Since I sent my manuscript off to my editor I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety. This is unusual for me, a feeling I’m not accustomed to. It has given me a fresh insight into how difficult it must be to deal with this kind of uneasiness all the time.
I was worried that my editor would tell me I couldn’t write, that my book was confusing and I hadn’t found my voice. It felt like I was opening my soul to a stranger who would find me annoying, self-absorbed or, maybe worst of all, boring.
To get me through the past two weeks of anxiety I’ve told myself that it takes bravery to be vulnerable. If it was easy then anyone could do it. Feeling exposed is part of being an artist, and a part I need to get used to.
When I got my editorial report this weekend, none of my fears were realised. My editor had encouraging and supportive things to say and the revisions I need to do are mostly around content — parts of the story that need clarification or more information. Every thing she mentioned I had already guessed, I just needed an outside opinion to stop me filling in all the blanks and leaving no room for the reader to interpret my story in their own way.
Now, instead, I worry what will happen if my book ever makes its way into the world. I run the risk of readers finding me cold, calculating and selfish. Some will feel my ex/late husband’s greatest misfortune was to be married to me. Others will scorn the narcissistic nature of writing a memoir at all. Those who don’t like what they read will complain the loudest.
I searched the Internet for some advice. This is what I found that helps.
Sometimes new writers raise their uneasiness around writing memoir. They worry the form is self-indulgent. My response is to gently pose the question, ‘Why not indulge the self through writing?’ If this activity leads to greater self-awareness, insight and a deepening of compassion towards oneself and the people and creatures we share this planet with then why not work on a memoir. If we can then transform our experience into a story that reads well and connects with its reader then surely the memoir is a valid and worthwhile art form. ~ Deborah Shepard
Duckfish says I’m a fragile artist who will always feel anxious about something. I’m beginning to think this is true.
15 thoughts on “Anxiety”
I love reading true stories about people’s lives as usually I can relate, even if only in a very small way, in one way or another. I find it encouraging to know that others have/do feel the way I do sometimes. That I’m not alone in this crazy world. I’ve never thought of a true story as self-indulgent but rather an act of courage sharing one’s life in the form of a book.
I’m not sure I know exactly what the word anxious feels like but I’m betting I’ve felt it, even if not recognising that that’s what it was. And I bet that everyone, at some stage, has felt it too. We’re lucky I guess we only feel it every now and then whereas others feel it every single day and just getting through that one day is a struggle for an anxious person.
Thanks for such a lovely comment about courage rather than self-indulgence.
I agree that it must be so tough to have to struggle through every day — we are blessed to only have bouts of worry.
I enjoy reading stories of other people’s lives, and biographies, – I can usually relate to parts of it! It’s partly the curiosity side of me!!! I respect everyone’s opinions, truths and ideas (even if different from mine), and it’s great to know how other people tick!
The thing I’m MOST anxious about is my driver anxiety! I do drive, I do have a full licence. But big city driving involving changing lanes and merging terrifies me! I also hate busy intersections in cities, and also if I have to say turn right, (with a wait in the middle) onto a busy road with many lanes. If I DON’T go in a split second I can the car behind me toots abuse, if I DO go, a car coming may toot me for pulling out in front as they had to slow! And my heart rate goes up fast, I get clammy and feel terrified. I may make a bit of progress, but then a toot which sets me back, (never an accident luckily). Country roads and smaller towns are fine! One mistake in busy traffic can kill or hurt others, that thought terrifies me!
Thanks Pip — I get anxious driving too — most of all because I’m out of practice.
I love true stories and will look forward to reading yours. I also like the message that writing a memoir can help strengthen compassion towards yourself. Makes me more enthusiastic about writing my own. All the best. 🙂
Thanks Sandra, I’d encourage you to write your own as well. It is surprising how many things you find out about yourself that you didn’t know.
No self indulgence about it. My favourite reads are Biographies/Memoirs & true stories, just look at my book shelf. I don’t mind fiction but it has to be good to beat real life. I do like reading other types of books, but true stories are my favourite. Anxiety, yes, it comes from my need to be perfect. I know I’m not and never will be and that is ok. Sometimes anxiety can be a tool to help us push ourselves just that little bit further. E xx
Someone once said that anxiety and excitement feel exactly the same. Perhaps I’m just excited 😀
I’ve had more problems with anxiety in the last few years and I’m only just really getting a handle on it. Most of the time I’m anxious about things that only time can relieve me about and that’s probably the worst, the waiting and wondering. I just take deep breathes and tell myself ‘things will be okay’.
I really like personal accounts, particularly those of ‘normal’ people rather than memoires belonging to celebrities. They’re reminders that we’re all human and that we’re not perfect. The woman who wrote Julia & Julia (the one they turned into a film) wrote a second book in which she admitted to an adulterous relationship, and she really opened up about a lot of things that I’m certain were hard to admit in something that was going to be published. While I did question her infidelity, I also admired her for the courage to be honest and to have no shame at her actions. Your story has a lot to offer to a reader, and if they refuse to see it in any way but negative, that’s their problem. Plenty of other readers will be able to appreciate it. Like even the most acclaimed book, there will always be haters, and haters hate. But book lovers are just as quick to praise a good read and spread the good word 🙂
Thank for the info about Julia Powell’s book — it sounds fascinating. You’re right about all kinds of readers — I guess we don’t all like the same things in any area of life x
I think we like hearing other people’s stories. This is why we read blogs.
The good thing about a blog is that people’s stories come out bit by bit.
PS check out new blog xx
Thanks Cilla — new blog checked out!
I’m currently working on my own memoir, and I had the same fear of seeming self-indulgent. I still have that fear. But I personally love reading memoirs and admire the bravery of the people who publish them for the whole world to read.
I’m fascinated by other people’s stories. True stories inspire me, and that’s exactly what I’m ultimately hoping to achieve with my memoir—I want it to inspire people.
I’m looking forward to reading your work Madison. Let me know if you have any questions about the process of writing 😀
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