Every writer I’ve ever worked with has specific anxiety trigger points that occur during different phases of the writing process. Some writers are the most anxious while writing the first draft, because everything feels chaotic, messy, and uncertain. Other writers love the first draft phase, but their anxiety kicks in when it’s time to edit. They’re afraid if they change things they’ll end up ruining the story.
Most writers assume that they have so much anxiety around writing because they don’t know what they’re doing, or they’re feeling pressure from the outside to perform or achieve according to someone else’s expectations. While this is true in some cases, it’s not the whole story. The deeper causes of the anxiety we feel as writers comes from the anxiety we feel in our lives overall, and this anxiety is a direct result of living in a society that feeds us the message that we should be in control of everything, at all times.
Well, it’s impossible to be in control of everything all the time. And those who attempt to be in control all the time usually lead lives filled with constant disappointment, fear, and frustration. It’s the same with the writing process. The more you try to plan and predict and control, the unhappier you’re going to be.
This is where the practice of Intuitive Writing can really help.
Intuitive Writing is a writing method that allows you to NOT plan anything. With Intuitive Writing, you feel your way through the story, as the story fragments come to you. It doesn’t matter if pieces of the story come to you out of order, or incomplete or still kind of fuzzy. You just write down what you see in your mind, as you see it, without trying to make sense of it, fit it into some kind of structure, or make something out of it.
It’s the pressure to “make something out of it” that blocks most writers when they’re in the first draft stage. We’re so anxious about how the end product is going to look that we grip on tightly to every part of the creative process, and that suffocates the project. There is literally no room for creativity to come in and surprise us. With Intuitive Writing you commit to trusting the process, and instead of trying to figure everything out as it’s happening, you let go and focus on receiving the pieces of the story as they come in and writing them down, without any expectations about how the process “should” go.
The practice of Intuitive Writing is a practice of showing up over time and seeing what happens. It’s a practice of trusting the characters, and trusting that there IS a story that is revealing itself to you, even if you can’t see all or most of it yet. It’s a practice of trusting yourself as a creative being, and trusting that you ARE the right person to write this story. The story chose you, the characters want to work with you, and you are the person with the exact unique bundle of past experiences and traits needed to understand this special story without judgement and with love and grace.
If you’re new to Intuitive Writing (and perhaps you’ve never even heard of it before), you can start by sitting down and journaling a bit on all the different ways you’ve tried to control your characters and story in the past. When you’re finished journaling, look over what you’ve written and consciously make a commitment to yourself to let it all go. If you’ve really tried to push and pull your characters in different directions and you can feel they’re angry or upset with you about that, then you might even try sitting down and writing them a letter. Tell them that you’re genuinely sorry and that you’d love to move forward with them now in a different way. Make a promise to them that you won’t try to control them anymore, and then make sure you stick to it.
Lastly, be aware that when you begin to work with the Intuitive Writing method, you may feel an increase in anxiety, at first. This is because you were using your control mechanisms around writing to self-soothe the anxiety that was triggered by the uncertainty of the creative process. As you move into a new practice of writing, you will feel very out of control at first, and this can be scary. But as you work with the practice and use Intuitive Writing consistently over time, things will get better, you will learn to trust yourself and the process, and your anxiety will fall away until you feel like you’re in an ease-ful place with your writing.
I know Intuitive Writing works because I was once a scared and anxious writer, and I was frozen for many years. I couldn’t write one word of anything that was inspiring or creative. Now, years later, I use Intuitive Writing as my only method and my entire writing life has changed.
Things can change for you too. But you have to take that first step of trusting enough to give change a chance.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer and The INFJ Revolution. She is also currently offering a free copy of her book on creative marketing for INFJ and INFP writers to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. SIGN UP HERE to get your free copy of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers.