How I Deal With Performance Anxiety
Creative people will experience it at some time or another. A deep gut reaction preventing them from starting a project, completing it or worse, making them perform poorly. The later becomes a self fulfilling prophesy that they aren't talented enough.
This deep gut feeling brings a sense of impending doom. A warning to not proceed because danger lies there. Anxiety driven decisions follow which feel deceptively right. 'Do it tomorrow', anxiety says or 'Have something to eat'. If strong enough to ignore this horribly uncomfortable feeling, the constant thoughts of 'Is this good enough,'accompanied with feelings close to panic, while doing the task, can undermine the ability to finish. Because anxiety driven thoughts are dominating the creative part of the brain, it lowers the quality of what can be produced.
Unfortunately this anxiety can become worse the more proficient people become at their craft. More knowledge means anxiety can judge more harshly. Work that is a baby waiting to grow up can be tossed aside as useless because it hasn't arrived fully formed. Judging has to happen after the work is produced so that it can be refined and developed further. But performance anxiety, armed with knowledge, disparages the seedling for not being a fully bloomed rose.
I have asked myself the question, if I did this before, surely I can do it again. But asking questions is dangerous because anxiety will answer. It will say, that past success was luck, you can't do it again. This time is different and you won't be able to do it again. Blahhh. That's enough of that.
I've tuned to inspiring writing quotes, and I've seen a lot in my ten years of writing. They have their place but when it comes to performance anxiety there really aren't any that help me. But the words of prolific romance author, Maisy Yates, stayed with me. I heard her speak about her writing life at a Romance Writers of Australia conference. She said that she protects her joy of writing because her writing supports her family. That is the clue that led me to finding a practical way to get the words flowing. Remember the joy.
What I did, is remember how good it felt to be sitting and typing at my desk. How amazing it is to me that something that never existed before is now here. I don't communicate with my performance anxiety, I shift my focus away from worry to what I enjoy doing. A simple remembrance of a time I was enjoying my writing seems to beat that performance anxiety energy. Joy is powerful, it has energy changing properties. It builds a desire to turn on my computer and sit in the chair and start typing.
It's the process of being at my computer and typing that I like. I enjoy being a writer and eventually there will be a story. The baby will be refined and edited and even grow up into something surprising. I don't think about if it will sell, if I will like it. I stay in the present and enjoy writing. Eventually the characters start to take form in my mind and they starts to say and do things like I'm watching a movie. I'm typing as fast as I can so that I catch it and bring it into the physical world where it can be shared with others.
This brings me to the other element that helps keep me coming back to my computer. That writing my stories instead of letting them just play out in my head means I'm sharing them with others. It's an act of generosity to tell stories and that energy is loving. It matters that I am willing to share and have made a contribution. It's my contribution for others to enjoy or not, that doesn't matter really, only that I was willing to let something of my creation go out into the world.
Being an author means I will not be liked by everyone. I can't know exactly how much pleasure my work might bring to other people or for how long, but that's not my concern. Writing the stories is my business, and I enjoy doing it.
My next project is to start the second draft of a story about a girl born into a musical family. When her mother dies she is sent to live with her grandmother in another state. Now grown up she's come home after inheriting her father's nightclub.
However, she discovers the guitarist from her father's band has already made a home there and expects her to sell it to him. She finds out that he's become the adopted son her father always wanted.
This romance explores how our sense of home informs our identity. It isn't just a place on a map but a place that holds the secrets of who we think we are.
I'm going to enjoy developing this story and bringing it into the day light. It's the joy of creating that is going to bring me to my keyboard, open the file and pick up where I left off each day.
Dora Bramden writes heart melting, passionate romance.
5/5/2019 09:54:09 pm
Brilliant blog, Dora. Anxiety is rife among writers. Your blog is uplifting and motivational. I'm going to share it.
5/6/2019 02:52:10 pm
Spot on! Thanks for expressing this common feeling which I think many writers experience at some stage. I'm one of Serena's writers and I must thank her for this link to your blog. Good luck with your new project - sounds like you have a very clear and awesome plot.
5/7/2019 04:55:25 am
As a new writer, your words connected with me on so many levels.
Dora, what a lovely, inspirational, heartfelt blog. I could relate to so much you have said here. Thank you for sharing at a time when I needed to hear these words myself. Anxiety is a scary monster and a dreadful enemy of the creative mind. Sending you healing hugs and blessings. May the words flow through your love of writing.
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Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.