anxiety and writers block

Though I say writer’s block, I’m certain that this applies to all modes of creativity.

Anxiety is defined as a fear or nervousness about what might happen.

A feeling of wanting to do something very much. The full definition goes on to describe that it’s a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill.

An exciting aspect of writing is flowing. You may be writing or doing some mental plotting and the thoughts are rolling so smoothly that you almost get chills imagining how great of a potential your manuscript has.

Then it happens.

I was trying to figure out how my character was going to make her way from New York down to New Orleans. Mind you, in terms of writing, I was nowhere near that part. However, my anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen later in the story, blocked my creative process. I couldn’t focus on where I was because I was too focused on what was to come. This realization came to me while meditating which is another reason that I’m so in love with the practice.

Meditating is an excellent way of evaluating your state of anxiety. Because you’re not doing anything else but sitting with your thoughts, you get the chance to see them from the outside looking in. Mine tend to be based on things that I have to do or what I should/could/would do. For instance, I’ll begin thinking of what I’ll do once finished meditating. Laundry? Writing? Blogging? Prepping dinner?

Realizing that I’m thinking in the future versus in the present, I bring myself back around by literally noting that “that’s neither here nor there.” I’ll then refocus on my breath. Not long after, I’ll find myself future-thinking again. This time it might be about the characters in my book or what type of blog that I’ll write next. Again, “that’s neither here nor there,” so I’ll refocus on the inhale followed by the exhale.

At times, my thoughts will be persistent about the past. What happened and what I could have, should have, or would have done. Whether focused on the past or future, these thoughts are sources of anxiety. Though seemingly innocent, when they begin piling on, then we find ourselves dealing with the physical symptoms of anxiety.

For writers, that equals writer’s block. 

In a previous post about the connection between running, writing and yoga, I explain how I use many of the same techniques that I do with running and yoga in writing. Likewise, when meditating, I circle back to the present by focusing on my breath. This works the exact same way when writing to release anxiety.

You don’t have to know what’s to come. By focusing on where you are right now in the process, the rest will unfold naturally. 

Those “here nor there” reminders, along with a deep breath, is instantly relaxing. Just close your eyes and take a good three deep breaths. After about the first or second exhale, you may notice your shoulders release tension. Sometimes, I do it and even my ass relaxes. Prior to, I wouldn’t have even known that my anxiety was “turnt” so loud that I was literally clinching my cheeks. I also tend to store stress in my stomach.

Where do you carry your anxiety?

By knowing what your symptoms look like, when they show up then you can take action. But if you have no clue, then you’ll continue walking around with your shoulders to your ears, your ass clinched, and your stomach knotted. Though joking, it’s actually a very serious matter and can lead to a number of dis-eases and disorders, including depression. Evaluate versus dismissing your writer’s block:

  • Consider what thoughts you’re having. Are they based in the past or the future?
  • Beginning at the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, scan for discomfort. Where is it?
  • Now close your eyes and breathe deeply until it alleviates.

If you’ve already gone from zero to one hundred with your thoughts, then you may need a little more. Anxiety can be over something as exciting as party planning or as scary as figuring out how to keep the lights on next month. In this case, try a few of these techniques:

  • Go for a seasonal walk. Fall is in right now, so I’d take note of the leaves changing colors and falling to the ground, the crisp air, the browning grass, the early sunset, etc.
  • Have a cup of tea. I just started drinking hot tea myself and if you haven’t already been doing so, then find one that you like along with a mug that you just have to have. While sipping, focus on the aroma, taste and temperature. Feel it go down your throat and into your belly.
  • Freewrite. As quickly as the thoughts come to you, jot them down.
  • Try any of my favorite 25 ways to love yourself for free.
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