For the past week, I’ve been suffering from “weakened mind anxiety,” according to Eric Miasel’s Fearless Creating. It’s the anxiety that comes when you begin a piece of work.
It’s not the anxiety that comes from choosing an idea. It’s not anxiety from developing characters and plot. It’s not anxiety produced by setting some deadlines.
It’s the anxiety that grips us when we try to actually begin the writing—and what can prevent us from ever getting started.
Symptoms of Weakened Mind Anxiety
How do you know if you have weakened mind anxiety? (Don’t be alarmed if all these symptoms feel familiar. There are some very workable solutions we’ll talk about later.)
Symptoms of “weakened mind anxiety” can be experienced as:
- Fog in the brain
- Desire to cry/sleep/watch TV/surf the Internet
All the symptoms—and I experienced most of them every day last week—do not mean you’re a failure, or the story isn’t ready to be written, or that you’re not a “real” writer. They are simply the physical and mental consequences of anxiety.
As Maisel says, “Your mind has weakened in the face of the difficulties you believe will engulf you if and when you begin.”
We’re In This One Together
The inexperienced wannabe writer and the experienced published writer both go through this. It’s not because you’re a beginner. And it may not happen all the time. I never, ever have this issue with nonfiction.
Nonfiction feels like term papers from school, and those were always easy for me, so I expect nonfiction to be easier. It’s just something to sit down and do. But for me—and many of my fellow writers—spinning a fiction tale out of thin air feels as comfortable as bungee jumping.
What’s a Writer To Do?
There are inappropriate (and harmful) ways to treat this weakened mind anxiety. There are also appropriate (and helpful) ways to treat it. (We’ll talk about both cases next week.)
However, not writing is not a solution—not if you’re called to write and it’s your dream. As Fran Lebowitz said,
“Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I’ve ever encountered. It takes it out of you. It’s very psychically wearing not to write—I mean if you’re supposed to be writing.”
Maisel says when you feel like this that your mind has lost its muscle tone. I love that image. Next week we’ll talk about getting rid of that mind flab—and getting it back in shape to create.