A Helpful List of Writing Anxiety Repellents
I admit that my particular brand of anxiety may be different from many writers, considering that I quit working full-time. Nevertheless, I have come to terms with the fact that I am the natural-born epicenter of anxiety, and trying to hack it at as a writer only encourages the effects of this unfortunate birthright.
The temptations for anxiety as a writer abound. As with any freelance artist or small business owner, there is no job security, no guarantee that all the work you are putting in will pay dividends. For perfectionist control freaks like me, this state of limbo is agonizing.
But there is a way to use our toil to improve our state of mind. Even if we don't become wildly successful, at least let's have advanced our inner peace along the way.
Here is how I handle the stress.
1. Write down life goals.
I highly recommend outlining your priorities. Make a Google Doc, to be shared with the whole family, which outlines life goals. Create a space for each member's personal goals, but also create a list of your family's common goals. For example, my personal goals might be to cultivate a spirit of hope through teaching theology and writing stories, to constantly be learning about my faith, to be a good homemaker, etc. My husband and I together have common goals, too. We strive to deepen our spiritual lives, to love and respect one another, to maintain good health, to develop and enhance our relationships with friends and family, etc. Taking the time to write these things down and to share them with your family will give your life laser focus.
2. Persevere in routine.
We all need to go to the grocery store, dust the house, pay the bills, plan dinner, etc. So, I developed a schedule. Monday and Thursday are grocery days, Wednesday is laundry and blog, Thursday is clean house day, and Friday is finance and errands day. Tuesday is generally my "day off," if you will. Even if you are working full time, there should be a day like this where husband will expect to be eating cereal for dinner and you'll be requiring at least an hour of R&R (reading and relaxation). Regardless, whatever constitutes "you time", schedule it in one weeknight. We all know how crazy weekends can be.
PLEASE NOTE that the routine is not infallible. For me, "laundry day" often bleeds into the weekend. That doesn't necessarily mean the routine should change (although it can always be tweaked), it just means that I will do better the next week. The routine is meant to alleviate anxiety, not create it! Take another example: some grocery days, editing consumes all my time and energy, but my husband remains understanding. (What's wrong with yogurt and goldfish for lunch anyway?)
3. Go to bed.
Same time. Every night. Exceptions include weddings, high school reunions, and family bonding time. Ok, and Jane Austen novels.
4. Exercise (is the worst but you have to, writers)
I am so not a champ at exercise. My Mom was a basketball player in high school and a stellar runner in college, my dad also played basketball and to this day could wipe the tennis court with any player half his age. And yet, I have inherited no desire to exert myself. The only thing that forces me to warm up the limbs is the fact that I cannot fall asleep at night if I go too long without exercise. "Ugh ... FINE!" So I get around it by attending (very low key) yoga classes and walking three miles several times a week. That way, I can be thinking about my stories while getting the necessary blood cells moving. Again, some weeks I am better about exercise than others, but the goal always remains the same.
1. Keep an attractive, orderly desk.
I spent basically the last 10 months putting my desk together. I scoured the internet for the perfect styles, sizes, and colors. I picked up adorable accessories from Target, and I waited months for the perfect, COMFORTABLE desk chair. If your desk is orderly, and you look forward to sitting at it, you will be much more productive. If you find that piles are beginning to form, look on Pinterest or just in your local office supply store for ways to neatly file or store those piles. Personally, I love the adorable Martha Stewart line of office accessories at Staples. Just invest some time into creating a desk system and putting everything in just the right spot. You will be so pleased, I know it.
I also wrote inspirational quotes and placed them on my desk for those days when the insecure writer looms within. Just a thought!
2. Grow things.
Houseplants? Rose bushes? Rows of corn? I don't care; whatever fits your lifestyle, but grow something. Take good care of it, visit it during the day, talk to it. The computer screen does much in the way of increasing our anxiety, but growing things take root not only in the soil but also in our souls.
3. Do what you don't want to do.
Whenever I feel like I've wasted an entire hour, afternoon, or day, I can only blame myself. Throughout the day, whether you are at work or at home or even on vacation, do that thing you know you should do but don't want to. More importantly, do it immediately. The more you realize you don't want to do something, the more you really should do it. Exception: when it's your conscience telling you not to do something, not your lazy butt.
I know it sounds crazy, but when I follow this rule, I finish the day happy.
1. Your Personal Cheerleaders
Really, these guys are my go-to's. I have a compassionate, patient, intelligent, generous, earnest husband whom I lean on without reserve. Of course, there are some things that he might not understand as well as another woman, or another writer, or another ball of anxiety would. That's when I rely on my best friends, my sisters, my mother, my grandparents, etc. Just be mindful of who is supportive in your life, as opposed to those who may be struggling with envy or bitterness in such a way that they are unable to bolster you when you are down.
2. Reading and Relaxation
I mentioned reading as a means of self care. In my life, there have been dozens of books that have served as stress soothers. Here are some spiritual ones that I feel have made me a better person:
- The Gospels (no duh)
- MIRACLE HOUR, by Linda Schubert
- INTERIOR FREEDOM, by Fr. Jacques Philippe
- AUGUSTINE'S CONFESSIONS, by St. Augustine of Hippo
- HYMNS ON PARADISE, by St. Ephrem the Syrian
How about some lighter books? CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ... just kidding.
- THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis
- THE WAY, by Josemaría Escrivá
- THE TAO OF POOH, by Benjamin Hoff
- THE RHYTHM OF LIFE, by Matthew Kelly
But also read some classics! A TALE OF TWO CITIES, TREASURE ISLAND, LITTLE WOMEN ... anything with "Penguin Classics" down the side is a good start. Or, reread your favorite stories from your childhood. OR read some new stories that today's children are reading! Or biographies! Or epics! I mean, just read and keep the zombies to a minimum and we're good.
3. On the Web
I Pandora religiously. Sometimes while writing I am feeling blah and need an extra nudge. That's when the Epic Soundtracks Station comes in (seed was Braveheart duh). Am I having trouble writing romantic tension? No problem; simply pop on the Carl Davis Station (composer of the soundtrack to the A&E mini series, Pride and Prejudice). I got it all. While working, I usually go with lyric-less music. But when cooking or cleaning, I run the gamut. If you'd like to follow my Pandora stations, look me up here.
Give to charities and sign up for their newsletters. You will feel like you are doing the right thing, even if you haven't gotten out of your pajamas yet.
Download podcasts and learn about stuff while you drive or cook. I am late to the podcast train, but basically anything you are remotely interested has a corresponding podcast that you can download onto your mobile device. I listen to nerdy Catholic stuff, but it's only a matter of time before I find a podcast about beignets and that'll be the end of my writing career.
Spend little to zero time on social media. Instead, use Buffer to post what you have to because of that whole stupid platform stuff. But social media is a luxury, not a necessity. It also never never NEVER relaxes you. If you find you are spending more than an hour on just one site, I strongly recommend canceling that profile. For serious. Social media is the armpit of our culture. I express just what I mean by that here.
You know what, fellow writers? Anxiety is the single most destructive hurdle to happiness. There has got to come a point in our lives when we acknowledge this, and then realize that we have a choice in the matter. Let's stop grasping at things, holding on to them for dear life, convincing ourselves that obtaining this or that will mean life-long bliss ... Let's start expecting the world to throw curveballs, and just be glad to be breathing and eating and loving and giving. The hands I am using to write this blog post are more miraculous than all the book sales, critic reviews, and agent opinions in the world. Hmm ... maybe I'll write that on a card and put it on my desk.
Now go do that thing you don't want to do, and don't stress!