Anxiety and the Writing Life


greengrate

The barriers of anxiety.

This has been a long year of anxiety attacks, despite the fact that there hasn’t been much cause for it in my life. All around me, things have been rolling along pretty much as usual, but inside of me it has been a different story.

Now, a certain amount of anxiety can be useful. For instance, the awareness of time running out can cause anxiety, but it can also be a good motivator. I’m in my sixties, and the awareness that I don’t have forever is part of what gets me up at five or six in the morning and back in front of the work in progress. At the end of my life, there will be a lot of things I will regret not having done or been able to do, most of which are beyond my control to achieve, but at least writing my novels will not be one of them.

When anxiety starts to expand from a twinge to a constant state, however, it negatively impacts everything from work to just plain having fun. It’s even hard to remember what it is you want out of life when you constantly feel like you’re under siege.

This problem started about a year ago, at the end of the third Charlotte novel, when I set myself the task of writing a novella and several other writing-related projects, the kinds of things that indie authors are told they need to do in order to get discovered by more readers. I could understand perfectly well why I had to do these things, and I really, truly felt they were good and achievable ideas. But for some reason, I froze. I went from enthusiastic to overwhelmed. The longer time went on without dealing with these tasks, the more anxious I became. I felt like I was failing. I was able to keep writing my book, but everything else became impossible, even a blog post like this.

While I could still write my novel, it was taking me much longer. This in turn meant longer and harder working days and less time spent on other parts of my life, a perfect recipe for increasing guilt and anxiety. One day, my husband rephrased his ongoing concern about how hard I was pushing myself. I don’t recall the exact words, but for one reason or another they lit up the proverbial light bulb. I was finally able to articulate how things really were for me, about the overwhelm, the sense of failing, and the complete shutdown of everything other than writing the book.

Just acknowledging the existence of anxiety and recognizing the things and situations that cause it has been illuminating–and liberating. It has enabled me to be brave enough to ask for help, and a lot more gracious about accepting help that is offered. It has loosened up my inner gift of gab, too.

During the weeks the current book has been out to my beta readers, I’ve been making some changes in meds, diet, and sleep routines, all to great improvement, and I’ve vowed to stick to them when writing the next book, no matter what.

Most of all, though, there has to be acceptance of things as they are–or at least more acceptance than I previously thought was sufficient. Perhaps the amount and kind of work that I do has to be adjusted. The candle burnt at both ends in decades past won’t work in the current decade, and I’m making changes in my writing process that will hopefully make things a little easier. But the goal is still to write one novel per year.

Anyway, if you’ve made it all the way to here, bless your heart. The next post will be about the new book, which is coming out in December. That’s quite a bit later than I had planned, but a much healthier move than trying to cram too many moving parts into a shorter space of time.

And now I’m going to spend the last two days of my “vacation” fixing up my house, something I’ve been wanting to do for simply ages.

 


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6 thoughts on “Anxiety and the Writing Life

  • Gini Luther

    hi meg, my husband and i just finished a marathon read of your first 3 novels. can’t wait for the 4th installment. we so enjoy this new series of yours and hope you’ll keep them coming for many years to come. very happy to hear you’re taking care of yourself in this stressful process! continued good health

    • Meg Post author

      Hi Gini–wow, a husband-wife team reading my books! Very glad that you find them to your liking. I’ve been getting encouraging reports from the beta readers for the fourth book, so I’m hopeful you’ll enjoy that one, too. 🙂

  • kim domingue

    Bless your heart! I’m staring 60 down it’s throat and am dealing with the anxiety caused by the realization that there are more years behind me than ahead of me. The inner me still feels 25ish but the body it inhabits refutes that illusion on a daily basis. I used to be able to burn the candle on both ends without any noticeable repercussions. Not any more. My body’s retaliation will be swift and harsh for any attempts on my part to indulge in some double ended candle burning! Sigh. Aging ain’t for sissies!

    • Meg Post author

      Hi Kim–I know several people, both men and women, who went through the turning-sixty thing and every one of them said it was much harder than turning fifty–or even seventy, later on. Just something about it. It’s the time for bucket lists while there’s still something left in our bodies to get it done. That being said, my mom, who is 84, still has occasional bursts of productivity that put me to shame! It ain’t over ’til it’s over, Kim 🙂

  • Phyllis Reklis

    I can relate and I support the healthier way to work and live in the decade of the 60’s! A friend of mine was at a conference to OT’s and other health care providers last year. They were told that the 20’s and the 60’s are decades of happiness! I am now 61 and had a very difficult year just after I turned 60..I am pausing, refreshing and resetting mentally, physically and spiritually to embrace happiness and care for myself. In my writing, my life and with my people! It sounds like you are as well. I enjoy your writing and novels and look forward to the upcoming book!

    • Meg Post author

      Hi Phyllis–wow, that was a cheerful comment to read first thing this morning! Thank you 🙂 When I think about it, I’m probably happier now than I was in my twenties, since I’ve got a real clue as to how I want to spend my time and energy now. Back then I was literally a kid in the big candy shop of Everything’s Possible, and found it much harder to make choices and prioritize. Thanks for being a reader and for letting me know. Each and every one of my readers is precious to me!