Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Writer's ANXIETY??

You may have noticed a distinct lack of writing-related posts lately and though I'm a bit embarrassed about this, I need to share...

I've got a bad case of Writer's Anxiety. Never heard of it before? Me neither!! But I have it, and it's not to be confused with Writer's Block. No... the ideas are there (too many, in fact) and the storyboard for my intended wip (a novel to pitch at Nationals) is 80% complete and posted next to my desk.
Problem is, every time I open the document my heart races, my hands go all sweaty and they even start shaking a little. My head goes fuzzy and I feel all panicky.

WTF is wrong with me???

Is it because I've never written a full-length 75,000 word novel before -- Is it the size or the complicated-ness of the project that has me panicky?
Is it because I want/need it for Nationals- - Too much pressure? Maybe I should delete the count-down clock on my sidebar...
Perhaps it's the subject matter. I chose a paranormal - a genre I've never tackled or dabbled in before... but it's all there in my head, and the characters are talking...

I'm so upset about this that it's keeping me up at night. Have you ever experienced this before? Any advice/suggestions?


Vicky said...

:( Oh Wylie! Big hugs!!!

First off... anxiety sucks. I don't know about Writer's anxiety, but I know about the regular kind. I deal with it because my husband has it BAD - for no reason. Whenver we have plans to get ANYWHERE outside the house it hits him... and I mean big time!!! Everything you mentioned plus vomiting (I know gross... but I have to share) dry heaving (which I don't care who you are - is harder to listen to than to actually have to go through.) He's the most outgoing guy I know, and once we're actually at our destination he's perfectly fine! Perfectly!!! But all the way over there... it continues. Anyways... (1)There's nothing wrong with you. (2) I don't think it has anything to do with the length of the book or that you've never writen in that genre. (3) I don't think it's because of too much pressure.

I think it's the same reason as my husband... your excited. Very excited, maybe a little scared (or a lot - but that doesn't matter) I just think sometimes it's too much excitement for our bodies that's all! Just know that you'll be fine... it will pass. Although, I have to tell you that you do need to find a way to keep it from upseting you! Because lack of sleep will only make it worse! The doctor once told my husband to try a hobby to distract him. I suggested knitting (as a joke of course) he said something along the lines of poking his eyes out. So maybe that will work... I don't know... but keep us posted. It'll be better to talk about it!

Seriously big hugs and lots of chocolate!

Wylie Kinson said...

Thanks for the supportive words, Vicky.
And I feel for your hubby. I'm prone to anxiety attacks whenever a claustrophobic situation occurs - back seats of cars, amusement rides (because I'm belted in), crowds... It's horrible and really screws with your head since it's a completely irrational fear.
But WRITING???? That IS my hobby :(

LOL at the knitting needles. That totally appealed to my sicko sense of humor ;)

Karen Erickson said...

Hmmm, I seemed to be suffering from this myself until very recently. I had all of these great ideas, I'd started the "big" project and then I froze. I've been in a writing funk for a solid month and not for lack of ideas, like you said. I just kinda froze once I sat in front of the laptop.

I started a different project today cos it has a very close deadline and I wanted to give it a try. The words have just flowed! And I'm only going to work on it this week but I think it's helping me. So maybe try something new, just real quick, to distract the brain from the other stuff?

Big hugs to you, sweets. :)

Anonymous said...

Great big ((((((((hugs))))))))) to you, Wylie. I'm sorry you're having anxiety -- the first thing that comes to my mind is the Confucius quote:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Amended for writing novels, it would read:

"A journey of seventy-five thousand words begins with a single word."

Then a sentence. Then a page.

Small steps are cumulative.

My advice is this: make yourself -- railroad yourself! -- into writing something on your project every day. Even if you aren't sure you want to keep what you've written, get it written. It can be honed and shaped or changed or scrapped later; once you write more, and the more you write, the more you'll feel out the story, know what you want to do with it. It'll evolve. But make yourself do it.

You know why I say that?

That's how I busted out of my Writer's Funk from last year. The first round of Seventy Days of Sweat was my catalyst, but I'd spent months on false starts, wheel-spinning, anxiety, thinking what was the use, etc., etc. But with Seventy Days of Sweat, I promised myself I'd write every day, regardless. And I did. I wound up with 140,000 words, many of which I knew I wouldn't keep. Many of which I knew I'd change.

But it's that very novel, House on Bear Branch, which I'm working on revising now. And guess what. I'm cutting out a H-E-L-L of a lot of verbiage that either doesn't fit the story, is superfluous, or just plain sucks. I'm rewriting, patching up. But as I've worked, as I wrote that first draft, and as I work on the subsequent draft, I've figured out the story -- it's shaping itself into something which I hope will be good.

The point of all my blather? A writer, like any artist, needs the chunk of clay on which to use her tools. Work on getting that hunk of clay together. Then you can shape it into what you want. But remember, one step at at a time, and remembering "one step at a time" will hopefully help keep anxiety at bay, help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

*whew*! I hope that was helpful, but it comes strongly from my own experience.

More ((((((big hugs))))))! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!

Shelley Munro said...


Give yourself permission to write a crappy draft. Just sit down and start writing. Set yourself a target of words or use a timer and just write for a certain length of time. Remember Nora Roberts' words - you can fix a bad page but not a blank one.

Come on now - big girl panties ;)
You can do it!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Dudette --

Trevor would take you aside and make you come until you got over it, but I don't have that ability, I'm afraid.

However, what I do have is some advice: forget about it. Forget about Nationals, forget about pitching it, forget about word counts and genre and everything else.

Now, sit and write. Let yourself get lost in the story. Let the first draft ramble all over the place. Create your characters; let them breathe in your brain, behind your eyeballs.

They are, after all, what's important here. Not a book deal, not a deadline at a convention.

It's all about the characters and the story they need to tell. Focus on them and forget the rest.

Or hire Trevor for a few hours. I'm not sure how he feels about being pimped out like this, but we can ask...

Wylie Kinson said...

Karen - You know, I WAS going to pick up some other project, but then I get worried about NOT being able to finish The Novel on time. Silly, I know...

TL - Sound advice indeed! I like your interpretation better :)

Shelley - "big girl panties" made me spew my morning coffee!! And your 'just do it' tone reminded me of myself when listening to my kid whine about his homework... Just do it already!! Thanks - I needed that!!

Wylie Kinson said...

Trevor would take you aside and make you come until you got over it
... and I just spewed the SECOND mouthful of coffee this morning!!

Thanks all of you -- your hugs, advice and support makes me feel like a little less of an idiot for having such a ridiculous 'condition'.

Kimber Chin said...

I hear you. I'm having an anxiety attack already about writing my next novel and I won't be doing that until May.

I feel pressure for this one because the character was introduced in my second book (that shall remain nameless because my publisher bought it on the condition that I will never ever ever call it by that title again - I didn't think the title was that bad? Oh, what do I know?). My pre-editor loved him so much that she is begging me to write his book.

Was supposed to do that last summer but chickened out and wrote something else instead.

So this is the summer and you know I'm bound to disappoint my pre-editor (her vision of his story is not the same as mine). That doesn't help.

But I gotta write it and you gotta write your novel also. Just buckle down and do it.

(And please throw that advice back at me in a few months time.)

Anonymous said...

I can relate, Wylie. I'm going for 70-75K myself and everytime I think of the end target my heart races and I doubt myself. (Re: my question today about targets on my blog.)

But what thomma lyn said is what I've been trying to do.

I'm trying not to project, stay in denial about the possible negative aspects, don't go out there where I haven't been before like Jim Kirk would have me do, just take it one star at a time.

Just Do It works for me. (I hate that Nike doesn't still make that T-shirt.)

I have no doubt you'll come through. Especially with so many supportive friends.

Anonymous said...

((((Hugs)))) start off small on the project. Just one chapter, one scene and go from there.

Wylie Kinson said...

Terra - does this mean you have a computer again?? I've missed your blog.
Thanks for the hugs :)

Marley - I'll pop over shortly and give you my sage advice on word counts (no, I haven't nailed it yet either!!)
Thanks so much for the supportive BIG HUG :D

Kimber Chin is at my li'l old blog??? WOOT!! Hiya Kimber - I feel like I've hit the big leagues now that you've arrived ;)
And yeah - talk about setting yourself up for some serious stress - ACK! And I'll certainly be there to show some love back if you get yourself in the same sticky mess I'm in now, IF I make my way out...

Thanks again for your hugs and support blog-buddies. Your little nuggets of wisdom and personal experiences are making me feel better and heck, I might just get something on the page by tonight :)

Bonnie said...

Okay, who ordered the party-sized anxiety pizza?

Everyone's tossed in such wonderful words of wisdom already, thanks for the inspiration! All I can add is that it's okay to be freaked out as long as you don't let it bring everything to a freakin' stop. ;)

What works for me is to give myself a time limit. I open the doc, set the egg timer and stare at the computer screen until I shame myself into putting something on the page before the timer goes off. Sometimes I even stay long after my initial time is up (I start with an hour) -- other times I run screaming from the room.

Leah Braemel said...

Oh, could I tell you about writers' anxiety! Too many courses, added to editors and agents saying they'd like to see my work and suddenly things became VERY VERY real to me. My little hidden hobby of writing suddenly because bigger than anything I'd imagined. But as most everyone's said, you have to find somewhere to set it aside and just write one word, then a sentence, then a paragraph. Stop looking at word count, don't go back and edit - unless you're in the editing phase of course, LOL. I've even heard of people who turn off their screens so they can't second-guess themselves.

Stop doubting yourself. You're a published author. You've got fans - both published and unpublished. You can do it. But you know what? You're probably your own worst critic. So stop listening to yourself and let your imagination free.

(Remind me of this when it hits me again in a few months, will ya?)

Amy Ruttan said...

I get that all the time. The ideas are there swirling around in your head. THere for the taking, but when you sit there at the computer the words just won't come out. YOu stare for hours at a blank screen.

It happens to me all the time Wylie. ALL THE TIME!! Actually it happened to me last night, then I got binged by Christine on IM and we did the Write In. Just small bursts of 30 min writing, then 15 min break of chatting then 30 mins of writing.

You have to do a write in with us. YOu have to.

I did take Bonnies idea of writing down snippets of ideas I get in my head and putting them in a box for later that way is keeps the muse happy enough.

(((Hugs))) because I'm right "write" there with you.

Red Garnier said...

I LOVE everyone's suggestions. LOVE THEM!! And Wylie, you can break through this. Truthfully, I get anxious too. Not always, of course. I sit down, feel a bit of heart palpitations, but rather than write, I start eating, having too many cigarettes, and producing a big fat 0 in words.
Sometimes I step away and do something different. Sometimes I stay sitting, do something DIFFERENT, like write with music, and it works a little. This will happen only while you get INTO the book. Once you're in, you're master in that world, baby. :)

Sparky Duck said...

You are obviously just putting way too much pressure on yourself. Try and just let it flow, you have skills girl

julia said...

Isn't writing fun? (she says a little too loudly, with an awkward grin)

Anonymous said...

It totally sucks.

And the only way to get through it is to dig deeper and work your way to the other side.

It won't write itself.

You know it.

You just work, word by word. You sit down and you set your goal and YOU DON'T GET UP until you meet it.

No excuses.

Even if you set a low word count or page count goal, you stay put until you're done.

Every time you procrastinate, you're telling yourself it's okay to do so, and yet, you wind up feeling worse.

So by facing down the Doubt Demons, especially in a genre that's unfamiliar to you, not only will you get results, but you'll have a personal victory.

Revisions are beautiful. The Red Machete is your best friend.

But you can't edit it, much less sell it, if there's nothing on the page.

Anxiety, Smanxiety.

Sit down and do it.

Ink in My Coffee

Wylie Kinson said...

Devon - Did my mother send you? Cause your comment pretty much matches what she said word-for-word! hehehehe
Great advice, and you're both right. I need to work through this. But not until Monday. I've given myself a few days break to catch up the sleep I lost during anxiety-filled insomnia.
Thanks for visiting!

Julia - LOL. Well said!

Kimber Chin said...

I've always read your blog. LOL. Usually I lurk though.