I am continuing my series about Negative Thoughts (this is where it all started), and I’m discussing anxiety in the writer’s life today.

My post is part of the…

My Best Advice to New Writers Blogfest held at the Peevish Penman

This tour takes place on Thursday, July 15th. Check out all the great blogs on this tour.

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You have finally committed your life to writing and it is time to get serious.

The first task? Get a regular writing time and make it a routine.

Okay, that should be easy enough.

Just write…

But then, the wild jumping Mind Monkeys start climbing and swinging across your mind, interrupting your thoughts with many distractions…

I need to do the laundry first…maybe I’ll write after a cup of coffee…I need to check in on Twitter first…I feel a little tired today, maybe I’ll be more rested tomorrow…I don’t know where to go next with this novel…Why am I doing this, anyway, it probably won’t get published…I’ll spend years of my life on this…who am I to think I can write?…Geez, you’re so stupid.

Before you know it, the Mind Monkeys not only distract you from your writing, but they continue to screech and chatter until your motivation, confidence and self-esteem are at risk. Sometimes you explain your distractions with rational explanations, other times you beat yourself up for not being disciplined. But each similar event brings more anxiety.

You may feel low energy, sadness, doubt, nervousness, indecision, anger or self-deprecation taking over and sending you into full-fledged anxiety, depression or both.* You may also not realize that anxiety is at the root of your logical, rational explanations as to why you aren’t writing.

Why does this always happen to me? I am so messed up, I will never create anything…

And, in this state you don’t, not today, tomorrow, maybe not for a year (decade) or more.

What happened to the commitment, the joy and inspiration to write?

Why does this cycle happen to so many writers? (What? It does?)

Eric Maisel, in a chapter about anxiety in The Van Gogh Blues states:

This painful cycle – threatening thought, anxious reaction, and a full retreat – is a fundamental cycle in the lives of creative people. Most creators are not aware of the existence of this cycle or that anxiety is a mighty brake preventing them from creating and from making meaning.

What causes all of our anxiety?

There can be many reasons why writers have anxiety – biological or psychological genetic factors, being a highly sensitive person, diet, or lack of exercise. And, these factors may contribute.  But, there is also another cause of regular bouts of anxiety in creative people. Eric Maisel describes the meaning crisis:

Creative people are anxious not because they are neurotic but because the meaning crises they experience precipitate anxiety.

Primary existential anxiety wells up in us when we try to make meaning, when we are thwarted in our efforts to make meaning, and when we are confronted by meaning drains, meaning losses, and other meaning problems.

What are we to do? Are we doomed to a life of anxiety?

Well, yes and no. We are always trying to create meaning with our writing and often that is hard, frustrating work.

I am guessing that most writers believe they are alone in their experience of anxiety. They may feel defective or guilty that they have these feelings.  Many writers may not realize that anxiety is causing their writing blocks. As writers, we will probably have anxiety arise throughout our entire lives. But, we can become more aware of it and more skillful at managing anxiety.  Eric Maisel, in The Van Gogh Blues, says we must become anxiety experts:

An anxiety expert asks himself, “What am I really feeling?” and “What am I really thinking?” Honesty and truth-telling are the watch-words. There is no magic anxiety cure any more than there is a magic depression cure. Antianxiety medication may serve you, just as antidepressants may serve you, but the best service is the one you provide by diving beneath the radar of your defenses and confronting the reality underneath.

Just becoming more aware of the profound role that anxiety plays in your life can make all the difference in the world.

You may believe that if you are doing your best work, or publish your novel, then you will be rewarded with a peaceful, calm mind. But most authors and creativity experts will tell you that is not necessarily the case. And often, it is the opposite.

We may never cage our Mind Monkeys for long, but we can learn their ways and maybe train them to do a few good tricks for us.

As writers we must respect our need to create a meaningful life, which requires us to courageously show up each day to write and learn to become anxiety experts.

Eric Maisel concludes:

You need to brave anxiety, not do everything in your power to avoid it.

The facts of existence make us anxious. Our own thoughts make us anxious. Creating makes us anxious. A cloud passing across the sun makes us anxious. We are built to experience anxiety… Know this, and be brave.

Be brave, peace and creativity can be yours. Well, maybe not all the time. (Remember, you are a writer!) But isn't the monkey cute?

“He who strives will never enjoy this life peacefully.”  — Paul Klee

I will continue with more ideas on dealing with Negative Thoughts next week with the topics of anxiety and depression in the writer’s life.

Another great resource from Eric Maisel to help identify the negative thoughts that may be causing anxiety and depression in the writing life is, Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say to Themselves (What They Should Say Instead)

*Special Note: This article, and all articles on my site are not meant to be medical advice. If you are suffering from severe depression, anxiety or symptoms that are affecting your daily functioning for an extended period of time, please seek professional help from a therapist.