Nipping Writing Anxiety

blankpageTonight, a friend and I are hosting the first meeting for our new critique group. We are extremely excited! Both of us have led groups before and had wonderful as well as frustrating experiences, so we have pretty firm ideas for what we want. One thing we want to avoid is ending up with what my friend calls “a support group for those with writing anxiety.”

So, you might be wondering, what exactly is writing anxiety and why would serious authors want to run from it? Isn’t putting our work out there a scary process? Who wouldn’t be anxious?

Writing anxiety goes beyond that normal fear that anyone with a healthy scope on reality would feel when pouring their heart on paper and showing it to someone. Writing anxiety is the level of dread that keeps us from getting words down at all, or holds us back from sharing what we do write because we are afraid of . . .

  1. Being vulnerable
  2. Receiving negative feedback
  3. Having an idea stolen
  4. The hard work and discipline required to finish a project

Writing anxiety is what keeps many in the wannabe category for years, attending writer’s conferences without earning a single publishing credit and talking about book ideas that never get penned. Sometimes it comes from legitimate terror based on bad experiences, and other times we can blame it on nothing but poor self-discipline. Whatever the cause, it keeps us from obeying God’s calling and reaching our potential, and frustrates those who take the craft seriously. So that is why my friend and I decided not to enable by allowing people to sit in on meetings month after month while only submitting excuses for why they didn’t write anything. We want a group devoted to growth, accountability, and doing the work that being a real writer requires.

Are you suffering from writing anxiety? Are you tired of seeing it hold you back? Here are some tips for pushing past it:

  1. Start with a critique partner – Find one person that you trust with your writing and agree to connect on a regular basis, hold each other accountable for goals, and pray for each other.
  2. Start small – Instead of overwhelming yourself with a book, start with an article, devotional, or weekly blog posts
  3. Do what feels safe – If you don’t feel ready for the transparency required to write your deepest stories, start with a less personal topic.
  4. Just write something – It is amazing what an outline or very bad paragraph can trigger.
  5. Sometimes guilt works – As someone once asked me, what would you say if you were standing before God and He asked, “What did you do with the gift of writing that I gave you?” (I know, gulp.) Consider writing an act of obedience, knowing that God isn’t one to accept, “I was too afraid to try” as a valid