Last week we talked about “weakened mind anxiety” and what that feels like.
Symptoms that rear their ugly heads just before you try to write include fatigue, foggy brain, depression and an urge to cry/sleep/watch TV/surf the ‘Net. (from Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel)
What’s the Problem?
Before we talk about solutions, I think it would be helpful to explore why we experience so much anxiety when trying to do creative work. For me, at least, understanding is half the battle.
Mastering Creative Anxiety (another book by Eric Maisel) talks about various reasons this occurs. One or more (or all of them!) may apply to you. As with most ailments, different causes require different solutions.
1. Desire for Excellence
We love books. We love to read. We have stories we’ve treasured since childhood. We have high standards when it comes to what we like to read.
We doubt the quality of our work as we measure it against these high standards and strive to make our work excellent. We know the quality of writing we dream of producing. The gap between our desire and what we actually write causes high anxiety.
2. Negative Self-Talk
Our thoughts dictate, to a large degree, what our anxiety level is on any given day. Think thoughts like “I’ll always be mediocre” or “I’ll never sell another book” or “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and you’ll procrastinate into a major writing block.
Thoughts like this are not just “unhelpful.” They are damaging to a huge degree, pulling us further down in a black hole.
3. The Creative Process Itself
I had never thought of this, but Maisel is so right when he talks about the creative process being exactly the opposite of how we spend the rest of our days, so it goes against the grain.
As he points out, our entire days are spent trying to avoid mistakes and “get it right.” You get up at the right time, you eat the right foods (or try to), drive on the right side of the road, use your computer correctly so it doesn’t malfunction, etc. Your whole day and mind are aimed at not making mistakes and avoiding unnecessary risks. Maisel points out:
“Then, somehow, you must shift from that way of being and thinking to a radically different state, one in which mistakes and messes are not only possible and probable but downright guaranteed. Of course that makes you anxious!”
Procrastination produces anxiety. We feel immobilized and trapped by our own resistance. It erodes our self-image.
Whatever caused us initially to block only grows with procrastination. It is, says Maisel,
“a classic vicious cycle, in which our new anxiety prevents us from dealing with whatever provoked our initial anxiety and caused us to procrastinate.”
The Good News
Now that we’ve defined and described weakened mind anxiety, and we’ve considered the main causes, we’ll be ready next week to discuss the anxiety-management skills that can defeat it!