I’ve never considered myself an anxious writer—a Nervous Nellie (in general), sure! But do I use fear to hold myself back on purpose? In my quest to help others by working out my own kinks, first, I came across a list of signs to tell if fear is running my life.
Number 1 was “Striving for Perfection.” Phew, success! I am not a perfectionist! I don’t have that thing inside me that recognizes I’ve created perfection, and now I can stop. Done. Finished. Perfect!
Nope. I’m the opposite. I know I am not, nor will I ever, be perfect. I strive to get to that sweet spot where I’m most comfortable with my work and, therefore, force myself to stop. This is usually in conjunction with a word count limit—aka that Tolkien-inspired goal post where I stand at the precipice and shout, “Ye shall not pass!”
I do this knowing it’s not my best work, but it’s okay. I settle, which, coincidentally, is Number 2 on the fear-driven life list. Yep, I convince myself that my project is as good as it gets… unless someone asks me to do more. I will begrudgingly (Number 3: Saying Yes, When Meaning No) and do it with a smile plastered on my face (Number 4: When Saying Yes Do I Mean It?).
Halfway through the list, I got up and stormed my refrigerator (incidentally, Number 5 is Numbing: using food/drink as a distraction to avoid inner pain and self-doubt). Once finished with my second breakfast, I returned to my office and sat down, ready to look at the latest feedback on my screenplay.
I often use feedback, no matter how kind or harsh, as a personal assault, which makes me antsy—I mean, who can sit still when waiting their turn in front of a firing squad? Fortunately, all that fussing about seemed to drum up many revolutionary ideas! Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do!
I needed to dive headfirst down a True Crime rabbit hole! I could go spelunking for inspiration, to truly understand the warped mind, or learn storytelling in a gritty, more realistic way! By the way, Number 6 is Procrastination.
After spending half the day unsure of what to tackle next (Number 7: Struggling to Make Decisions), I concluded that I needed to get organized and got out my sticky notes and highlighting pens. For the next two hours, I coded, Roman Numeral-ed, and stacked every scrap of paper into binders (Number 8: Control Freak).
This set off a barrage of put-downs, that long and spiked internal list of grievances I have against myself, and I never stopped it or countered anything that went through my mind (Number 9: Self Muzzling).
Exhausted, frustrated, stomach tied in knots, and a migraine growing on the edges of my mind (Number 10: Making Yourself Sick), I finally gave up for the day. I questioned why I didn’t make further or better progress with my writing?
Why don’t I? Because I am writing and living scared!
Does this sound like you? If so, you may be suffering a creative’s strategy for self-preservation! Let’s break this cycle together! Email or DM me!