On Writing and Free Floating Anxiety

 June 20, 2014

“If you went into a government lab to design a program to instill anxiety and neurosis, you couldn’t do much better” John Scazi wrote about the writing process. So that explains it? That explains this free floating fear, this muted terror. It’s not fear for the future, fear that at fifty-seven I have already out-lived my usefulness; that I will never be gainfully employed again and will live out my days in destitution finally descending to a state sponsored old folks home.

No, it’s the natural response to the writing process that promotes anxiety and neurosis. So I’m normal in my neurosis! I was blaming it on life circumstances but in reality, writing is to blame. So nice to have something to cast blame on.

There’s a reason why the anxiety is free-floating. Who would pay to have this? It comes free of charge even to those who do not seek it out or desire it in any form. In the writer it takes the shape of self-doubt and wondering, do I even have the right to claim the name?

On one level writing is a solitary venture, on another level it requires people. We may write in isolation claiming it is for our eyes only, but then there comes the desire to have what we have written be validated and we need other people for that.

We writers are an intriguing group of people. We are stubbornly independent, insisting on our “artistic vision,” yet we crave the validation that comes from people reading and liking what we write. It’s a crazy making proposition. Can we have it both ways? I’ve noted that the posts in a writer’s enewsletter that tend to create the most buzz are the ones that deal with these issues; ones related to struggles with our creative muse, wondering what makes a writer a writer and fear of being a sham.

I both agree and disagree with Scazi’s statement. Not every writer is a tortured soul, hiding out in a cabin in the woods far away from social contact, becoming more paranoid with each passing day of isolation (think Jack Nicholson in The Shining). However we all have our own personal demons. Writing has a way of bringing them to the surface where they dance on the key board in front of us demanding that we take notice.

Writing is also a social activity. Even in our hide-aways we take people with us. We need to be rooted in reality in order to write words that connect with others on more than a superficial level. And we need people to let us know when we are off base, allowing our creative muse to lead us too far off the beaten path of reality, or just to let us know when what we have written is crap.

So, yes, it can be a source of neurosis and anxiety, but it also can be healing, give us insights into ourselves and our world that can ward off such neurosis.

What do you think? Do you agree with Scazi?

And, for those of you who have a blog, I have been invited to participate in a blog tour. I have not done this before, nor do I know who is orchestrating this tour or exactly how it works. I just know I was invited and it seemed like a good idea. All I need do is answer four questions on writing on June 30 and then find three other writers who want to be part of the tour to submit a post the following week on July 7. If you would be interested in participating, please let me know.

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