500 Words a Day: Overcoming Writing Anxiety

About a month ago, I set myself a writing challenge: 500 words of non-academic writing a day, every day. It didn’t matter what the 500 words were about. They could be a blog post, journal entry, blog comments or even a Facebook rant. They just had to be 500 words and they had to be written every day. In my head, I imagined that I would struggle the first couple of days, but then tap into rich vein of inspiration that would lead to my writing my first short story in almost a year. Yes you read right. I haven’t written a short story in a year.

I say I want to be a successful writer. I get very defiant when people tell me that it’s a silly, unattainable goal. Yet I haven’t written fiction in a year. It’s crazy! But there’s a very simple answer as to why I haven’t been writing. No, it’s not writer’s block. It’s not a lack of inspiration. It’s fear, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. My dad says I’m scared of everything and I can’t even get offended because it’s kinda true. I’m scared of dogs. The smaller they are, the more afraid I am. Chickens terrify me, and cats have had starring parts in some of my scariest nightmares. I don’t have a drivers’ license because every time I’m in a car and it brakes, I have a tiny moment of blind terror when I’m convinced the car behind us it going to hit us. I get anxious about crossing the road.  I can’t decide what I’m going to do after I graduate because I’m scared I’m going to make a terrible decision which I will regret for the rest of my life. And I can’t write fiction because I’m scared that I’m going to pour myself into my work only to find out that I’m just not good enough.

I’m starting to see why quite a few writers go crazy. You torture yourself to produce a horrible first draft. Then you go about tearing it apart in the revision process, picking it apart and putting it back together until it resembles something that you can live with having your name on it. But you pour so much of yourself in your writing that the critiquing process sometimes feels like a self-critique. It’s as if when I write on my draft, “this doesn’t make sense,” or “this is silly”, I’m telling myself that I’m silly and I don’t make sense. It’s a crazy existence, this writing life. Entirely too much time is spent in the mind.

Anyway, do you ever have moments when you want something so bad, that you won’t even try and get it because you know that you might not be able to handle the pain of failure if it doesn’t work out? It’s a crazy situation. You hesitate because you’re scared of failing, but by not doing anything, you condemn yourself to failure. Only one choice here really: TRY. Back to writing it is 🙂

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