The last post published on this Tools and Tactics for Writers blog was about writing and anxiety. I’m guessing most of us go through times when we’re nervous or downright fearful about writing; sometimes it can be paralyzing. So I’m going to share some tactics for relieving that anxiety that work for me.
- Brainstorm solutions of your own, and try the ones below.
- Take deep breaths.
- Put your fear in writing. Do you feel tension in your arms, legs, midriff, or all over your body? Do you have a headache? Do you freeze up, your hands gripping pen or stuck out straight over your computer keys? Describe in writing how your fear and anxiety feel, how they manifest. (Don’t edit, just let it pour out.) The mere act of articulating on paper or screen what’s going on internally—in your mind and body—can be a great source of clarity and calmness.
- Watch a funny movie or read a humorous book. Laughter is truly a relaxant.
- Write out or type a page or two from a book by your favorite author, preferably an author whose subject or style you’d like to emulate—or whose writing soothes you. (Although I write nonfiction, for me, that writer is novelist Barbara Pym).
- Exercise. This is one of the most effective ways to dispel anxiety. You can do a few stretches or moves indoors or get yourself outside for an exercise class or a walk. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.” And just having to focus on those zumba steps, yoga postures, or Pilates positions is a distraction from your writing concerns.
- How about “forest bathing,” also known as “taking in the forest atmosphere,” even if you’re not in a forest? My husband and I do a lot of birding and nature walking (as a dedicated landscaper and outdoorsman he notices not only the greens, browns and ecru colors of the trees and bark in winter, but also the little red berries peeping out from the forest floor), which for me, are foolproof anxiety relievers. Very often we walk in areas surrounded by or lined with trees. But forest bathing actually works by your being outdoors in nature, so you can do it on a small patch of grassland, in a park, or even in your own yard. It works! Find out more about forest bathing.
- One writer friend writes: I go down in my basement room and sit on my mat every morning and offer thanks for all I have and ask that all that lies ahead comes in a big bubble of love, with harm to none and good for all. Gratitude works.
- Another writer friend notes that her solution is to take a day off from writing. This can have the effect of clearing your mind, or even stimulating it to solve a writing problem while you’re doing something else.
For me, the effects of all of these approaches last. They don’t stop when I stop doing them. And you can use most of these tactics to counter anxiety and stress unrelated to writing.
Got any anxious writing symptoms of your own to share? Or any recommendations for how to relieve that anxiety? Leave a comment. We writers have to help each other out! Or, get in touch with me. I’ve helped other writers overcome their writing anxiety so they could produce work they were proud of. (First, scroll down on my Testimonials page to see what my clients and students say about working with me!)
Jennette Marie Powell says
I knew that spending time in nature could be restorative, but never knew there was actually a name for it! And yes, I get muscle tension and headaches while writing (and while working on my day job). Thanks for the resources!
Lynette Benton says
Thanks for your comment, Jennette.
Now that the weather’s getting better bit by bit, it will be easier to spend time outside. My husband and I have been going on our nature walks, but have been limited in whee we can go, given the ice (sometimes hiding under an inch of snow) on many paths. I, like you, sometimes get tense muscles (and even stiff joints) from hunching over a computer, and have to remember to stretch.