Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Writer & Anxiety, Revisited

Some time ago I wrote a post about anxiety and being a writer. I'd like to revisit the topic, now that I'm out of intensive treatment and things have changed.

Yes, things have changed.

I'm happy to report that a great deal of that anxiety, a lot of the fear, insecurity, doubt and panic that drove me to accomplish things and pushed me to act in panicked hurried ways is gone. I don't think it's left my body, I think there's a weird chemical thing I'm only partially aware of, but it's no longer fueling me day to day.

It's there, I can feel it in the back of my mind if I probe it objectively, but I have no desire to let it be in charge anymore.

How did I do it? I gave up a month of my life and entered an incredibly deep and structured treatment program that I think would benefit everyone, but I know it's not logistically possible. Okay I didn't really give up my life, because I still worked and still communicated with friends, but my focus was only on doing all I had to get better. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to make that decision possible.

What did I learn? I learned that I coped with the world through broken, half-formed tools. I knew the basics, but like a fork missing tines, there was no way I was going to be as fully effective as other people. Sure, in some situations I excelled, but they came at the cost of other situations where I was painfully out of place and out of step.

I won't bore you with the specific tools, readers, but when you think of the suite of tools you use to form opinions, reactions and decisions - it's all those things.

Is this code for you 'you got your head out of your ass'? No, this isn't John-who-is-sorry, this is different. Previously when I was acting like a jerk for a long period of time and sabotaging whatever I put my hands on, I had no reason other than some sort of odd belief that "that's just what I do". That's gone now, replaced with an answer. It's an illness, I receive treatment for it, and my patterns of behavior have changed.

Do you expect me to believe that? Previously, this question would enrage me, upsetting me that I wasn't believed, and would send me racing off to do things to prove-to-you-that-you-can-believe-me, which is just another grandiose way of showing off and acting out: it doesn't help anything. So it's not up to me whether or not you believe me, that's your choice.

How behind are you on work? That's the funny thing - I'm not. I'm up to date on all projects, and even ahead of the curve on 3 of them (Project 72, Night's Black Assassins at Recess and panels at Metatopia).

How has work changed? Okay, sit down for this, if you're not already. I focus on one thing at a time now. I'll say that again.

I focus on one thing at a time now.

Yeah, I used the F word there. Focus. I has it.

Rather than scatter like buckshot across a dozen things and get each partially done, I've learned to focus on on thing at a time, for an appropriate amount of time and move on when completed. Gone are most of the lingering "did I do a good enough job" thoughts and absent are the "what if someone doesn't like this" anxieties.

Name 3 takeaways. Okay, I can do that.
a. I cannot control how people respond to things. That's their choice to react however they are. All I can do is do the best work I can.
b. It's better (not necessarily easy, but totally better) to find what positive you can takeaway from the situation than to find the negatives. Negatives are simple, and if you're down, they seem like giant neon signs. The positives are what you really want to harvest out of the situation, and they might be smaller (comparatively), but find them, and raise them up like baby lions in the Lion King.
c. Be easy on yourself. I've mentioned this before, but it's never been more important. As my visibility climbs, it's tempting to knock myself down all the harder and farther, so that I stay "seated" in the place I was, with the habits I had. Now that I've identified a lot of those habits as not helping, and that I was perpetuating a lot of patterns of less-than-the-best-behaviors, it's easier to get up from that seat and sit at a new table. (Admittedly, the table/seat metaphor got away from me)

I hope this is helpful for some people. For those struggling, it's hard, and it sucks, and I give you my word that if you get help, things will improve. For realsies.

Big shout-out to my new readers. You're awesome, and thank you sincerely for everything.

Happy writing.