Editor’s note: This article on writing anxiety is part of our KISS series of articles. If you missed the first one, you can find it here. KISS stands for ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. It’s not meant to be derogatory, as the first article in the series explains.
One of the ways we fail to keep it simple, is by putting the horse before the cart. What do I mean? well, on Write to Done we publish a lot of great advice on writer’s block for instance, but to even reach the stage of having writer’s block, you may have to overcome writing anxiety…
Writing is required in almost every sphere of our lives. From writing essays and research papers in college to blog posts, press releases, emails and reports for work –even writing novels.
Writing is a vital skill to have.
It all boils down to how articulate you are in expressing yourself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as easily to some as to others.
If the thought of writing makes you nervous and you spend hours staring at a blank page, not knowing how to start, you might be suffering from writer’s anxiety.
Let’s get one thing straight – writer’s block and writing anxiety are two very different conditions. Writer’s block is when the writer cannot produce “new work”. On the other hand, writing anxiety is more deep-rooted and reflects certain personality traits.
A study published in the Higher Education Research & Development journal revealed that self-efficacy showed a significant negative association with writing anxiety – people with higher self-efficacy demonstrated lower writing anxiety.
Don’t let this condition dampen your performance. Here are 6 smart tips to free yourself from your writing anxiety and get writing –
- Find the true cause of your anxiety
It helps to know what is triggering your anxiety, so you are better prepared to tackle it.
Was your writing harshly criticized in the past? Do deadlines make you nervous? Are you afraid how people will perceive what you write? Do you suffer from poor confidence and self-esteem issues? Are you too focused on the outcome? Do you fear failure? Does a particular topic or type of writing induce anxiousness?
People have different reasons for suffering from writing anxiety. Dig deeper and ask yourself what’s stopping you from writing?
Usually people spend too much time thinking about what people will say about their writing which adds to the pressure and paralyses them. Regardless of the cause, know that the only way to improve your writing is to write more.
- Organize your thoughts
You know the feeling when your mind is buzzing with ideas but when it comes down to translating your thoughts into words, you break into a sweat?
At such times, it’s a good idea to organize your thoughts and ideas before rushing on to the writing stage. You can brainstorm ideas, develop an outline and roughly mention what you plan to write about in bullet points. This outline serves as the skeleton which you can refer to while writing.
- Practice free writing
Most people suffering from writing anxiety are unable to just start writing. Free writing is an effective technique to cross that hurdle.
Free writing involves writing whatever comes to your mind, at a stretch. No judgements, no stopping to second-guess yourself, no polishing – just plain writing. It’s also a great way to generate ideas and write the way you think.
So, the next time you are not motivated to write or are too focused on the outcome, practice free writing. It might just give you that much required push and break your inhibitions.
4. Set short-term goals
One of the biggest causes of writing anxiety is getting overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task. Do you know what can help overcome that?
Breaking down the writing process and setting short-term goals for yourself. For instance break the process down into conducting research, writing the actual content, editing and proofreading among others and set a realistic deadline for each.
The trick is to take baby steps and concentrate on one step at a time as you go. Before you know it, you will be done writing, with a much calmer state of mind. That’s great for starters, isn’t it?
5. Ask for constructive feedback on your writing
Sometimes all you need is a little help or nudge from someone to make you change your perspective. Join a writing community or ask a trusted family member or friend to offer feedback.
Not only will this help you improve your writing, but it will also help you see your strengths and gain confidence.
Get into the habit of sharing your work so you’re no longer shy about it and are open to receiving constructive feedback which toughens you in the long run.
6. Overcome perfectionism
A lot of times we don’t realize that our biggest enemy is perfectionism and our ‘all or nothing’ approach in life.
No one’s a perfect writer – stop being hard on yourself. The only thing you can control is your effort. So, give it your best, be realistic and stop obsessing over your writing being perfect.
The day you set this notion aside and immerse yourself in the process, you are likely to enjoy writing more and become a better writer.
Do you suffer from writer’s anxiety? Let me know your favourite tip for overcoming it below.