Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it;
write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.
– Jesse Stuart
Last week on the train, I sat across from an artist drawing in his sketchbook. As I secretly watched, I admired how absorbed he was in his work.
He drew as if no one was watching.
But the moment he realized that someone was looking, he shifted his sketchbook to his lap and turtled.
We know that feeling: performance anxiety.
People are watching? How can I write if I know people are going to read it? Too…much…pressure… I don’t wanna I don’t wanna I don’t wanna I don’t wanna…
For the full effect, sit on the floor, cross your arms and pout.
There’s the shakes, the nausea, the sweats, the tripped words. But the worst part is that it compromises your Voice, that fearless authenticity that made people read your stuff in the first place. Counterproductive irony at its finest.
Performance anxiety won’t go away on its own. You have to face it.
Which could give you a nice diversion from writing in the first place. Win-Win!
Ask, then answer “Why?”
Close your eyes and find out what’s making you so nervous. Dig deep. Every self-doubt that makes putting your authentic voice out there for the world to see—drag those little suckers out in the open. Give them no place to hide.
Take away their power to sit on your shoulder and whisper fear in your ear. Know your bugaboos, then draw a battle plan to shut them up.Get a shrink if you have to.
“…the act of basically writing for no one but your computer’s hard disk – giving yourself permission to put words on a page without thinking about who they’re for…”
I love this concept. Your computer’s hard drive is the perfect audience because it doesn’t judge. All it does is store your work.
And it doesn’t even matter if you’re a Mac or PC devotee. See? Non-judgmental.
Go back to when writing was fun.
Reconnect with that little voice that first said, “Yeah, I wanna do this some more and it’s gonna have aliens and fluffy teddy bears and fluffy teddy bear beating up the aliens and slime running down my little brudder’s head and e-e-e-e-bbryting.”
Revisit pencil and paper again. Better yet, make it pen and paper so you can’t erase what you put down.
Step away for a bit.
Regardless of what hyper-productive writing gurus say, a little time away from the keyboard won’t kill you. Take a moment, a day, a week if you want. A month even. But give yourself permission to step away and come back with a fresh outlook.
I took a day off and drew some of my rubber ducks (see above). And I drew when no one was watching.
Just make it for a predetermined amount of time. And when that time is up, get your tail back to writing. Otherwise it’s just wussing out. 😉
How do you keep your momentum going to get through performance anxiety?