Last Friday, Melissa Wright shared an awesome Writing Hacks about dealing with writer’s anxiety. In our private Facebook group, our authors discussed how we had recently dealt with it and what helped us cope. As I am in the middle of writing my third Wylder Tales novel, I thought it the perfect time to revisit this theme today.
At the beginning of this year, I wrote a confessional post about writer’s anxiety, called Facing Fear. January 2018 found me in the middle of re-writing/expanding Silver Hollow. I believed in the story I was trying to tell, and terrified I would muck it up. It didn’t help that at the same time, I was emotionally recovering from a very stressful season of life. Between a car wreck, both parents’ major surgeries, not to mention Hurricane Harvey, writing a book seemed very trivial to me. I could not help wondering, just as I do before beginning every book:
Is it worth it? Does this matter?
There is an aspect of art, and artists are the worst about this; a type of creative self-flagellation. I would love to say every manuscript flows from my fingertips like magic, but the truth is different. Writing a book, no matter the length is a mental battle that can feel like a dance or a song. It can flow as though you’re merely passing along a story only you can glimpse in your mind’s eye, a peek into another world just as real as your own. And with each book I write, the fear increases rather than decreases. Each time I achieve a new goal or reach a milestone in story craft, I am daunted by the next challenge. Still, creation is one of the best medicines, especially for artists/creatives like us. Earlier this year, at the encouragement of my critique partner, I soldiered on with Silver Hollow. It was one of the most difficult, and most rewarding projects I’ve worked on so far.
Fast-forward nine months.
After I published Silver Hollow in May, to very little fanfare, I took a step back to reassess. This is something we must do constantly. Keep it in perspective. What was life altering to me isn’t going to mean anything to a stranger. My dad always says, “it’s all relative.” As in, what matters to you or affects you may affect someone else differently.
So I approached my next book with very low expectations and just went into it for fun. Angel Blue was written more for myself and anyone else willing to come on the ride, my reprieve before diving back into my complex stories. And in the back of my mind, I was already looking at Bound Beauty, the third book and fourth story in my dark fantasy series. And I dreaded it. I had already struggled so much with writing my Wylder Tales. Each book had been a huge learning curve. All those doubts I wrote about before, earlier this year, came back full force.
Am I doing the right thing, writing this?
The only reason I decided to go through with writing my third book in the end, was because I wanted to finish the series. I wanted to give these characters resolution. And to the people who have followed these books, I wanted to give them a worthy ending. I think there is a secret part of me that was searching for a way to remember why I loved the story in the first place. I needed to remember my love for storytelling.
So I picked up my laptop and started writing. Instead of pushing out the story like a battle, the words flowed like a song. All my fears melted away almost instantly as I recognized, and remembered, exactly why I write.
It’s about becoming.
Become your characters for a span of time. Expel your inner demons, your cares, and woes. Explore what you would not in life through the pages. A catharsis. A way to overcome and rise above. Always know you will come out on the other side better for it, a little richer in heart and soul and truth. And the struggle and battle, the gift of carrying others on a journey with you, through these characters, to places they haven’t been or wish to remember: this is why.
I sound too poetic. Too “purply” you may be thinking. But aren’t we all poets in our heart? Don’t we all strive for something beautiful, a bright spot in darkness, be it pictures or sound or words? I confess I’ve always been more moody and introspective than is healthy for me. Always felt like I was too much and have had a tendency to live my life wearing rose-colored glasses by choice. Isn’t the world better for how we choose to see it, sometimes? And maybe, just maybe, I saw too much and let myself feel much less last year during the truly hard parts. I’ve had tastes of how bleak and bitter and cruel life can be. I may technically be a writer, but in my heart it is art. I am an artist of words, and it’s my gift to carry you with me in hopes we can strive together, that we can become.
As for writer’s anxiety and managing those pesky emotions. It is never good to dwell on them alone. It is always better to talk about them with someone, lest you fall too deeply. It is good to be around grounded and very present people. And it is also good to let yourself feel. Let yourself walk through the valley, and don’t be afraid. You don’t have to walk alone.
I’ll end this with a few words I shared before. They are just as true now as they were nine months ago, as they will be the next time you begin to doubt yourself and face your fears.
Without great risk, there can be no reward. The best things in life are worth fighting for, even if the battle is within yourself. Don’t ever give up, because you give in to moments of weakness. What seems like weakness to you may one day become your strength. When we understand ourselves, how we create and what we need to be inspired; when we acknowledge the good and the bad, we learn how to overcome.