Writing makes me anxious… What should I do?

If you hang out on Twitter then there’s a high chance that you’re already a good writer. 

Or at least you might not find the prospect of writing terrifying.

It’s true that for some people, and this might be you, a blank page equals motivation for creation.

Rather than fear, you might feel inspiration in the presence of a blank slate full of non-judgemental promise.

If that sounds like you, you’re an outliner.

Most of us don’t feel like that though.

In fact, if you find writing physically painful and akin to torture then you’re probably quite normal. 

At least, you’re probably normal in the sense that this is how lots of other people feel as well. 

The truth is this:

  • Most people feel quite anxious when it comes to writing long-form content, particularly when they’re under pressure.

But there is a way to beat this anxiety.

The first step is to think of writing as a game.

And then you learn to play the game.

First, though, you need to be on the lookout for symptoms of writing anxiety.

For example, you might have writing anxiety if:

  • Your stomach twists up into knots at the thought of writing
  • You sit down to write and you literally feel sick
  • The thought of a blank computer screen or an empty piece of paper fills your heart with dread

You can look out for these symptoms in others as well. But perhaps, though, your symptoms aren’t as severe as this.

You might fall into one of these categories:

  • You’ve been tweeting for years but now you want to extend yourself into writing longer-form content.
  • You’ve never had a good reason to do much writing, but now something has changed in your life – perhaps it’s work, study, or a new project – and you’ve got this strange desire to write
  • You know that other people can write, people that are possibly not as smart or as knowledgeable as you, and you know that if they can do it, then you probably can too.

Perhaps it’s something else that I can’t even imagine.

Whatever the case, many of the people that I’ve taught to write over the years feel some kind of anxiety when it comes to writing.

And it boils down to this:

  • No one ever took the time to teach them a system for writing long-form content (like an essay)

Certainly, no one took the time to show me.

But I figured out a system and I taught my girlfriend at the time (she’s now my wife).

She started acing her classes.

And then I taught her friends.

And then it turned into my job for a while and I taught a whole bunch of people.

Whatever your situation, what you need is a system.

It’s really not that hard.

You can come up with your own system.

Or you can learn someone else’s.

What your system needs to do is break the writing process down into a number of easily achievable steps that you can follow and complete. 

That way you can literally tick off each step along the way.

But you also need some basic aptitude for following instructions and a desire to extend yourself.

And, of course, even when you have a system it won’t automatically mean that you’ll write longer-form content well.

There are no guarantees. 

You have to put in the work.

And it’s up to you to bring the content of your writing to the system.

If you don’t have a system I can show you one.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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