Contesting Anxiety


The most disappointing thing about imagination and writing, for me, is when I need to gather my thoughts away from fantasy, and brace myself so I can face reality again. Creativity is the tool that allows me to be calm and collected in every other aspect of my life.

It’s not surprising to me that taking on a large writing project with a (self-imposed) deadline is freaking me the fuck out and interfering with my artistic zen.

I haven’t written much in the past week. A journal update, and some notes for my work-in-progress were both like pulling teeth. It happens. I don’t have writer’s block. I’m simply overwhelmed, and still adjusting to the current expectations that I’ve set for myself.

But I also didn’t work on any craft projects, and that’s not like me. When I don’t keep my hands busy, or my mind engaged, I feel like I’m vibrating under my skin. I have a very hard time sitting still, and just “being” no matter where I am or who I’m with. There’s this drive in me that I need to be doing something. With my time, with my thoughts, with my energy. Being idle is unacceptable.

I have no idea where this impulse comes from.

It’s something about me that I couldn’t imagine not having as a part of myself, but at the same time is very foreign from my upbringing and spiritual beliefs. It doesn’t make sense.

When I was about six years old, I remember my mother and my older siblings were all seated on the living floor playing Pokeno, and I didn’t realize they were watching me until she randomly started singing One of These Things is Not like the Other from The Muppets. By that age I already knew that reacting without thinking was not a good idea, so we all sat there while she sang and laughed and eventually explained herself. Her justification left something to be desired; my older siblings were all loud (still are) and often had to be reminded to pay attention to the things in front of them several times. But not me. I was quiet, and focused. I was not like my siblings, I did not belong.

It’s a strange memory. I’ve looked at it a lot over the years, particularly when I’ve had a difficult time fitting in or finding comfort in my own skin, and I find myself wondering if she saw something in me then that I didn’t know until years later.

I’m not like anyone I know.

During a crisis, I dive in without thinking and start giving instructions. If something makes me uncomfortable, I try and do it deliberately until the tension dissipates or I become so familiar with it that I don’t notice anymore. I’m the kind of person that listens to loud music if I have a headache, or refuses to nap if I haven’t slept.

I prefer to be mentally engaged rather than bodily encumbered.

(I’m pretty sure these things drive the people closest to me crazy.)

This is contrary to people I grew up around, who often had outbursts before being able to face an issue. My mother faints at the sight of my blood. My father curses until he can think straight, and will spout out the names of his siblings and other children before being able to respond to the person directly in front of him. My friends would cry when confronted with bad news, which is natural, and appropriate, but I’ve found myself curiously considering more than once why does it come so easily for them to react before responding? It’s not natural to me.

Logic rules me. Solve the problem. Emotions and physical concerns can come later. Nothing else is important. Solve. The. Problem.

Unfortunately, now that I’m trying to write a novel, I feel like my approach to obliterating obstacles may be failing me. I can force myself to drive next to semi-trailers on the highway until I acclimate to the trepidation, but what is the equivalent of that method when trying to draw ideas out of the mind into coherent scenes that can be understood by others?

How do I destroy myself as the obstacle, while also maintaining myself as the goal?

Maybe that juxtaposition is what draws me to writing. To write you need to be able to get out of your own way, while simultaneously laying the bricks on the path before you.

I am finding that the hardest part about producing a first draft is not editing as I write. Grammar and spelling errors are simply more issues that need to be dealt with. Problems to be quelled! Leaving them alone is setting my brain on fire…

This week my plan is to limit the time I spend editing to a few minutes before diving into writing again. And repeating the timeless mantra “fix it in post” – something me and my best friend have been saying since college. It’s only a first draft, there’s going to be time edit later! (I love editing… kill the mistakes! Fix the plot holes! Can’t wait to get there.)

I recognize that I am the barrier in this process, and my nature is to throw myself at an obstruction to remove it from my route. However, being both the hurdle and the hero is alien to me. I want to conquer my own misgivings to complete this draft. Hopefully, I will vanquish my fears.

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