I am currently reading Ralph Keyes’ The Courage to Write. It’s not a very long book–203 pages, not counting the notes and bibliography. It was written in 1995 and you can also find it in paperback. I forget where I heard about it. It might have been when I was browsing at Barnes and Noble. Instead of buying books I might not like, I write down the titles and try to get them from the library. Then if I do like them, I buy them, but usually from Amazon or Half.com. I’m not sure if I’m going to want to buy The Courage to Write yet. But so far it seems promising.
Here is an excerpt from page 7:
“I’ve learned that a rising tide of anxiety isn’t necessarily bad. It’s a sign that I’m getting serious. Nervousness keeps me alert. Fear forces me to focus and to work longer hours. Restless nights mean I’m gaining momentum. The end is in sight. Getting there isn’t always pleasant. Neither is running in a marathon. Or staging a play. Or climbing a mountain. All such activities take courage. And all reward those who complete them not only with an unparalleled feeling of achievement but with a thrilling sense of adventure along the way.”
I don’t know about the thrilling sense of adventure, but the part about anxiety makes a lot of sense to me. I suffer from anxiety anyway, about everything. I take medication for it, but it creeps into my psyche several times a day. And it is worse when I’m trying to write. I get so far and then start feeling anxious and can’t continue. Apparently this isn’t as unusual as one might think. But it sure wreaks havoc with my writing career.
If I could just learn to work through the anxiety, I might be able to finish more pieces and even submit them. But I even experience anxiety about writing query letters. The only reason I’m able to write my posts for my blogs is because they don’t feel real. I don’t think anyone is really reading them. So I can make mistakes, write sloppily, even be incoherent and who’s going to know? I almost dread the day when (if) someone lets me know that they’re reading my posts. I wonder if I’ll start experiencing anxiety once that happens and not be able to write them anymore.
Right now the blog posts I write are the only writing outlet I have, besides my journals. I’ve gotten addicted to them. I don’t often write good ones, but every once in a while I think I’ve done a pretty good job and then my spirits soar. But it’s very hard for me to maintain a sense of self-confidence. Especially when I’m working on other things besides blog posts. I’ve started countless essays and I just can’t finish them. I’ve written over 50,000 words of a novel and it’s awful, but I don’t have the guts to start over.
Maybe this book will give me some insight into why I let myself choke so often when I’m writing. I’ll keep you posted.