Writing, like dying, involves an unavoidable confrontation with the unknown. We don’t know exactly what will happen when we sit down to write. Contemplating the unknown is fertile territory for spawning anxiety, self-doubt, confidence crises, and work avoidance. When anxiety and doubts about your competence arise, memories of previous failures often surface and a sense of dread may engulf you.
One of the problems with anxiety is that it interferes with concentration and short-term memory, both of which are essential to writing. As a result, attempts to write during an anxiety attack may activate false starts, reinforcing your fear that you will not be able to write or write well.
This is when it’s tempting to calm yourself by popping open a beer and checking your Facebook page. Later you feelbad about avoiding your writing, and a sense of failure clouds your psyche. Then you become both anxious and depressed, and it’s an even tougher emotional challenge to face the empty page.
There are many strategies for dealing with the fear of writing. The most important is to establish a regular routine of writing, no matter how brief, so you are keeping your connection with this important part of yourself. When you hit a blank wall and start to spiral up, don’t abandon your writing too quickly. Stay seated and tolerate your uncertainties and fears for a bit longer than you normally would. Teach yourself not to be so completely controlled by these feelings. The practice of learning to experience and tolerate states of discomfort will increase your ability to write in the future.
The encounter with the unknown is where the thrills and gratification lie, as well as the fear. It is where interesting things happen.