Writing is an anxious job. We are creating content that could potentially be read and discussed by many. Maybe even your family. Maybe even your co-workers. Maybe, just maybe, even that person you’re crushing on, whom you based your romantic-interest character on.
There are so many possibilities, and to many writers the idea is crippling. This anxiety brings writing to a full stop. And not just new writers, either (I hate the phrase “aspiring writer,” but that will be a different post), but most writers at some point for each project are hit by the thought “What if ____ reads this? What will they think?” or “What if someone reads this and thinks _____?”
These thoughts have a time and a place, and neither of those are during your first draft.
Pause here to address potentially sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, etc, material, because these are VALID concerns: All of those considerations, and efforts to avoid them, should be done in the planning stage. After the text is written, revise potentially-harmful content, and consult a sensitivity reader for possible slips.
I have a moderate anxiety disorder, and a large amount of time has been devoted to worrying over how COLOSSUS will be perceived, ranging from How should I address representing rape in such a raw fashion? to What if _____ reads this and hates it? I wasted hours of writing time fretting over these things, discussing them with my friends, and not writing.
Most writers have this experience, and I am here to tell you: Those whispering worries in your mind are useless. You know that, but I know it also helps to hear someone else say it. Those thoughts are inflated fears, unlikely situations, and if you continue to fret over them, all you are going to do is play through the worst possible result, which is also the most unlikely outcome.
(To wit: I actually sent COLOSSUS to the actor who inspired Avery Rhodes, and you know what? He never read it. So all that fretting I did over what he would think was literally a waste of writing time.)
Somehow, while you write your first draft, you must convince yourself that you do not give a damn. These fears are literally not important, and need to be pushed aside or overwhelmed with encouraging self-talk. Take a bit to engage fully in something else: focus on breathing, cook, sing, talk with someone about anything else, watch peppy videos (I suggest the Word Nerds), or read author interviews. Once you’re done, sit back down and get back to writing.
Breaking your Give-a-Damn is important for two reasons:
1.) Caring too much about someone else’s opinion stifles your progress, no matter what the end result might be. There is most likely nothing wrong with your narrative, and there will be nothing wrong with your book.
2.) No two people read the same book: It could touch one person so much, it saves their life; It could make another person throw their Kindle against the wall in a rage. You are not responsible for either of these results.
This is especially important when it comes to follow-up novels and sequels, because there is a lot of pressure for it to be as good if not better than the first. The only thing is: This pressure is not from others – it’s from yourself. Brush off the feeling that this piece needs to compete somehow. It doesn’t. Approach each project in a vacuum; Block out everything else.
Your time is the most precious thing you have, and wasting it on fictional future drama is one of the most stressful and least productive things you can do. Break your Give-a-Damn, sit down, and finish that draft.
If you have any other tips for overcoming anxiety or pushing through, please comment below or @ me on Twitter!
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Want more Avery Rhodes? Check out https://becomingcolossus.wordpress.com/