Creative Anxiety: 3 Ways To Write Even If You’re Stressed

If you’re creative, you’ll feel creative anxiety. The good news: over time, you get used to feeling anxious at the beginning of every writing session.

Anxiety, although it feels unpleasant, is natural and normal. The poet T. S. Eliot said: “anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity,” so feeling anxious about your writing isn’t new.

New writers tend to worry about it. I’ve heard new writers claim that “I shouldn’t feel this way.”

Creative anxiety: it’s common

A research study, Creativity anxiety: Evidence for anxiety that is specific to creative thinking, from STEM to the arts, reports:

… across diverse content domains, from science to arts, anxiety was greater for situations that required creativity than similar situations that did not.

Let’s look at three ways to write, even if we’re stressed.

1. Start. Your creative anxiety stops when you start writing

A few minutes after you start writing (even if you write nonsense) your anxious feelings dissipate. Various theories exist to account for this, but the why of this odd phenomenon doesn’t matter.

When you realize that starting fixes anxiety, you won’t be tempted to wait until you’re in the mood to write — you know that your mood will only change after you start writing.

Here’s a strategy I find useful: I start writing on my phone, before I sit down at my computer. That conquers my inertia; anxiety dissipates.

2. Develop a triggering ritual to conquer inertia

When I’m working on a novel, I’ve found it useful to write first thing in the morning. This means getting up early, but it works.

Before dawn, the house is silent, as is the neighborhood. No phone calls or other distractions. I let the dogs out, pour myself a coffee, and start writing.

At other times, I start writing on my phone, or tablet.

A writer friend does a crossword puzzle on her computer before she starts writing.

Your ritual can be anything you like. Some writers light an aromatherapy candle, others create music playlists, or doodle.

3. Train your brain: five minutes of meditation helps you to eliminate anxiety

Writing demands focus. You’re shutting out the world to concentrate on a scene between characters in your imagination, or on ideas you’re trying to capture in words.

You can’t write with “monkey mind”, that is, with discursive thinking. Our everyday consciousness drifts off into discursive thinking easily. We think about:

  • Where we’ll go for dinner, which leads to thinking about…
  • Chinese food, which leads to a memory of…
  • The last time went to a dinner party, where…

Monkey mind. 🙂

Meditation helps you to become conscious of your monkey mind. You can’t eliminate discursive thinking, but you’ll become aware when you’re doing it. You’ll see the monkey jumping around, but you won’t get caught up in your thoughts.

A key benefit of meditation for creative people: meditation calms creative anxiety.

If you’re feeling stressed and unable to write, try the above tips.


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