Coping with Anxiety as a Writer | iWriterly

Whether you are diagnosed with clinical anxiety
or you suffer from chronic bouts of anxious thoughts about your writing or publishing
career, all writers have to manage their anxiety—and in a publishing landscape where we often lack
control. Learn what writer anxiety is and ways we can
cope with it in this iWriterly video. Heya, book nerds! I’m Meg LaTorre, and on this episode of
iWriterly, let’s talk about writer anxiety. The short of it is: it sucks. And it’s more common than you think. Today, we will talk about how common anxiety
is, the definition of clinical anxiety, anxiety as a writer, and the thirteen things we writers
can do to cope with anxiety, regardless of whether you have clinical anxiety. Because, let’s be real, being an author
isn’t the most stress-free vocation any of us could have picked. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t for the faint
of heart. Before we get into today’s content, hit
the subscribe button and ring that bell if you haven’t already. Here on iWriterly, we create videos about
how to be a successful modern-day author and we fangirl about books. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association
of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. Forty million adults over the age of 18 have
anxiety disorders. That’s 18.1% of the population in the United
States. In addition, only 36.9% of Americans receive
treatment, despite anxiety disorders being highly treatable. I was diagnosed with perinatal and postpartum
depression and anxiety after the birth of my son. In other words, you can get temporary clinical
depression or anxiety when you’re pregnant and/or in the months following the birth of
your child due to the swell of hormones, amongst other things. For many women, this goes away over time. For me, the anxiety stayed. For other people, depression, anxiety, or
different types of mental disorders can develop earlier or later in life. Mental health is still a bit of a taboo subject
in the media. So many people refuse to talk about it, and
yet 18 percent of us are suffering from anxiety in silence—or have no idea that what we’re
going through isn’t normal and we can get help. It took me a while to realize what I was going
through wasn’t healthy. In addition, it’s become a stereotype that
writers and the creative types suffer from a mental disorder (which I’ll get into another
day). Quick disclaimer: I’m not a medical health
professional. I’m an individual who has sought out medical
help and learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share with my fellow anxious
writers. This video is meant to act as a discussion
piece for writers to come together, know they’re not alone if they have anxiety, and learn
a few new ways to go about coping with anxiety (that may or may not work for you). Let’s have a quick overview of clinical
anxiety. There are many different types of clinical
anxiety (such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder,
PTSD, social phobias, and more). In addition, anxiety can be rooted in various
mental disorders. I liked how the article, titled Anxiety, from
Psychology Today explained anxiety disorders: In people with anxiety disorders, the brain
circuitry that controls the threat response goes awry. At the heart of the circuit is the amygdala,
a structure that flags incoming signals as worrisome and communicates with other parts
of the brain to put the body on alert. Early life events, especially traumatic ones,
can impact the circuitry so that it is oversensitive and sends out alarms too frequently. We have to perceive threats in order to survive,
but those with anxiety see threats where there aren’t any, perhaps because emotional memories
color their perceptions. Common symptoms of anxiety disorders, according
to the same article in Psychology Today, include: “Excessive worry about health, money, family,
work, or school performance—even when there are no signs of trouble”
“Irrational expectations of the worst outcome in many situations” This segways nicely into writer anxiety. So many writers will assume the worst of situations: The literary agent asked for my full manuscript
and didn’t get back to me within the first week, they must hate it. My critique partner said they didn’t connect
to my protagonist’s motivation, so clearly the book is horrible. I’m never going to get published. I will never amount to anything. The New York Times Book Review didn’t review
my book. Now, no one will know about my book, I’ll
have terrible sales, and no publisher will want to purchase anything else I write. We hear a lot about “imposter syndrome”
from writers online. Essentially, it’s this feeling where writers
don’t feel like they’re good enough to be where they are (or to achieve their dreams). They second-guess themselves, their work,
and/or their capability for future work–even while they may be seeing tangible success
in the present. After receiving a number of rejections from
full manuscript requests over the summer, I remember being crippled by depressive doubt
for a few days. I wondered if I would ever become an author. Guys, this is anxiety. And it sucks. How can we deal with it? Here are a few ways to cope with your writer
anxiety. 1. Identify the anxiety-causing situations or
tasks Pay attention to the situations or tasks that
make you anxious so you can plan accordingly in the future. Does going on social media before bed making
your heart race and those self-doubt thoughts rolling? Read before bed or do something else instead. Certain tasks can be avoided completely, while
others can’t. For the situations you can’t avoid, such
as seeing disagreeable family members at holiday gatherings, plan for what you can, including
a plan of escape should it be necessary. 2. Stop comparing yourself or your writing journey
to others This is something we all do, and to some extent
it’s normal. But “normal” doesn’t mean healthy. For some people, looking at other writers’
journeys provides them with inspiration, a point of reference for where they want to
work toward and ultimately be in the future. For other people, seeing the success of others
reminds them of their lack of perceived success. Know your tendencies. If you’re in the latter group, as soon as
you feel those comparison thoughts sprouting in your mind, stop. Focus on the things you’re doing now, what
you’d like to do to achieve your dreams, and remind yourself how far you’ve come. 3. Get off social media Science has proven again and again how social
media, while having some positive effects, can be very negative to our mental health. According to one study in PLOS, Facebook use
was linked to less moment-to-moment happiness and less life satisfaction, which worsened
the more people used Facebook each day. That is because Facebook, like any social
media, gives people the perception of social isolation. In addition, social media is not a replacement
for deep, interpersonal connections, something all of us need as humans. 4. Do something other than writing (find a secondary
hobby) I like to think of the proverb: “A watched
pot never boils.” If you’re so hyper-focused on any one thing,
you lack the perspective to see growth and progress. If you’ve written a book (or more than one),
you’re making progress. You may not be a bestseller or have a literary
agent, but guess what: you wrote a book. That’s a skill that takes practice to master. Instead of focusing too much on your writing,
consider taking up a few side hobbies (other than writing). That way, you’ll have more than one creative
outlet. 5. Reach out to writer friends If you’re in a dark spot like I was this
past summer (hello, rejections!), reach out to fellow writers friends online or in person. Vent in private about whatever it is you’re
going through. Because, as a writer, your friend knows exactly
what you’re going through and can sympathize on a deeper level. 6. Talk to family and non-writer friends I always go to my husband when I need some
perspective or encouragement. Lean on your loved ones when you’re feeling
anxious or down. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with the
people you trust. They want to be there for you, too. 7. Recognize (and remind yourself of) your strengths Words have power. Verbalize your strengths to remind yourself
of the things you do well (rather than focusing on the lack or negativity in your life). I loved this list of mantras from the Writing
Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “I explain things well to people. I get people’s interest. I have strong opinions. I listen well. I am critical of what I read. I see connections.” 8. Break your writing tasks into smaller, bite-sized
pieces Writing a book is a beast of a task. Instead of sitting down at your desk and saying,
I’m going to write a book—and then not because it’s overwhelming—break your to-do
list into manageable, bite-sized pieces. For example, you could say I’m going to
write chapters one and two this week. Next week, I’ll write three and four, and
so on. You could also say: “I’m going to write
every day this week.” No matter how much or little you write, your
goal may be to simply make writing a habit and build your word count up once it is. 9. Get the hardest tasks over with first Don’t procrastinate on the task that is
causing you stress or anxiety. Rather than having it linger in your mind
for days or weeks, get to it today. In addition, if this task is a larger one
or requires more brain power, consider doing it earlier in the day. 10. Declutter Sometimes, it can be stressful if the place where you write
(or your whole house) is a mess. While cleaning can also be an avoidance tactic
for people nervous about starting writing, consider clearing off your desk or the place
where you like to write (if it’s at home). You might find having a cleaner space helps
you to be more productive and less anxious about not doing other tasks when you’re
writing. 11. Celebrate successes (mindset of gratitude
vs. one of lacking) Rather than focus all of your energy on tasks
or things you lack, shift your mindset to one of gratitude. For example, over the summer, I thought quite
a lot on all of the rejections I received on my adult fantasy manuscript—focusing
on a lack of interest in my book or lack of literary representation. However, I could have focused on the fact
I was writing a completely new manuscript for the first time in years (vs. rewriting
an old one), that I was able to spend tons of time with my family this summer (first
time in years), that my husband and I had found our happy place on iWriterly and making
videos, that my son was growing into a happy, silly person who I love to spend time with,
and so on. Have a mindset of gratitude and focus your
thoughts on the things you’re grateful for (rather than what you lack). You’ll find you have a lot more to be thankful
for than you might have realized. 12. Consider seeking medical help If your anxiety is impacting your quality
of life, it might be time to seek medical attention. I’ll leave a link in the description below
to an article in PsychCentral, called Telltale Signs It’s Time to Treat Your Anxiety, should
you wish to read further. I will also leave all the research articles
I referenced in today’s video as well as a few hotlines in the description box below
for people living in the United States if you’re in need of immediate medical assistance. 13. Remind yourself that writing a book is hard—and
you wrote one! So many people say they want to write a book
and never do—often because it’s hard and takes more time and dedication than they are
ready to invest. But you wrote one! Pat yourself on the back for starting this
journey. That’s a huge step and takes a lot of courage. Thanks for tuning into this episode on iWriterly,
on coping with anxiety as a writer. If you liked what you saw, give the video
a thumbs up. It lets me know you like this type of content
and want more. Let me know if the comments if you like seeing
a blend of science and writerly-ness. I’ll gladly tap into my technical writing
side for more videos like these. If you’re new here, welcome! Consider subscribing. I post writing- and bookish-related videos
every Wednesday. If you have questions about anything we covered
today or if you want to see more writerly videos with a dash of science, leave those
in the comments below. Be sure to connect with me on my other social
media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram. I also have a monthly newsletter, Book Nerd
Buzz, which includes exclusive insiders and giveaways for subscribers. When you subscribe to the newsletter, you’ll
receive free copies of the How to Format Your Manuscript for Submission template as well
as a querying checklist. All of the links are listed below. That’s it for today. As always, keep writing!

21 Replies to “Coping with Anxiety as a Writer | iWriterly

  1. Love this 🤘. I was diagnosed with panic disorder at age 23, I'm now 42. I take my daily medication and hold dear to my Christian faith. Plus I love to write and finally working on my debut Novel and Comic Book series. Thanks for sharing this. This is (@TamaraWrites on Instagram) I agree with you on the find a hobby. I have been a Pro Wrestling since 83' so I collect Pro Wrestling figures and accessories. I also make custom figures and dioramas.

  2. This video was so well done that it could air on CBS's 60 Minutes. There may be only 18% of the general public with Anxiety but that percentage rate skyrockets in the Author Community. In the female authors that I watch, that number is much closer to 90%. I have often wondered if Anxiety was a prerequisite to successful authoring.

  3. The best video Meg!!! I appreciate this for so many reasons. Thank you so much for striking the conversation on anxiety in writing. I read somewhere that creative minds are more anxious and I think that might be true. Thank you for sharing your story and these great tips. Excellent video! ❤️

  4. Such an important topic. Anxiety has a way of making you feel alone in your problems. Being open about it is a great way to learn that there are others who have been there and that you aren't as abnormal as you think. While not always easy, it's important to focus on what we CAN accomplish rather than dwell on what we feel we can't. Your last point was so important. I had weekly meetings with mental health professionals at the VA for nearly two years after I left the serves. Having someone—personal or professional—to talk to is vital and nothing to be ashamed about. Keep up the great content!

  5. Excellent video. You've inspired me. Today, I will start sharing my ideas with developing characters (since I expertise with that). Enjoy your morning, Meg

  6. I struggle with aalll kinds of anxiety about everything, but I'm teaching myself to be a little more chill. I hope starting this youtube channel helps me overcome my fear of sharing my work and putting myself out there, and I'll also have my first appointment in January to try to figure out what exactly is wrong with my brain. I've been writing for a pretty long while now, so maybe it's time to get out of my bubble and out into the world 😀 Thank you for this! ❤️

  7. I used to have really bad anxiety when I was in high school. It's gotten better over the years, but that's the thing: it took years. Writing was a huge outlet for my anxiety and a huge reason why I wrote, but now I write because I love to write, not because I feel like I need to in order to control my anxiety.

  8. You have my total appreciation for making this video. I'm not clinical but I do some of the negative things you state. Now i can improve my habits. 😀

  9. Loved the video. It is important to talk about this issues, it's always hard to accept or learn to identify we have anxiety, and even less to know how to treat it correctly!

  10. EAsily one of the most pleasant and well edited videos I’ve seen in awhile.

    – informative and clear
    – well paced and engaging
    – digestible and delivers emotional value

    Dope content. Subbed

  11. Well, writing anxiety might be common, but there are bigger issues: homelessness, cancer, death of a family member, poverty, getting fired… Perhaps perspective will help you relax. Peace.

  12. Thank you so much ! This was exactly what I needed to hear !
    Cheers to you for being so transparent it must have taken a lot of courage . The world needs more people like you . 😀

  13. I'm a newcomer to your channel courtesy of Jenna Moreci, and I wanted to thank you for this video. I have been fighting generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and some form of depression for the better part of four-five years now. Medical help has been a gift from God, but I still have my bad days and have been terrified to pick my historical fiction manuscript back up for about two years. I've decided to take that step now, and before I write I always watch one of your videos. It helps get me in the right mindset, and something about your delivery of content is really calming for me. You were also the one that made me realize that I could use the same Pomodoro technique that I used for studying for writing, and it's been MAGICAL. Thanks for everything; thanks for being you. God bless. <3

  14. I suffer from anxiety mostly ocd and arfid. ( a anxiety based disorder where trying foods results in a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. I’m slowly getting better.) and recently my writer’s anxiety has gotten worse. So this video has been very helpful.

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