Is It Writer’s Block or Creative Anxiety?

For some people the problem is getting started. Others have trouble maintaining momentum. Still others go along fine until they hit a wall regarding a particular topic or chapter. Commonly referred to as “writer’s block,” this condition seems to affect all writers sooner or later. So what is it really?

A guy named Eric Maisel at dailyom.com offers a course he calls “Creative Anxiety” to help people overcome their roadblocks to writing, art and other creative pursuits. I am not endorsing his course—it may be helpful but I have no personal knowledge about it one way or the other. I’m referencing it because I like the way he’s reframed the writer’s block concept. Creative anxiety precisely describes what I’m hearing from authors here at Write My Memoirs and beyond.

“Many believe that the symptoms below are just ‘part of the creative process,’ but they are actually representative of a deeper, more damaging problem,” Maisel writes on his website. “If left unmanaged, the creative person in question may find that their creative work is too taxing mentally and stop altogether, opting for a ‘less emotionally complicated’ path in life.”

You don’t want a less emotionally complicated life, right? You want to write!

Maisel lists these symptoms of creative anxiety:

  • Procrastination.
  • Avoidance of creative work altogether.
  • Finding excuses to not be marketing your work.
  • Fear of showing your work to the public.
  • Being unable to make a creative decision.
  • Comparing your work to others in an unconstructive way.
  • Feelings of being not good enough.
  • Getting angry when others give you criticism.
  • Feeling depressed if others don’t respond how you’d hoped they would.
  • Consistently not taking advantage of opportunities because your work is “not quite ready yet.”
  • Giving your work away for free, when you know you should be charging.
  • Starting new projects before you’ve finished your old ones.
  • Thinking that other peoples ideas are generally better than yours.
  • Having trouble deciding on what project to tackle.
  • Either talking to others constantly about your creative work (that you’re not actually doing), or avoiding the subject altogether, at all costs.

Do you see yourself in that list? The relevant items I see most in writers are procrastinating, fear that other people won’t think the work is good and losing confidence in being able to determine what to write about. And then I’d add one: generally overthinking the whole writing process. This overthinking comes in the form of spending all day reading articles and books about writing, posting and messaging people in online writing groups, and watching videos about writers and writing. Then all day turns into all week.

The answer is that you have to sit at the computer and write. Edit later, show people later, read up on some fine points later. For a big chunk of the day, you have to write. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the faster you can write and the more confidence you’ll gain. Gradually, your anxiety will fade and the excitement will kick in.