and then I just wonder what the hell am I thinking? This is not me! Someone else would do a much better job of this! So, I guess it’s there as a worry.
- general indie writer panic? This is a thing. I panic that I will never have time to write all the books in my head and get them all out, but I also panic that I will never ‘make it’. I’m not sure what I think making it means, to be honest. I guess a publishing deal and steady sales would be a thing to aim for. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this. I just keep writing and plugging away at my platform to grow my audience. But I think a panic is buried there somewhere, a panic that this will all turn out to be fruitless, a waste of time, and I’ll look an idiot.
But I honestly don’t spend a lot of time worrying or thinking about the things listed above. I know they are there, and they come and go, but generally, I’m a really upbeat positive person who gets easily excited about life. I’m not looking for a great big happiness, I’m just happy with the beauty of ordinary life.
So, how am I dealing with this? Well, I’ll tell you.
- by carrying on. Because I know that every word I write is a step forward, and that helps. Because quitting is not and never will be an option.
- by forcing myself to switch off and relax at the end of the day. I write once my littlest is in bed, and I should really write through until bed-time, but I’m not doing that now. I’m writing for an hour and a half, maybe two, and then I’m joining my eldest child to watch Supernatural on DVD.
(I have avoided TV over the last few years, because with young kids, I knew I had to give up something in order to get the time to write. So I gave up TV. Just recently though I’ve relaxed my strict no TV rule. I got hooked on Hannibal and Breaking Bad, and after lots of begging from my daughter, I finally gave in and started watching Supernatural from season one. Now I’m hooked and it reminds me that when I was a kid, I wrote loads but I still had time to relax and watch TV. I think it’s doing me good, and it’s like a little reward after writing is done. After Supernatural I read before bed, and I feel great.)
- by remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day. This isn’t a race. Nothing in life is a race. It’s all about the journey and what you learn along the way. Yes, setting up my own company is scary but I have to accept that I will make mistakes as I go along and I will learn from them, just as I have in every other part of my life. A few years from now things could be very different
- by trying to focus on one thing at a time. And by that, I mean whatever is the most pressing thing. I panic when I feel like I have too much to do, so I have to separate it out, deal with one thing at a time, and always the most important one comes first.
- by rewarding myself. I nearly always do ‘work’ things first when I get on the laptop. My to-do list contains work-related things and writing related things. I make sure I have ticked a few off the ‘work’ list before I reward myself with actual writing, the writing that calms me down! I also reward myself in other ways, such as having a nice snack or glass of wine waiting for me to enjoy the DVD with after writing.
- by remaining hopeful. Life as a writer can be crushing, soul-destroying even. I truly think being a trad published author is just as tough as being an indie but in different ways. It’s not easy for anyone. Earnings for most authors these days are diabolical. Getting reviews is like pulling teeth. Getting visibility means allowing yourself to be sucked into social media when all you really want to do is write. There are without a doubt, a lot of downs, and a lot of frustrations. But I tell myself, where there is life there is hope. So in other words, while I am still alive, who knows what could happen? What could be around the corner? I will always remain hopeful of better sales, better visibility and success. Always.
- by taking a break from blogging and social media so I can just concentrate on writing. You might have noticed my blogs are thin on the ground lately. I haven’t tried to promote my books at all, apart from sharing reviews. I just get tired of it sometimes. I just want to get the next books done.
- by never giving up. I might fail. I might never earn much money, I might never get a good publishing deal, I might never be well known or have my dreams come true. I might not make a success of my company either. I might give it all I’ve got and then have to call it a day in a few years time. But one thing is certain, I will be able to say that at least I tried!
- by using negative feelings to my advantage. By this I mean, in my writing. The weird feeling of dread, the sensation of not being able to breathe, I can write about that. I can use it. It helps to know how my poor tortured characters feel most of the time!
I think writing this blog has made me feel better about the whole thing. I’d love to hear your thoughts though. Have you ever experienced feelings of dread, without really knowing why? How did you deal with it? Please feel free to comment and share!
17 thoughts on “When Writing is the Cause of and the Solution To Anxiety”
I definately hear your anguish. Sometimes life is tough. It just is.
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Thanks, Ian. Yep, it is a strange old life and a very very scary world at the moment.
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I do experience feelings of dread occasionally — well, to be truthful, regularly. I think mine are related to perceived or actual time pressures. They are worse when my books aren’t performing well, but dissipate at the slightest positive sign. I’m impressed with your methodical analysis here, and I think your way of dealing with your dread is inspiring.
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Thank you so much, Audrey. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this, leave a comment and share! That’s really kind of you and I’m glad you liked the post. I’m sort of relieved to hear that you know what I’m talking about, to be honest! I think you’re right, the strange time pressures do have an impact. Even though I don’t have a boss as such, I still feel like so much needs to be done by a certain time. And I agree, when the books are not selling well it’s very hard to summon up the energy to keep pushing, and then a nice review or something unexpected will come along and cheer you up!
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You’re welcome, Chantelle.
Reblogged this on Audrey Driscoll's Blog and commented:
Here is a thoughtful post by indie author Chantelle Atkins, about writing and emotions.
Reblogged this on Claire Plaisted – Indie Author and commented:
As a writer I really appreciate this insight. I’ve never thought about Writing setting off my anxiety…
Thank you, Claire! That’s really kind of you. i’m glad you liked the post. I’m sorry if you’ve felt similar, as it’s not too pleasant, but I hope you feel as I do, that once sat down writing, it does feel better! Thanks again 🙂
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Thank you for the blog 🙂 I hope you are feeling better too .
Wishing you a safe journey.
Walk as steady and sure path you can in the midst of the weathers Life brings. The important matter is your writing is part of the Creativity which is the Breath & Heart of Humanity’s better side. Once your words are ‘out there’, you have enriched us all. You never know who you will resonate with
The Indie Author and their associates in the myriad of arts are small gems in the world.
Keep on keeping on
Thank you, Roger for your kind and wise words. Much appreciated 🙂
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All the best for you in your writing. 🙌 👏
You’re not alone, my friend. This past month has been a similar experience for me, only no butterflies. More of a slow descent into the mud. I wanted to write. I kept saying, this book won’t write itself. Every day the mantra consisted of, “I’ll write tomorrow.” Tomorrow came and I’d say the same thing. Thinking about thinking about writing, or doing anything else for that matter, became a daily occurrence. I had a hand-written draft for a loooong chapter sitting in the notebook from two weeks before. When I finally did plunk myself down to transcribe it, it took me four hours.
The slog was worth it, I got it out, though I can’t say how satisfied I was with it. At least I know I can go back on a better day and rewrite it. Doing that seemed to break some ice. This weekend’s session went much better and that long-assed chapter ended up being two.
No idea where this malaise came from and it seems many others are going through the same thing. It’s okay, it’ll pass and we’ll be glorious rock-stars again.
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Ah, thank you Deborah. I’m sorry to hear you’re currently struggling too! I hope it gets better soon! Glorious rock-stars ? That would be awesome! We need that on a t-shirt! 😀
Made more words today. My fix? Leave pads of paper and pens scattered throughout the house so even if I’m being a slug and watching comfort movies, I can pick up the pad and put some words down. A sentence, a paragraph…it all adds up.
I like the t-shirt idea too. 😉