Feeling dread without being stopped dead

One of the anti-writing mind-states I am susceptible to is dread, which theMerriam Webster dictionary defines thusly:  “to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face.” Perhaps you have felt this about writing too.

It is a curious thing to feel a profound sense of dread when the anticipated task is just writing some words. I mean, how hard can it be? I could understand it better if I was anticipating say, a waterboard interrogation in Guantanamo, or if I was put in restraints and forced to listen to The Carpenters Greatest Hits album in its entirety….but dread about writing? What’s up with that?

I am not an evolutionary biologist, but I am guessing that writing may, at times, make us tap into a set of rather primitive survival programs encoded in our reptilian brain that have to do with recognizing danger and running for our lives. My personal experience is that it is during the anticipation of writing when these reactions are  most pronounced. The horror is often reduced if we find a way to become engaged in the writing process and handle the challenges one by one.

Our active and excitable minds become easily overwhelmed withimagined unsolvable problems and inflated anticipated terrible consequences. If you can find the gumption to lean into your work, rather than avoid it, during a spell of dread, you have a powerful advantage as a writer. This is not simple because you are employing your puny will to go against millenniums of evolutionary programming, but it can be done.

If you experiment with this approach, you have the opportunity to demonstrate to yourself that your dread’s bark is worse than it’s bite, and you develop greater confidence in yourself as a writer. Secondly, if you stay with it, you move your project along step by step and eventually it doesn’t generate as much dread for you.

Karen Carpenter dreaded Rainy Days and Mondays, but she found a way to turn her pain and angst into a platinum selling album. There is a lot of energy (and bread) in dread – see if you can use it.

About David Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, teacher, consultant, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Common Writing Block Problems, The Blocked Writer's Book of the Dead, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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