You just put the last stitch on that manuscript. You look at it, so pretty in your word processor. It is yours, you have given birth to it. You have spent the last months, come hit the key and you have finally achieved it. It hasn’t been an easy road, has it? The first draft was rubbish, then the fixes came and after months of proofreading and rewriting you’ve finished it. It is ready to ship. What is that? A slight tremor in your hand, a shadow of doubt crosses your face… You are sold, the trembling has just entered you: the writer’s anxiety.
It does not matter if it is your first or your fifth novel. Is there. It stalks you.
It keeps happening to me. Every time I finish ghost writing something I get shaky. It doesn’t matter if you write 60,000 words a month, month after month – which would make you the Marathon man of writing – the writer’s anxiety will still be there. It is part of our DNA. Every time we finish writing something we feel insecure.
As far as I know, all authors suffer from these kinds of insecurities. If you do not feel identified with this article, two things may happen: that you are a sociopath or that you are a genius. As I do not believe in the second, so the most likely thing is that you need urgent help. Do not worry; there are excellent doctors out there, you just have to ask for help.
If like me, writing has become completely necessary, there are some things that can help you overcome that writer’s anxiety. As Robert Maurer says in The Kaizen Method, you have to surround the reptilian part of your brain so as not to awaken fear.
Overcome Writer’s Anxiety:
1. Admit that you suck:
I have already told you about this in this blog. I told you that you are a bad writer and in case you forgot, my colleague Rafa de la Rosa, he repeated it and told you that you are a shit writer.
If with all this you still think that no, that you are the host and you write like angels, think about this: even Chuck Palahniuk sucks and you are no better than him – no kidding, come on.
The same as me. That I am a bad writer. I’m surely worse than most of you. I’m such a bad writer that I don’t even know why I bother to keep writing.
Any writer thinks his texts are bullshit. Every time you sit in front of the blank word processor, you get the funk and you think that everything you write is shit. For some it will only be a moment, a blink, before they start typing like crazy. For others, it may take months before they can recover.
Disgust is the worst blockage. It doesn’t matter what part of the process you are in. Doubts can assail you when you have 20,000 words or when you are starting to shape your idea. You’ll always have a bastard goblin who will whisper to you, “That’s bullshit, buddy.”
Do you want to know what the trick is? Get over it and learn to live with it. Skip your audience. Of course I want them to read and buy my books, however, I do not write for them. You have to learn to outdo your readers — skip them, if you don’t even know them — write that novel for yourself. Write because you have fun, are passionate about it, or because you want to show yourself that you can do anything.
If people like and read you, fine. And if they don’t like it, screw them. Write another and see what happens.
When this phase overtakes you —something that usually happens when you read certain articles in which certain writers are given bareback blowjobs like that — think that Lovecraft, who today is designated as the REVOLUTIONARY OF TERROR, was reviled in his time . Nobody read him, nobody knew him, he wrote for a magazine and it was never nobody. In life, Lovecraft did not know how to overcome his readers and that is why he had great periods of blockage, he needed recognition and when he did not get it, he went into depressions that kept him away from writing for years.
With this, I intend to tell you clearly that readers have no criteria. So forget about the readers, the reviewers and the critics. Fuck them in the ass. You write for yourself and leave it to others.
2. Write something else:
I love writing articles for my blog — it’s one of the things I enjoy the most — I like writing columns, and I’m really looking forward to writing a non-fiction crime book — another topic I’m passionate about. When I put down my literary texts and start with other things, my head rests. If I tell you the truth, I notice the decompression, my body temperature drops by about 5º.
I have a lot of fun writing columns and articles. Even the reviews amuse me – and they also give me books, so it’s a win / win. The columns and articles relax me, I don’t have that pressure to think about the plot and the characters. Also, I don’t have to be aware of each comma, nor do I have to spend months reviewing and loading 5,000 words so that the story does not get out of hand.
If you don’t have a blog, you can also opt for the micro-stories. Cris Mandarica and Esther Magar do it wonderfully on Twitter — and on their blogs, too. Play with 50 or 140 words. Try different things.
If you are starting, forget about writing a novel, it is impossible. It’s like trying to win the Monaco GP the same day you get your driving license. Start with stories, learn the techniques, gain muscle and never lose sight of your goal.
Remember: The eye of the tiger.
3. Get up and do something:
If you spend the whole day in front of the computer doing nothing, you will have nothing to say. Now, now, you are Mondonguer, the hero everyone is talking about in Azeroth… Seriously, get up from your chair and do other things.
Those who have family and jobs outside the home have it easier. There are always millions of things to do: sweep, clean the desk, go for a walk, go out to drink with friends … If you want to keep your mind active, you have to keep your body active too.
If your thing is to spend half an hour staring at the blank screen, close Word and get on Twitter or World of Warcraft until your body can endure … there is a good chance that your neurons will rust.
eye! Don’t go overboard either. Going out and doing other things can become the perfect excuse to procrastinate and that’s not what we want, is it? Don’t get lost, stay focused.
Again, remember: The eye of the tiger.
4. Write every day … more or less:
Last year after finishing my second novel – La Carne y la Sangre – I locked myself in my work and stopped writing. I barely finished a couple of stories in over seven months. The longer he went without writing, the less desire he had. I started many things and they were all left half, forgotten on the hard drive.
When I sat down to write a couple of months ago, I was rusty, it was hard for me to get the words out.
Luckily this has taught me something very valuable: Never stop. It’s like looking for work; if you don’t stay active, if you don’t move, you stop. And when you stop, everything is over, the quicksand will swallow you.
Stopping is very easy. Saying that you are very busy, that you do not have time to write is very simple, it also comforts you. You like to lie to yourself and you know it. And I am not telling you that you are not involved, of course you are and sometimes it will be really impossible to write. But others…
Everything that keeps you away from writing will eventually become a habit. It will be much easier for you to let yourself go and, in the end, you will leave it forever. In time the fountain of ideas will dry up.
I also have many days when I don’t feel like writing. But I have managed to overcome my lazy streak. First of all I created the Facebook group to write 500 words a day- although it hasn’t happened in a long time, I keep writing, guys. There will be days when you will not have the desire or time to write. I also have a solution for that: open what you were writing and read a bit, make a couple of changes to the draft. Save and go do what you want.
It will seem like bullshit, but it works for me. It keeps me in writing mode, even when I don’t feel like writing. Many days after struggling with edits, corrections, and articles, I don’t feel like writing, but before I sit down to read, I open my manuscript and make some changes to it. Sometimes I write 50 words, sometimes I end up adding 2,500.
It works for me.
5. Repeat with me: Nobody gives a shit what you do:
Philosophically, I’m a nihilist — surprise! You who read me should already know. I have a natural inclination to give a shit about everything and I think that in this world nothing really matters. And since nothing matters, you have carte blanche to do whatever comes out of your balls — ha-ha!
You can do whatever you want with your life, you can even decide to starve yourself as an artist. The thing is, nobody cares if you’re an artist or a swallower. Well, sure your mom, your grandmother and your boyfriend think you are the best artist alive. But for the rest of the world you don’t exist.
This way of thinking can make your existence bitter. What will lead you to block yourself and blame the universe – bitterness leads to blocking, blocking fear and fear is the way to the dark side. There is a quote from Werner Herzog that goes very well with all of this:
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. The world is not to blame that you have decided to be an artist. The universe doesn’t have to like your movies and the world doesn’t have to pay for your dreams. Nobody cares about your miseries. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work.
Nobody cares what you do. It’s your job to make them care. In short, if you want to write a novel, you better be optimistic. Yes, yes… Most of us are not, and it sucks to stay optimistic when you’re in the middle of a manuscript and you break out in the sweat of death.
But you have to get over it. Even if nobody cares. You have to stop complaining and move on.
Well … These are the things that work for me – that by now you will have seen that I am quite special. I have managed to overcome a year of drought. I have overcome the blockage, being burned out … I am with the last revision of what I hope will be my next novel and I am in another manuscript with 70,000 written words.
In the end, you have no choice but to love what you write, believe in what you do and pray that you are not the only one doing it.