More Confessions by An Anxious Writer

I can’t decide which makes me feel more anxious—receiving accolades for my work, or heavy doses of rejection and harsh criticism.

I was reminded of my ability to make myself miserable either way this past week.

In the accolades department, I learned that my novel, DEADLY SETUP, received  the NYC Book Big Award in the young adult category. Of course, I was excited and thrilled! But guess what else lurked in the back of my mind? “Oh dear, pressure. Does this mean I’m supposed to produce award-winning work? What if my next project doesn’t measure up?”

Can you believe I can turn good news into an anxiety-producing event?

The same goes for folks rejecting my writing or harshly criticizing it. The day after I received news about the award, a writer friend sent me a critique of my latest project. It needed total revision and restructuring, he asserted. In his critique, I could not find one positive thing he said about my manuscript.

Part of me was annoyed. Didn’t the guy know that you can always find something positive to say about someone’s work, and it’s never helpful to be totally negative?

But I was also devastated, even though several other readers had found plenty of positive aspects about my draft.

Okay, okay, I know I probably need therapy to address my anxieties about other people’s opinions about my writing. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling insecure. Our creative work feels so personal, and I view putting it out there for public consumption much the way I used to feel about going onstage as a dancer—it’s risk-taking behavior in which we voluntarily make ourselves vulnerable.

What does help me manage my anxiety is to focus on the actual work. When I immerse myself in the fictional worlds of my characters, the external stuff recedes. I’m too involved in the process to worry about the judgments of others.

So, time to get back to my writing. And probably some more therapy as well!

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