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It's Winning...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. This probably belongs in another forum like Chit Chat because it's more of a rant than anything, but...ill keep it here.

    My anxiety keeps winning and I keep losing. I gave up on my WIP (that i had spent FOUR YEARS on) a few weeks ago because of it. Today I decided to quit this month's Top Scribe because of it. I was stubborn about it, of course. I really wanted to participate. I thought it would be fun and constructive. However, that was not to be.

    I hate giving up on anything. It's not like it's easy for me to walk away from a challenge. But right now I've basically spent all day crying and now I feel lightheaded and exhausted and don't want to move from my bed. All my energy is gone. It's like I've had the flu. I'm not up to continuing that short story. I don't know what's happened. Why would I panic THIS MUCH over a short story? What is wrong with me?!

    Writing is hard, it's terrifying, it makes me almost physically sick...I can't quite say I enjoy it anymore. My mom says I shouldn't give up, that I need to succeed so I can get my confidence back, but I know when I need to stop. I'm well past that point. I don't know if this ever will end though. The next writing challenge, the next novel, the next anything...I can't keep running away from everything that's hard for me. I'll never be victorious that way. But I can't write in this state.

    Right now I feel awful. I haven't felt this bad in months. I shouldn't feel this way over a short story. I keep thinking of picking it back up and plugging through but then I panic again. I've been kept from enjoying writing for so long. Writing is supposed to at least sometimes make you happy...right? Isn't that why you do it? And writing challenges are supposed to be fun...right?

    I'm very angry at myself for letting my anxiety win again. And I'm scared of what will happen next time I try to enter a challenge, or write a story, or write anything. I don't know how to beat this. When I sit down to write I ignore it at first but it builds and builds until it just explodes and then I'm immobilized and can't do anything.

    Maybe it was just this one time? But I'm already nervous about my next writing project. What has gone wrong?
  2. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

    Are you getting any kind of help for your anxiety? To me it seems like maybe you don't have a good method for coping with anxiety.
  3. Started seeing a therapist recently. Hopefully we will be able to find solutions. I've come up with coping skills for general anxiety (mental discipline, exercise...) but creative anxiety is a whole other thing. As in, it's not really something you can power through. Anxiety makes your brain a toxic environment for ideas. Anxiety-tainted writing is usually my worst writing.

    The main thing, though, is that anxiety makes writing frightening and painful rather than enjoyable. Which make it very hard to produce anything. Not being able to write wrecks my overall emotional and mental health. Writing actually helps me cope with the other things that cause anxiety for me. Having writing be the main source of anxiety is not only frustrating, it takes away one of my main coping tools.

    What I have of my short story is rather dark, scary and depressing. I hope that doesn't reflect the state of my thoughts.
  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    When I was going to university, I use to get uber nervous during tests. One time I panicked when got stuck on one question and it messed me up so bad I didn't finish the test. I used to obsessed over having to succeed, having to get 100%. It got to the point where one time I couldn't finish the last question, and when I went to bed that night, I dreamt solving the question. When I woke up, I wrote down what I dreamt and it turned out to be exactly right.

    One of the things that helped me get over the nervousness was the thought "Whats the worse that can happen?" If I fail, I fail. I can always take the course again.

    How does this relate to writing? If you screw up the story, you screw up the story. You can always rewrite it. There are no consequences to failure here, except the time taken to write something. And even then, no writing is wasted writing because you always learn something, even if you don't know it.

    So if your story stinks. You can rewrite it or write a better one. There's no quality police that will come knocking on your door to give you a ticket for sucking.

    And don't worry about others thinking you story stinks. If they're writers, they've all been in your shoes, so they won't think any less of you. And anybody who would think less of you, they're opinions are worthless.

    Again, unlike this guy there are really no consequences to failure, so try to relax.

  5. Peat

    Peat Sage

    I'm hesitant to give advice because really, your therapist is the person to be handing that out, but I can say parts of what you're saying feel familiar. That there have been times - lots of times - when the idea of ever being good enough just feels alien. And that has sucked a lot of joy out and put a lot of anxiety in its place. And that becomes a spiral. It becomes something that poisons your life.

    There are ways out. I can't promise anything but you probably won't always feel so down about you writing. When you write, you improve. Being the writer you want to be really isn't impossible. When you feel that happening, that can ease a lot of stress.

    Also... writing for other people sucks. The first time I put something up for major critique I was queasy as hell. Physically nauseous. The feeling you get when people say something nice is great but waiting for it can destroy you. But I think that process gets easier with time and as you improve.
  6. I've got to beat this. I've fought it off before in other contexts, and I can do it again. If that means writing an awful, sucky story, than so be it.

    So be it...
  7. I so relate to the panic over tests! I once nearly fainted while trying to do a timed essay. I felt all the blood drain out of my head and I was like "I need to go lie down for a minute..." I got extraordinary scores on the other ones, but that one...I don't know what was up with that one.

    I just don't handle stress well. :p
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I have felt this way. Many times. And I'm more than twice your age, and I promise that things get better as you learn more coping strategies, and that it takes time.

    One of the ways I tackled my anxiety was to create a balance. Last year, we moved to a strange place, where I knew no one. I was isolated. Living in a small apartment, while we rented our house (the house I was comfortable in) to some people who lived in the state we moved from.

    I felt uncomfortable in the apartment because it wasn't my home, and I didn't leave it, because I had nowhere to go. I had two young kids that year, and I was very isolated and lonely...so I wrote...constantly. I'd get my two older kids off to school, say bye to my hubby, and I'd let the two young ones watch tv in the living room, while I went in my bedroom and spent the day writing.

    I'm so ashamed to even admit it. I was seriously depressed. It was really devastating and took a toll on me for months.

    Anyways, I went really off the deep end. I couldn't meet all my expectations, I couldn't get things as good as I wanted them. I couldn't get the feedback i wanted to get. I was really feeling hopeless. Anytime I wrote, I just played those voices over in my head like a broken record. "I gotta get this done. Just one more chapter. I just need a little more time and it'll be good." All sorts of useless thoughts used to drive me to lock myself in my room all day. And all I got out of it was the loss of a whole year of my life. Lost time with my kids. Lost time getting something tangible out of my life.

    Balance is really important. If you ONLY write, it becomes too much pressure, too high expectations. Too much you expect of yourself. Too much burnout to ever reach the dream.

    Now, I begin every day by cleaning something. I spend 30 minutes doing a quick tidy to begin my day. Then I look at my day planner. Make sure I am aware of any commitments I need to keep. Then, I take some time to write or goof around online, depending on whether it's a writing day or I need a relax day.

    Writing days and relaxing days aren't planned, but I try to keep in touch with my body and mood. I'm bipolar and have been for 20 years and am unmedicated (until tomorrow). With a mood disorder, you have to carefully plan everything, and be ultimately flexible when things change at the drop of a hat, and you must adjust without getting yourself defeated. I've had to learn to live with that, and accepting it cut down on some of the anxiety. On days I simply was too distracted to write, I forgave myself and stopped pushing myself to write when I couldn't. I suppose the good thing is that when I'm on a roll, I have no problems churning out good words by the thousand, but when my mood is broken...I no longer force myself to write. It was damaging my personality to do so.

    I've got to go for now, but I'd be happy to strategize with you later. That is, if you'd like to hear more about my strategies. I've been a writer for 15 years, and have written a dozen books and a hundred shorts. I can turn shit out like a crazy person, but my goal has recently just been to not TURN INTO a crazy person.

    ;) You're doing fine and take it one step at a time. You have your whole life to figure out what you want to do with your writing, there's no reason you need to treat it as a career this minute. Find a balance that allows you to live well and write, that helps you look after your emotional and mental health, as well as realize your dreams. Anxiety can affect your whole physiology in a bad way, and for me, it just wasn't worth making myself anxious for the sake of a challenge entry or whatever, once I saw what it was doing to me. I was agitated, irritable, and unpleasant to live with. I worried more about what I "had to get done" than about who I was and what I wanted.

    I still have times when I get overly anxious about writing (like last week), but it's much easier at this point for me to just take a week off. Guilt-Free, because I know that I need it from time to time. My mood and my family need it. And with four kids right now...I need mental breaks more frequently than I'm used to, but i do what I have to. Because nothings more important than my health.

    I hope you can find a balance that works for you, so you can take care of your own health and wellness.
  9. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    If I may be so bold as to ask. What is it that you ultimately fear where writing is concerned?
  10. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

    I'd be curious what's it's like for you when you write a story entirely for yourself. I tend to be a perfectionist and suffer from incredibly severe anxiety but for me its entirely socially related. This means that posting a story challenge entry will usually rob me of decent sleep for the next week or so but when I write entirely for my own enjoyment the same anxiety never flares up. When I was toying with the idea of attempting to write for external consumption (an idea I'm still not entirely committed to) I wrote a 100,000 word story entirely for myself and largely just to prove to myself that I could complete such a project. It wasn't an old idea of mine, or one overly precious to me. It was just a story I wanted to know if I could tell. I still have a lot of rather serious issues to grasp with relating to my writing, it's adequacy, and, particularly, its relation to others but writing that story told me that I could start and finish a project and that I could be happy with the final product, even if it didn't remotely meet my standards.

    Regardless, I do hope you find a solution that works for you. I've abandoned far too many things in life because anxiety made it too painful to hold onto them.
  11. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    It might help to explore what it is exactly that you are anxious about. Is it about other people not liking your work? Or perhaps is it your inner critic that tells you it is terrible as you're writing, and that even if you wrote for yourself you would get anxious.

    I deal with anxiety a lot, I have a psychiatric disorder, and I find it much easier to not think of anxiety as something to fight, but rather something to just accept and try to ignore. When I fight it, it stresses me out. But when I accept that it is there, but choose to ignore it, I find it easier to get through the day.
  12. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    I'm sorry it's gotten so tough for you, Dragon. Echoing other folks here, professional therapy is your best recourse for dealing with the severity and depth of your anxiety. It's great that you're taking the first steps towards dealing with it, because no one deserves to feel the way you do right now.

    I'm going to try and offer some possibly useless Internet-stranger-advice alongside the encouragement, because writing anxiety is something I've always dealt with. I've certainly made my own fair share of despairing forum posts....

    The cycle for me is something along these lines: Get stuck/uninspired -> procrastinate on writing -> feel guilty every moment I'm not writing -> build it up in my head to be this terrible important thing -> force myself to write -> be disappointed at the mediocrity -> give up, procrastinate again.

    I'm trying to make a concerted effort to dismantle different parts of this cycle. The first, most deeply-rooted problem is the belief that I can't do anything about it, because it's the way I am, the way it has to be: a terrible writer stuck in a cycle of failure. Hopefully your therapist can help you with stuff like that, with the damaging thoughts and panic, but here are some little coping things that have worked for me at one time or another. (Can't help but feel that you might get better advice from someone who's actually beaten writer's anxiety, but I hope this can be slightly useful nonetheless.)

    Getting stuck: Try to see if there's something wrong with the story before you blame yourself. Take a break to outline in detail where you're going next--or if you're not an outliner, try brainstorming possible paths, and start down all of them to see how far you get. Jump to the next exciting scene, or toss in an exciting scene that you can cut later-or not, who knows. Try chopping off the end of what you were writing until you're back at a part that you liked, and restart from there. Just do something new.

    Procrastinating: This is a really hard one for me, but it boils down to finding a way to just start writing. Maybe it's free writing off of prompts for ten minutes at a time. Maybe it's warming up on another piece that's low-key and fluffy. Maybe it's Pomodoro exercises? Or it might be taking a break, and letting yourself honestly take a break, until you feel better. Which ties into:

    Feeling guilty: I keep telling myself that stressing over writing--without actually doing it--is not helpful. Maybe someday it'll sink in, but in the meantime, I'm trying to stop feeling guilty about time spent on other things. If I can't write, it's not time wasted to read, or draw, or watch a favorite movie or play a favorite videogame--and time spent with friends or family is always valuable. Experiences fill up your gauge of inspiration; let yourself enjoy them. Making myself guilty for every moment not spent writing only creates stress, and it leaves me resorting to dead-end internet browsing and grindy videogames instead of investing in worthwhile activities that lift my mood as well as putting me in a better frame of mind to write.

    Disappointment: Ah, constantly. It's hard to shake the judgmental voice in your head when you're writing, but I've noticed something recently: reading back some stuff from years ago, passages that I hated when I wrote them don't seem all that bad. The critic brain rips apart things that the reader doesn't mind. One thing that can help: if, like me, you tend to re-read only your favorite amazing books, try reading something on the low end of the literary scale. Appreciate that stories can be told without pristine divine writing. Lower the bar for your internal editor. Also, maybe try to avoid comparing your writing and writing habits to others. For me that means avoiding writer's blogs or advice before I start obsessing over whether I'm Doing It Right instead of...doing some writing.

    Giving up: If nothing else works, sometimes this is what you need to do with a piece. And honestly, it's not failure. Recently, I abandoned a novel project I'd also been working on for four years, as it happens. It had turned into a beast of Too Much Too Slowly, bogged down by the years of complications appended to a plot that I'd come up with as a younger and less experienced writer. If I look down the years, I can see a pattern of dragging out and rehashing huge projects. None of them were really finished in a way that I was happy with. But they weren't a waste. I gained experience and practice and a wealth of ideas: for my current story, I took a seed of theme and character from the last project and launched into a sleeker, keener story. Of course I'm still dealing with the hamster-wheel cycle of anxiety, because things aren't that easy, but a lot of the load on the hamster has been lifted, and I do feel happier about writing, genuinely.

    I've been very hard on myself in the past for giving up and leaving things unfinished, but you know what the flip side of that is? It's good that I keep trying, and keep returning to writing. It's something that will always be there, and everything I write teaches me something. Sometimes we need to appreciate what we've done instead of beating ourselves up for not having done more.

    I hope the cloud lifts for you soon.
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  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    +1 The take away right here. Thank you, Nimue, for that post.

    There's not much more I can add to the great posts here, but I hate to see people hurting so...Dragon, it's a really, really hopeful and good thing that you're already seeing a therapist. Every human being on this planet has emotional wounds of some sort, but many don't confront that head on and get on the healing journey. It also sounds like you have a supportive mother, which is helpful at any age but especially in adolescence. You're on the right track though. Getting help, posting here, you have a fighter's spirit in you because not only are you reaching out for relationship, you're still involved in writing somehow.

    Take all of these experiences as ones that will strengthen you as a person and build character. Being a writer takes mostly endurance over skill, perseverance over talent. The more you write, the better your skill will become, sure, but learning how to mature in the process of finishing a story, learning how to self-edit, rewriting, etc takes internal strength that comes through sufferings such as the one you're going through. The most important thing is to remember that you're not a failure. Far as writing goes, just do what you can. Bit by bit, step by step. Only you can determine what that looks like for you.

    One thing that might help you now though is, since writing is tough atm, see if reading craft books and learning about story structure, etc will help. Youtube has a ton of videos on story structure (Brandon Sanderson has a great series out on it) and also you can get craft books at your library or on Kindle. Perhaps focusing on learning how to construct a story will make the process of writing them easier. Good luck.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2016
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  14. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    Maybe try something new ... a new genre or a new story perhaps? There's nothing wrong with writing darker material. Of course, mental health comes first but maybe you could try a new voice. Use first person POV and write down all of your struggles. Use writing to process everything and how you feel. You don't have to think about it in terms of writing for an audience, it can be for just you, but you might find something like that helpful. I also struggle with anxiety (and occasionally bouts of depression) so when I feel that side start taking over, I have a certain story that I dust off and pick up with a particularly cynical narrative voice. Sometimes it helps to get it all out of your system.

    Another option is keeping a journal (I've heard lots of positive things about bullet journals- might be something worth looking into). Or maybe take a small break from writing and channel your creative energies into learning a new hobby (knitting, sketching, painting etc.)

    You'll get through this. It'll pass and once you're on the other side everything will come together for you. You just gotta stick it out long enough to get there. *Virtual Hugs*
  15. Wow, guys....Thanks so much for all the support and encouragement. when you're struggling with something like this it really means a lot.

    Lately I've been eating too much sugar, and I basically quit my exercise routine...that might be contributing to the anxiety. Exercise has always helped me manage it. Last night I woke up im the middle of the night panicking and feeling extremely nauseated. I've never actually panic-attacked in my sleep, but that might be what happened. It was very scary. I just now got home from a party and I ate too much junk food and being around people stresses me out, even if they're my friends...lets hope everything will be okay tonight.

    In short, it has been bad lately. The story wasn't the cause entirely. Sometimes it's just...everything. Or nothing at all. People think of anxiety as being worried about a particular thing, but for me it can have no trigger. It can be that I just haven't been taking care of myself right.

    More exercise. Less sugar. Less screen time. That will help. I hope.
  16. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I think the biggest obstacle among writers is camparison. You are influenced by many ideas, wish to create something similar but the story falls flat. Why? What did we do wrong when we know the rules?

    But escapism is universal. How much time did you spend on recreating the economics of a logger village versus creating truly compelling characters. The desire to read on, I think that's what we all want to understand.
  17. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    It sounds to me like you have a general anxiety disorder (you mentioned panic attacks too) and writing is simply the main focus of it at present. You are also taking the first step in dealing with it by seeing someone. But could I just say that treatment is important. There are many different approaches to dealing with this problem, and what may work for one person may not work for another. Drugs for example may be good for some, cognitive behavioural therapy for others.

    So my question would be is your therapist helping? Do you need to look at talking to someone else? I only ask because I have a family member who suffers from panic disorder and she had to do some searching before she found what worked for her.

    Best of luck.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  18. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    Sorry to hear you're having trouble. Anxiety is a serious problem. It sounds like you're taking steps to combat it by seeing a therapist, but there are other things that might help too. One is chemical aids - medicines like propanalol (which I take) can make a significant difference and make it easier to cope. Another might be to take up a relaxing hobby, one where there's no pressure and where the hobby itself produces a calming effect. Consider, for example, adult colouring books, knitting, crochet, sewing, wood carving, photography, etc. Something you can do either sitting still, or on a gentle walk somewhere nice. I crochet, and when I'm anxious I find crocheting something repetitive and familiar has a calming effect; and if that doesn't work, something complicated that presents enough of a challenge to take up all my concentration (snowflake patterns are great for this, especially since they only take 10-15 minutes to complete).

    As for the writing, if that is what is causing much of your anxiety maybe the answer is to step back from it while you work oncoping mechanisms and then slowly reintroduce writing through low-pressure methods, for example by writing fanfiction and short pieces that you don't intend to share.

    Good luck. You are not alone.
  19. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Have you got the right name? Propranalol is a beta blocker med for high blood pressure.

    Cheers, Greg.
  20. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    It is also used to treat anxiety. Also for the prevention of migraines, and to treat involuntary muscle movements, according to the information leaflet that came in my packet.

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