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How Anxiety Affects My Dream of Being a Writer

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The other night, my mind replayed a scene in which, during the flow of conversation, I said something that lacked compassion to a friend. There was no rebuttal; the conversation continued without pause, but that friend surely thinks I am a terrible person and secretly resents me. I have played the scene over in my head countless times since it happened 21 years ago.

Anxiety causes me to helplessly relive moments from days ago or decades ago, seeing only the worst of myself. It also causes me to overthink and overanalyze everything as I am doing it. My thoughts race. I don’t want to create another situation for my mind to add to that relentless reel. Sometimes, being in the moment, saying or doing anything is absolutely overwhelming.

I am certain this is why I have always preferred writing over conversations. When I write, I can take my time. I can sort through my thoughts. I can edit.

Still, deciding to pursue my dream of being a writer — of making my writings public — means pushing myself well beyond the borders of my comfort zone. It means forcing myself to stay out there, exposed and vulnerable. Unlike a conversation between two friends 21 years ago, the published written word stays accessible to everyone, indefinitely. That thought can debilitate me.

As a writer, I want and need to be authentic. All writers have access to the same words; the only thing that makes me unique as a writer is my voice. My experiences, my perspective, the soul of me that is what gives the words true meaning.

However, offering myself up in words to the masses is more of a challenge than I imagined.

Every sentence I write, my mind is flooded with all the possibilities of how people will respond. It can take me hours to string together a mere 500 words. I often avoid the topics about which I am most passionate about. I have written complete essays that I cannot bring myself to publish; I feel too vulnerable and the anxiety is more than I can overcome.

When I do find the courage to submit a piece for publication, I brace myself for rejection, barely daring to risk a daydream in which I am successful. I recite my query letter over and over until I have convinced myself that every word of it was wrong and I have made the worst possible impression. With each post I make on social media, I question if prospective editors or publishers will see it and base their decision off my social media presence or lack thereof, which keeps me attempting to craft posts even though it would be easier to avoid social media altogether. Typos, grammatical errors and mistakes can trigger panic.

Every finished work I do publish incites an onslaught of anxiety’s manifestations. I have put myself out there and there is no turning back. The comments, the reviews, the judgment I am politely inviting the public to grant my worst nightmare so that I can live my dream.

That’s it, right there. Writing with anxiety is politely inviting the public to grant my worst nightmare so that I can live my dream. I will continue to make that sadistic request because I do want to be a writer, despite the anxiety. I realize that anxiety shines a spotlight on everything negative, leaving all things positive in the dark. The truth is, the positives are far more numerous than the negatives if only I can allow my mind to count them.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Originally published: February 19, 2019
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