On Writing and Anxiety

Last month, I was inspired by the ultra-talented Harriet Reuter Hapgood, whose super fabulous debut The Square Root of Summer comes out May 5th (I promise I’ll review it soon!). She wrote an article for Stylist about the very real anxiety of writing a debut novel, and if you haven’t read the article, you should here.

It got me thinking about how every writer I know – literally every one – has some form of anxiety, and yet we generally speak about it in such hushed tones. So, like Harriet, think of this as my “anxiety coming out.” Because yes, I have it, and yes, it can be crippling.

On any given day, here’s a sampling of things that I worry about with my writing:

  • I was able to write one good thing, once, and it may never happen again. I will sit down at my keyboard, and will have completely forgotten how to summon those things called words.
  • My writing is too commercial.
  • My writing is too literary.
  • Other writers are so much better than I am. Look at them with their fancy Printz Awards and star reviews! Bah, humbug!
  • I have accidentally plagiarized everything I’ve ever written. Sometimes I’m convinced that my best lines aren’t even mine. They’re too good! I must’ve read them somewhere! (On one particularly fun Saturday, I ran each individual sentence in my book through Google, just in case. Insanity.)
  • Even if my ______ (insert agent or parent or friend, etc.) likes my writing, readers might not. They’ll probably find my characters annoying/unoriginal/one-dimensional and post terrible reviews on Goodreads with abundant GIFs like this:

giphy (5)

And because of these worries, I’m still up after midnight. Occasionally, I wake up and think I’m being trampled by horses, although strangely I have no real fear of horses. When editing, I don’t step out of the house; during my longest stretch, I didn’t leave my small suburban neighborhood in middle of nowhere North Carolina for nine days.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over these things – or, honestly, if I want to.

Because the truth is, there’s a strong link between anxiety and creativity, even Kierkegaard thought so. And if dealing with the stress means producing a finished book at the end, something I can really be proud of, then it’s worth it for me. One-hundred percent.

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