Writer’s Anxiety

Today, I’ve had three thoughts about my writing: (1) it’s great; (2) it’s okay; and (3) WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING TRYING TO BECOME A WRITER.

These vacillating thoughts have meandered throughout the day. One minute, I’ll be convinced that I’ve written a legendary novel that will one day be remembered fondly like it’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The next, I’ll be convinced that I’ve written something akin to a dumpster fire. Then, when I’m lucky, I’ll be convinced that I’ve written something average that’ll be appreciated by a select group of readers with a preference for realistic fiction.

So what are these vacillating thoughts? Are they just the side effect of being a writer? Of feeling anxious about my writing?

In other words, do I have something called writer’s anxiety?

Writer’s anxiety is a byproduct of the glacial pace of publishing, and I think it’s best described by the following example:

Let’s say you’re reading a book for a nice, relaxing distraction from your writing. So you’re telling yourself, “I’ll just read this book and not think about my own writing. Okay? I’ll just sit here and enjoy someone’s else creation, appreciate the hard work this author put into this book. Okay?” But then, about ten pages into that book, let’s say you find yourself involuntarily skimming over the words on the page—not really reading.

Instead, your mind is elsewhere. Your mind is engaged in a psychological tug of war. A tug of war where you meticulously comb through your own writing with both a hypercritical eye and a friendly eye. One minute, you’re legitimately convincing yourself that you’ve written a legendary novel that will one day be remembered fondly like it’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The next, you’re legitimately convincing yourself that you’ve written something akin to a dumpster fire. Then, whenever you’re lucky enough, you’re legitimately convincing yourself that you’ve written something average that’ll be appreciated by a select group of readers with a preference for realistic fiction.

And that’s when your attention will finally return to the page you’ve been trying to read for five minutes and you’ll realize, I have the disease.

So you’ll say it out loud to yourself, “I have writer’s anxiety,” and you’ll freeze.

Because, suddenly, you will have come to realize the worst possible truth: even if I end up publishing the heir apparent to To Kill a Mockingbird, I could never accept it.

The reason? You know, in your heart of hearts, that no matter what anyone says about your writing, you’ll always have three vacillating thoughts: (1) it’s great; (2) it’s okay; and (3) WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING TRYING TO BECOME A WRITER.

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