Your Writing Anxiety - 10 Ways to Bring Relief
Anxiety, apprehension, cold feet, consternation, dismay, distress, dread, fear, fright, horror, nervousness, panic, scare, strain, stress, tension, terror, trepidation, unease or uneasiness: whatever it's called, you've got it.
And the reason is... you've got to write an article!
Writing anxiety or 'writer's block' happens to all writers at some point in their writing lives. It may be that you don't know what to write about or, with your topic firmly in place, you don't know where to start.
At this point, procrastination sets in.
Doing anything, rather than actually writing, seems a whole lot better than putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Even walking the dog, in pouring rain and gale-force winds, has higher priority!
Try some of these ways to restore your writing equilibrium:
1. Avoid starting with a blank page. There's nothing more daunting than beginning from nothing. Work with a template. This will help you to stay focused on your topic. Download and print out some appropriate free graphic organizers from the Internet or use graphic organizer software, like NotateIt, that will help you to rearrange and organise your thoughts in freestyle format.
2. Brainstorm your topic. Take some time out for creative thinking with a friend or colleague. You'll get some new twists on the theme, especially if they're not 'experts' in your subject matter!
3. Write an outline. Just set out a list of headings. They don't even have to be in order - you can always rearrange them later. Write each heading on a separate card or piece of paper and shuffle the result. A new order may emerge that you hadn't thought of, giving you a new slant on your topic.
4. Use a whiteboard. Fix a large magnetic whiteboard on your wall and use it to rearrange your ideas. If a whiteboard on the wall feels too intrusive, try some inexpensive whiteboard software on your PC instead.
5. Break your task down into smaller chunks. From your outline, choose one heading and write. Then go on to another heading and write. It doesn't matter which order you write in, because it can all be rearranged later. Not only that, you're achieving your larger goal in a series of smaller steps and that makes it much more manageable.
6. Write in the way that you speak. It's friendlier to read and it's an easier and more natural way for you to write.
7. Don't worry about perfection too soon. Spell checking, indenting paragraphs, changing font size - this is the icing on the cake. Just let your writing flow and, just for once, forget the grammar. Perfection can come later - at the redrafting stage.
8. Think about your readers in a different way. You may be anxious that your article is not "good enough" to be read by your peers. Remember, even if your audience are "experts", they don't know what you think about your subject. Nor does it mean that they know everything there is to know about a subject area. Target your writing towards an intelligent, enthusiastic, but non-expert, reader and your writing confidence will grow.
9. You've completed your writing. This is your first draft. The secret, now, is to redraft and redraft again. You'd be surprised at just how many things you'll want to say differently when the sun rises tomorrow! Read your article once a day, make changes then put it aside until the next day. In a few days, you'll read your article and find nothing to change. That's when you're ready to publish!
10. Believe in yourself. The first articles you write may not be perfect but the more you write, the better your style will become. It's like learning to walk - all it takes is a little time and lots of practice.
(c) 2005 Lynda Blake
Lynda Blake is a UK freelance writer. Resources used in preparing this article:
Whiteboard Software: http://www.notateit.com
Free Graphic Organizers: http://www.nutsinmay.com