How to write through performance anxiety

Do you have writing performance anxiety?

When you sit down to write, and you let a few words dribble out, do you immediately start judging them, hit the delete key, and put your head down on your keyboard? Does this process of starting-stopping-starting-stopping your writing totally sap your energy and make you want to quit writing, altogether?

Well, then, you’re a completely normal writer. :)

You’re not going to be able to write anything worthwhile if you feel like you’re performing for an audience every time you sit down to write.

When you’re at home or at the office or at a coffee shop writing, no one is watching you, no one is judging you. This is your practice time. Like a violinist, practicing a solo in a sound-proof room, you are an artist, in a safe space. You can write anything you want, and no one will know what you’ve written. You only release your work when you’re ready.

To relieve performance anxiety, here are a few things to try when you sit down to write next. Different things work better for different people, so try one mindset shift, then the next time, try another:

1. Write to yourself.

Explain things to yourself. The same way you would talk to yourself in front of the bathroom mirror, write in that way to yourself. What you’re writing now is just a memo, just a placeholder, something you can return to and revise later. These are simply notes for you to refer to later when you’re doing the “real writing.”

2. Write to one other person.

Pretend like you’re having a conversation with one person. You’re explaining some part of your story or a concept, and you truly want to help that person understand. Believe that this person is on your side, that this person agrees with and empathizes with everything you’re saying. As you’re typing, the person on the other end of the conversation is nodding along and saying, “Yes! Exactly! Go on!”

3. Free write for 5 minutes. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes (yes, 5 minutes, no more than that), and just allow yourself to type as fast as you possibly can for 5 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if you’re making sense. Don’t worry about complete sentences, spelling, grammar, structure, or anything. Your one goal is to type faster than you can think. Even doing just 5 minutes to get your motor started will work every time.

Click below to watch my more in-depth video explanation. If you’re struggling to work around your performance anxiety in your writing, take the next 15 minutes to watch this video:

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If you like this video format, you should download the Periscope app onto your phone and follow me @MorganGMac. I scope at least five days a week, all about writing motivation, inspiration, and advice.

What about you? Do you feel anxiety when writing?