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.