How to Overcome Writing Anxiety

Image of woman with writing anxiety
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

I have decided to start this month by sharing some tips that have helped my Writing students and me overcome writing anxiety.

Tip 1: Overcome Resistance

Whenever I think of overcoming resistance, I remember Steven Pressfield, a writer famous for his books on how writers and other creatives can overcome resistance and dive into a sea of creative fulfillment. In this interview with Marie Forleo, he explains the concept further.

According to Pressfield, resistance can take the form of self-doubt, procrastination, self-sabotage, etc. To counter resistance, Pressfield says you must “turn pro” – that is, start treating writing like a job instead of a hobby. 

To turn pro, you must write every day. What you write does not have to be good, but you must write. Once you are in the habit of writing daily, starting new writing projects will be a piece of cake.

An effective method that ensures you write something every day is freewriting, which is the next tip.

Tip 2: Freewrite

Freewriting means to write freely. Hence, it eliminates the pressure to produce a perfect draft. 

So, when you freewrite, your goal is not to produce a perfect material. Instead, you focus solely on putting words on paper. 

It is normal for you to be tempted to edit as you write. Ignore that urge and keep writing. A mantra that helps here is: “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Freewriting will help convert your thoughts into written words. Then, you can adjust the tone, style, organization, etc., of the content to fit your desired goal.

Tip 3: Create an Outline

Image of woman creating a writing outline
Photo by Thirdman

It is easy to have writing anxiety when you cannot visualize the finished product.  By creating an outline, you can peak into the future and see the end before you get there. 

Just like a life plan reduces your anxiety about your future, an outline reduces your writing anxiety.

Tip 4: Find a Sample

Very early in my teaching career, I discovered that no matter how much students understand a writing assignment, they still want to see a sample.

Here’s why: a sample gives you a generic version of your finished product. Think of it as your writing project’s role model. By making the abstract concrete, samples crush writing anxiety.

Tip 5: Stop Procrastinating 

Image of woman procrastinating
Photo by Matilda Wormwood

People procrastinate for different reasons. You must be honest with yourself to find out why you procrastinate. Then, you can attack the problem at its roots. 

In my experience, some writers procrastinate because they always meet their deadlines regardless. I was one of those writers. 

During the first year of my graduate studies, I would confidently procrastinate writing my final papers till the last week of the semester because I enjoyed the thrill of writing three 15-page research papers in a week. Although I always got A’s on those papers, I was not proud of them because I knew I could have produced better versions if I had not procrastinated.

For the students in my Writing classes who fall under this category, the main consequence of procrastinating is that they never reach the peak of their writing potential. Therefore, they procrastinate when they have future writing projects because they struggle to believe they are capable of producing decent drafts.

Here’s how I stop procrastinating:

Step 1: I pick a time I need to have my first draft ready.

Step 2: I tell myself, “Xpm will come whether I write or not. Won’t I be happier if my first draft is ready by Xpm?” Naturally, yes is always the answer.

Step 3: I start making moves that will ensure my first draft is ready at Xpm. 

Remember that inspiration is like pregnancy – you must create the right environment for it to happen.

Good luck!

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