Tag: anxiety


Survival Tip #3: Stillness

I’m finding it very difficult to focus. No sooner do I sit down to do one thing that I jump up and have to do another. Partly, I suspect, this is due to anxiety. Its hard to relax when people around you are suffering. But partly it’s because there is a steady stream of things calling for my attention, and everything has become more time-consuming and difficult. Tonight I teach my first Novel Draft class of the semester, and I’m always particularly partial to new classes. I love meeting new students. I love hearing their stories. I love telling my stories, and the great thing about a new class is they haven’t heard them before. I’m sure the whole thing will go well, and yet I have this steady undercurrent of anxiety. I’m going to have 14 faces staring at me from a screen. How do I get them to know each other, and like each other? There was a book I wanted to show them, but I couldn’t go to the library. Usually I have lots of hand-outs, but I can’t get to a photocopier, so I’ve downloaded them and will share them on Zoom. But what if I […]

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Queen of the Last Minute

 I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. I never do today what I can put off for at least a week. I’m the kid who wrote the book report the night before it was due, the college student who pulled an all-nighter studying for an exam at eight the next morning, the woman who leaves the house five minutes before she’s supposed to be at church and slides into the pew as the opening notes of the processional hymn ring out. My motto could be, “There’s no time like the nick of time.” I am the Queen of the Last Minute. Occasionally, my procrastination is born of passive aggression. If I have to go someplace I don’t want to go to or do something I don’t want to do, I’m in no hurry about it. Mostly, however, I procrastinate to stave off anxiety. The less time I have to think about a task, the less time I have to obsess over the infinite number of ways things could go wrong. If I finish the paper right before I turn it in, I don’t have time to fret over how terrible my writing is, how shallow my analysis is, how flat my characterizations are, how many semicolons I misplaced. If I study right before the exam, I don’t have time to ruminate on how much I don’t know, how much I forgot of what I knew, how much smarter everyone else is than me. If I slip into my seat at the last minute, I don’t have time to notice how awful my hair is, how frumpy my clothes are, how fat/short/ugly I am, how everyone is staring at me. The modern, rational part of my brain knows my writing isn’t that bad, I’m not that dumb, and no one’s laughing at me. But the ancient, animal part of my brain, the part that’s riddled with self-doubt and fueled on nightmares and angst, tries to shout down the rational part of my brain every chance it gets. So, I try not to give animal brain a chance to sabotage me. By procrastinating, I try to trick animal brain into thinking I’m not doing anything, then, when it drops its guard and goes to the fridge for a snack, I rush to the goal line. But, ironically, I’m not good at doing nothing. Doing nothing at all induces guilt. The Protestant Work Ethic is strong in this one. I take that whole idle mind, devil’s workshop thing way too seriously. So, to combat the guilt, I procrastinate creatively. I avoid working on the task I most need to accomplish by working on other tasks that could just as well wait. Manuscript deadline? Clean the bathroom! Speech to write? Grocery shopping! Blog post due? Vacuum! Death to dust bunnies! I’ve rearranged bookshelves, cleaned out basements, sorted stationery, reorganized sewing boxes until the last minute-bell chimed. No more procrastinating. Animal brain be quiet. It’s do-or-die time. A little caffeine, a lot of adrenaline, and I’m off. Are you a procrastinator? Or do you finish things well ahead of when they’re due? What are some of your cleverest ways to procrastinate? Tell us in the comments or join us on Facebook.

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Serial Summer

This is the Summer of my Submission, which is to say this is the summer when my fabulous agent is working to sell my new mystery novel and I am working very hard to manage my anxiety. I considered taking up drink, and have not ruled it out entirely, but for the time being I’m channeling my anxiety into writing short stories. Which is to say I am now in the midst of writing four short stories.   I’ve never done anything like this. Usually I’m a very focused one-at-a-time sort of person. I explore, I take notes, I cogitate, I excavate and then hopefully something emerges. But at the moment I’m more in a machine-gunning frame of mind. I’m spewing one idea after another onto the page, and it’s sort of fun. Perhaps it’s the writing version of going onto Tinder and dating four guys in one week. (I can hear my son groaning as I write that sentence.) One of the most exciting parts of this speed-writing is that I’m developing characters I normally wouldn’t write about. One particular one that intrigues me is the daughter of a serial killer. I’ve always been interested in what it would be like to be related to someone truly evil. Could you be a good person and have those genes inside you? Would you worry all the time that something evil might emerge or would you just shut the whole thing down, and not think about it at all? Would you love your father? Would you visit him in jail? Would you hesitate to get married because you’d worry that your children would be evil?  So many questions! Which is always a good thing. One thing I absolutely know is what her name will be, but I’ll write more about that tomorrow. Stay tuned.     

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