writer’s anxiety

I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never sat in front of my computer and not known what to write. But I do experience writer’s anxiety.

Writer’s anxiety is where I get so nervous about writing something, so worried that I won’t be able to write well enough or say what I want to say in a clear and interesting way that I don’t even get started in the first place. Instead of staring at a blank document and not knowing what to write, I don’t even open the document. I procrastinate. I read books, chat with other writers on twitter, or read other people’s blogs, but I don’t do any writing of my own.

And how can I call myself a writer if I don’t even attempt to write?

I’d gotten to a point where I was quite good at making excuses for myself. I didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t in the right mood. I had more important things to do. Finally, whole months were going by where I hadn’t done any writing at all. And yet, I still wanted to write. I still had stories and ideas and misadventures that I wanted to share with other people. I just wasn’t doing it.

Fortunately, I have a girlfriend who is patient, kind, understanding…..and a professional editor. And yes, I do realize how lucky I am as a writer to be dating an editor, but it doesn’t do much good if I’m not actually doing any writing.

Finally, she suggested I try the 30-minute writing exercise. The 30-minute writing exercise is exactly what it sounds like: block off 30 minutes of time, cancel out all distractions, and just write for half an hour. Don’t overthink. Don’t try to edit as you go. Just write. Let your thoughts flow through your fingers and onto the page in front of you.

Initially, I was reluctant. It usually takes me a couple of hours to write a blog post, and I was so convinced I had to be in the right mood to be “creative” and “funny”, I didn’t think I could do it. Well, I knew I could sit there and write, but I didn’t think I could write anything that other people would want to read under those conditions.

But that’s not the point. You don’t have to get it right on the first try. The key thing is that you actually do it, instead of just sitting there thinking about it. And after the 30 minutes are up, you stop and let it sit. Take a break, then come back to revise it or edit it. And generally, even if you didn’t plan it that way, you will end up with themes, ideas, or events. Sentences will naturally group themselves into paragraphs, and you’ll be able to come up with a strong opening paragraph and a solid, definitive conclusion.

I’m actually doing the 30-minute writing exercise right now. This is the second time I’ve tried it (the first was for this post), and I’m liking the results. For one thing, I’m actually writing again, but I’m also writing more efficiently. I can get more done, and in less time.

Giving me more time to spend with my girlfriend. Which I think was her plan all along.


About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

12 Responses to writer’s anxiety

  1. Hmm…and who might this “editor” be. Excellent post.

  2. Lori says:

    I don’t know, (pardon the reply that has nothing to do with your actual blog post) but I think the chemistry part is correct, cause I can use you shamelessly to make sure the chemical molecule symbol thingie I have drawn out for a tattoo is correct and instead of Caffeine I end up with something daft like Iodine.

    Also, the hat is cool. You need matching super hero socks btw

  3. MAJK says:

    Socks need not match provided they are Fun and Super comfy. I like the idea of this writing exercise. Your girlfriend / editor is a pretty smart cookie. I’ll be trying this. Thanks for being willing to share. I for one am very glad you are writing again.


  4. Su says:

    As an editor/writer, I have to say that this is an excellent advice for all writers. I agree with you completely. I wonder why… Fabulous post, Mister. Keep it up.

  5. windwhisperwoods says:

    Congratulations! You’ve figured out something many, many writers haven’t yet. Write. Write with abandon. Let it suck, let logic, spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes happen. You can fix it all later. And the 30 minute exercise is on the money. That’s how I write, in 30 minute explosions. Each 30 minutes I write almost 1,000 words. I do that four times a day and get nearly 4k words written. Do the math. Over the course of a month them’s a lotta words! Of course later when I edit and rewrite I cut more than half, sometimes 3/4 of them, but that only ensures the writing is boiled down and condensed to the best of the best.
    Great post.

    • Thanks! Sounds like this is something you have pretty well figured out. And while I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to realize it on my own, I’m grateful that someone pointed it out to me.

  6. danniehill says:

    Great Post and advise, Andy! I go through the same anxiety– usually after I’ve written something even if it’s good. The exercise you use is a great idea. Writing is building muscle memory for the brain.

    I’m really happy your back at it. Looking forward to more of your work! An editor girlfriend? I thought editors hated writers, LOL. Lucky guy!

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