Fiction Writing Made Easy

#138: How To Manage Your Creative Anxiety With Rhonda Douglas

April 16, 2024 Savannah Gilbo Episode 138
#138: How To Manage Your Creative Anxiety With Rhonda Douglas
Fiction Writing Made Easy
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Fiction Writing Made Easy
#138: How To Manage Your Creative Anxiety With Rhonda Douglas
Apr 16, 2024 Episode 138
Savannah Gilbo

“Writing is a creative project. It's not an earthquake, but the thoughts and the worries can feel similar. If I can have a positive association or feel prepared for an earthquake, surely I can do that for writing.” - Rhonda Douglas

Ever found yourself staring at the blank page, trying to write but unable to find the right words? You’re not alone! Tune in to hear Rhonda Douglas share strategies for managing creative anxiety and writer’s block.  Here’s a preview of what’s included

[01:29] What is creative anxiety and how does it commonly show up?

[12:13] The difference between preventive vs. curative measures for dealing with creative anxiety and some examples of each that you can implement in your routine

[32:21] Dividing the writing process into smaller segments, such as outlining part one of your book or focusing on just one paragraph, can help you overcome creative anxiety

[38:24] I adored Rhonda's insight in this episode about proactively addressing creative anxiety before it even kicks in during your writing sessions. It's such a brilliant notion! Plus, the beauty lies in how personalized this approach can be for each writer. Whether it's a quick meditation session, setting up a cozy ambiance with a flickering candle, or simply brewing a comforting cup of tea while rounding up your favorite snacks, the options are endless!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Read this episode's blog post here! 

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“Writing is a creative project. It's not an earthquake, but the thoughts and the worries can feel similar. If I can have a positive association or feel prepared for an earthquake, surely I can do that for writing.” - Rhonda Douglas

Ever found yourself staring at the blank page, trying to write but unable to find the right words? You’re not alone! Tune in to hear Rhonda Douglas share strategies for managing creative anxiety and writer’s block.  Here’s a preview of what’s included

[01:29] What is creative anxiety and how does it commonly show up?

[12:13] The difference between preventive vs. curative measures for dealing with creative anxiety and some examples of each that you can implement in your routine

[32:21] Dividing the writing process into smaller segments, such as outlining part one of your book or focusing on just one paragraph, can help you overcome creative anxiety

[38:24] I adored Rhonda's insight in this episode about proactively addressing creative anxiety before it even kicks in during your writing sessions. It's such a brilliant notion! Plus, the beauty lies in how personalized this approach can be for each writer. Whether it's a quick meditation session, setting up a cozy ambiance with a flickering candle, or simply brewing a comforting cup of tea while rounding up your favorite snacks, the options are endless!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Read this episode's blog post here! 

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Speaker 1:

The things I don't have control over. I'm just not going to spend time worrying about them, and one of the things I tell myself is I don't have control over that. That's okay.

Speaker 2:

I don't have control over that. And.

Speaker 1:

I set it aside. That does take some practice. I'm not going to. I didn't wake up, I wasn't born like. Being able to set that aside, Totally Knowing that you can't control it to extent just makes it that much easier, because you do everything that you can and then you just release it.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So, whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started.

Speaker 2:

In today's episode, I have a really special treat to share with you. I'm sharing my conversation with Rhonda Douglas, who is the founder of First Book Finish and the host of the Resilient Writers radio show. Rhonda is a creative coach and writing mentor who specializes in helping women writers overcome their fears and write with ease and flow so that they can finish their books and build the writing life of their dreams. And in today's episode, we are talking about creative anxiety, so what it is, how it shows up for writers and, most importantly, how we can deal with it when it does show up. So you're going to hear some of our favorite strategies for dealing with all those feelings that come up, that create writer's block and resistance.

Speaker 2:

I won't make you wait any longer. Let's go ahead and dive right into my conversation with Rhonda Douglas. Hey, rhonda, thank you so much for coming on the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. I'm so thrilled to have you here. I'm so happy to be here. It's great to chat with you. Yeah, I'm so happy to have you here too. I already introduced you in the opening of the episode, but in your own words. Can you just tell my listeners who you are and what you do?

Speaker 1:

Sure, so I am a poet. I'm an award-winning poet and fiction writer. I live in Ottawa, canada, with my cocker spaniel, mr Darcy, and I'm also the host of the Resilient Writers radio show and at resilientwriterscom I help writers, particularly women writers, finish their books and finally get them out into the world so they can have a writing life they love love that.

Speaker 2:

I love that mission so much. And we're gonna have to talk about the Cocker Spaniel, mr Darcy, offline because my listeners know I'm a huge dog nerd but I love your podcast, so we're gonna link to all of that in the show notes. But the reason I wanted to have you on the show today is that on an episode of your podcast you talked about creative anxiety and I loved how you broke everything down, so what it is, how it shows up for writers and maybe most importantly, how we can deal with it when it does pop up. And this subject hit close to home for me because I'm someone who has dealt with generalized anxiety for over half of my life at this point, and I know that many of my listeners deal with anxiety, especially when it comes to their writing and their creative projects, so I'm very excited to dig into this topic.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's funny. You know, I didn't think I had anxiety for a long time. And then a good friend of mine is a clinical psychologist and I said to her at one point you know I think in my 20s and 30s I think I had pretty bad anxiety and she's known me a long time she was like you think Actually, yeah, you did.

Speaker 2:

I mean, there's a whole thing we could get into about, like what triggers anxiety, how hormones play into that. We're not psychologists, we're not, you know, someone that is going to give medical advice on this. We're just going to show what has helped us and kind of how we look at it, how we help writers through creative anxiety and things like that. So anything you want to add there, no, exactly, okay, perfect. So if we were to define creative anxiety, what does that look like? Or what does that mean to you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, I use the term creative anxiety to encompass everything from what I think of as a mild kind of writer's resistance, where we kind of have that.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I don't know what I feel like writing today over to the more serious writer's block, where we've been avoiding our writing for a week, for a month, for a year, for five years, whatever it is right, and maybe we give up on it a little bit because it gets so painful to be avoiding it. So I think of it, everything in between, that whole range as creative anxiety. I like to say creative anxiety is the new black, Like I just feel like an essential part of you know who we are. I think we all have it as writers at one point or another. Yeah, I think it was Zadie Smith. Now I haven't been able to find this since I first heard it, so it might not be her, but I think it was Zadie Smith who said she described something as being the great gap, which is like the gap between the glimmering project that you can see in its final finished form and where you are now, and creative anxiety is like all the worry that goes into getting from here to there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I love that you said gap, because it does feel like that. It's like this it feels like an insurmountable gap from A to Z. We all read books, right, so we hold them in our hands, we look at the finished product, the beautiful covers, the beautiful prose, all of that and then we forget that we have to learn how to write books because we've never done it before. We have to practice our craft and get better. So it is apples to oranges we compare something at the starting point to something at the finish point and it makes total sense. We have creative anxiety about it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And we pick up a book and we love it and we don't know that it took eight drafts or 12 drafts, or that it took 12 years or 10 years or six years or three years to write, and we're like three months into a draft and worried we're never going to be finished and it doesn't look as good as'm not supposed to. Some of it is unrealistic expectations about the different stage of the process, and I think these are fostered by online life. I try not to buy into that in my own online life, but it can be really hard.

Speaker 1:

So this is the if you go to, if you watch any movie about a writer there, they are typing away, and then they just pull it out of the typewriter and lay it down that's page one away. And then they just pull it out of the typewriter and lay it down that's page one. And then they keep, you know, and there's this stack of pages growing, you know, next to them and then they like shuffle the pages and they're done as though that's how you make a book, yeah, and they're usually in a cabin in the woods and they have the agent, who's super supportive, and all that stuff.

Speaker 1:

They don't have to stop because the dog is vomiting, or they don't have to stop because they suddenly had to work more, or somebody had a baby.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, so, and I love how you're describing that, because it's I love bringing us down to what is reality? Right, and the reality is we all face this, not only at different stages of where we're at as writers, in different stage of the process. Sometimes it can be in different parts of your actual, like that one book, you know. So it's different every day. It's something we all deal with on some level, even professional authors who have published. They still do it.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

So I think it's really important to talk about and just break it down. What does this look like and you said earlier you like to look at it of a spectrum of things, so I'm going to assume this includes, like perfectionism, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, all of that stuff that we contribute to writer's block, but under this umbrella of creative anxiety, which I think is really, really smart.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but all of that Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so we talked about a little bit of what it looks like, and something you said on your podcast is that it's really this thing that's rooted in fear and it's all focused on the future. So can you talk about that a little bit more?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I feel like. For me anyway, it's always triggered by the thoughts in my head about either the current project that I'm working on and or myself as a writer. Right, Maybe I'm comparing myself to a writer. What I find is super ironic is that the cure to the anxiety is to be writing, and so when I'm actively writing, I'm not as anxious, because I'm in the work and I'm actively shaping it or whatever.

Speaker 1:

But when I'm worried about when this book gets published, what if people don't like it? What if I get a one-star review on Amazon? What if it gets panned in a newspaper? Not that newspapers review many books anymore, but what if they hate it? I had a friend who had a book came out and finally got a review in the New York Times and they trashed it and it's all of that. It's what if I finish my memoir and my mom won't talk to me anymore, like all that kind of stuff? And it's all future. It's not about now and what's on the page in front of you, so it's all future. You don't know that it's going to happen. A it may not be true and B you may have control over or influence over how some of that happens. If it does happen and, in all likelihood, even if the worst happens, you're probably going to be able to deal with it. Yeah, and she got the bad review, wrote another book Like this is what we do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no biggie. She lived right. It is a big deal right. We have feelings, those are valid, but she was able to go on and do the things she wanted.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. You have your feelings, you process your feelings and then you decide you know what I'm a writer, so let me get on it. Let me get the next book.

Speaker 2:

And I like how you said when you're in the writing, you're present so that you're not worried about the future. When you're in the writing and that's how you get through it is by doing the work. Also, I feel like a lot of our fears come from the unknown. So I don't know how to fix this plot hole, or I don't really know where I'm going to go in the middle of my outline, I don't really know where I'm going to go in the scene or whatever it is right. So that also can be fixed by writing, and it's super hard for us to get over that hurdle. I might know that logically, but then how do I actually force myself to show up at my desk?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, and isn't it awful that the solution is the thing that you've been avoiding.

Speaker 1:

I wish it was like some other magic thing, but it is how it works.

Speaker 1:

So what's fascinating for me about creative anxiety and that like that space of uncertainty and I don't know how to do it, is I think you do know how to do it, because most writers begin to write because they were readers, because they love books, and so you've been like stewing in story since you were a little kid, right With the flashlight under the book covers. You know when a story is finished, when a story isn't finished, what makes for great dialogue, what doesn't make for great like. You have all of that in you. Every book you've ever read is still a part of your experience and a part of who you are, and so I think, especially for the draft, I feel like we can really trust the history of reading that we bring with us, that we know enough. So I often teach people, like when you're in that space of oh my God, I don't know what to do next, just do anything, just do something, write whatever, any old thing, and just let it flow from there.

Speaker 1:

And anything that isn't perfectly working you can fix in revision. That's why we have revision. That's the fun part of revision.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think that's such a good point. I in my courses and in my membership, we talk about having courage versus confidence. So it's kind of like what you're saying is what you're. You bring this instinctual knowing of story to it. You might not have the confidence yet because you haven't produced a finished draft. That's okay, it will come once you're there. So you have to say, okay, I'm hearing Rhonda and Savannah talk about. I have this instinctual knowing in me of what makes a story or when it's done or whatever. Can I have the courage to show up to the page even though I'm not feeling a hundred percent sure? Is it worth it enough to be uncomfortable and have the courage and take that step? And for most of us, if we frame it that way, it probably is.

Speaker 1:

Yes, exactly, I also think there are things you can do Like. I think of it in two ways. I think of it as preventative and curative, right Like. So for preventative, I try to teach my brain that writing is the best part of my day, that it's like a little sanctuary space from the world. I'm holding up my candle, like I light a candle. I have a mug that is in the theme of the current novel. You know, if I'm writing by hand, I draft by hand Gorgeous notebooks. I'm about to pull one out, but they'll all fall down if I do that.

Speaker 2:

Who doesn't have a stack of beautiful notebooks? Right one out, but they'll all fall down if I do that.

Speaker 1:

Who doesn't have a stack of beautiful notebooks, right, yeah, so like a beautiful notebook, a gorgeous pen, a shawl nearby in case I get cold. You know, I play music, I love. I even have a little candy nearby and when I start writing I give myself a little chocolate or a Werther's caramel so that my brain gets an immediate dopamine hit. And I want my brain to associate writing with pleasure. And I'm training myself over time. I'm not saying this happens overnight, but like I train myself over time. So my brain goes let's do that thing that feels really good. Exactly, and that's the preventative part. And the other thing I do is a little tiny little exercise to ground myself before I start writing. So if I have a 45 minute session, I'll put three minutes of deep breathing on the front or three minutes of adult coloring or three minutes of guided meditation on YouTube, or just three minutes, and then I'm into it because I'm trying to trigger my body into just total relaxation and an absence of anxiety, and just so that I feel really grounded. And then I write.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

The curative part is that sometimes I'll write and then you get the little thoughts right. It's like what are you doing? This is no good. And then from there I often go, I leap. This sentence I just wrote isn't very good, the book isn't any good, I'm terrible. Yeah, Like what am I even doing? I'm wasting my life. Why am I? Or like I just leave. The brain loves to set us up that way. So the curative part is, if I find that happening to me in a session, I stop and I go back and do three minutes of my grounding exercise, For example, just taking the deep breathing, Like if you do really deep breathing for three minutes, like just into your belly. It's super simple. It's just in through the nose, out through the mouth and you're hitting a system, the parasympathetic nervous system. You're just triggering it. It can't not relax you. And then I'm into it again.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So you're grounding yourself, getting yourself in that present moment and saying, with those little rewards, you're saying writing is fun. I just need to make sure I stay in that and not let the worries take over. The other thing you talked about on that episode was using cognitive behavioral therapy to get yourself out of those moments, which is something I do for my own anxiety, where it shows up in all parts of my life.

Speaker 2:

So I thought it could be fun. Again, we're not therapists or like anyone who's medically licensed to give advice on this. We're just sharing what works for us. I thought it could be a fun exercise to walk through some like how you would retrain your thoughts with cognitive behavioral therapy. Oh, let's do that. Yeah, if you want, I can play the part of the writer who's having a hard time. You can guide me through the process of what we're basically trying to do is say, okay, we acknowledge that a thought is there that's not super helpful. It's causing these feelings and actions. What do I do to stop that in its tracks and shift the thinking? Great, okay, so let's pretend I'm writing, and I've just written a sentence that I think is absolutely terrible, and I put the pen down and I'm like I suck. That's the thought.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I put the pen down and I'm like I suck. That's the thought, yeah. So the way I use it, I use something taught by I think I learned it from Brooke Castillo in the Life Coach School. It's called the model. So there's a fact in the world and then you have a thought about it and, based on the thought, you have a feeling and because you had a feeling, you take or don't take an action and you end up with a result. So what I would ask you is where is the fact? And we go back to the fact. And the fact in that instance is it has to be a pure fact. So you don't get to say I wrote a sentence that sucked. Yep, actual fact is I wrote a sentence.

Speaker 2:

And something I say to my students is would this hold up in a court of law as true? So, like you just said, it's not factually true that my sentence is terrible, right, it's only true that I wrote a sentence on a piece of paper. It's completely subjective.

Speaker 1:

I read a book recently. It was like an airport like thriller kind of book and I picked it up and I thought this will be fun. And it was fun, but it's not an award-winning lyrical description. I don't know historical novel or anything. All books are different and all writing is different and it all has its place.

Speaker 1:

So I think that the subjectivity that goes with sucking, if you strip that away, you're left with the fact that I wrote a sentence. So when we say God, that sentence sucked, I suck, we go. That feels so to me, that feels heavy in my body, it feels despairing, it feels there is no hope for me, because for me anyway, suckage is a permanent state, like I'm always like oh my God, this book will always suck, it's awful. And then, because I feel that sense of despair and hopelessness, I avoid my writing. And because I avoid my writing, the book doesn't get finished and get out into the world and that's the result. So if I go back to the fact and say I wrote a sentence, and then I have a thought about that I wrote a sentence, I wrote a sentence today. That's my whole job. What's my job? Writing sentences, I did my job today.

Speaker 1:

That thought says hey girl, look at you, you're great, this is making progress. You're making progress. Even small progress is great progress. All of that. And also you're making something out of nothing.

Speaker 1:

Right, that sentence did not exist in the world before you wrote it down, and it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be perfect. We're just drafting all of that. Right, any of those sentences gives you a lighter feeling in the body and there's hope you can work with it. Right, and from there you get to an action, that is, staying in the chair, writing another sentence, just getting one more sentence down, getting one more paragraph down, getting one more page done, which ultimately eventually results in the book being finished and out into the world. And so I think that the trick with it for me and I don't know if you're like this Savannah, but I have to find a new thought that my brain will accept as true yes, I can't go from. This sucks to. My book is brilliant. My brain is like you are lying to yourself, stop it, but I can go to that's okay, I can fix it later.

Speaker 2:

Yep, and I think for some writers it's the difference between, like you have mantras and those might work, like the future pacing vision board things of my book will be a bestseller, like that's great to dream, right Like that. But in the moment when you're having these negative thoughts, it's really hard to believe yourself, sometimes when you go from zero to a thousand. So I'm the same way as you. It's what's just a constructive or more growth oriented response. I can tell myself. You know, sometimes it helps to write these things down too. So if we're on, this thought process of my sentence sucks, so I'm going to be a terrible writer and I'm never going to finish this, write it down and then either think about, like how silly does that sound? That I'm so like taking this to the extreme, it's not really true. Or look at it from the outside and say would I ever say this to another person? And chances are you would not. So why are you saying it to yourself? We need to be a little bit more compassionate and kind to ourselves.

Speaker 1:

Yes, absolutely. And also I love what you said about growth, because for me, that's something I've come back to time and again, which is I'm a writer who learns and grows, and so that helps when I get in that space of I don't know what I'm doing, like I come from a kind of all my training background is in literary tradition poetry, short story, literary novel and I decided during the pandemic to write a historical mystery Never done one before, but I love to read them. I thought, hey, it'll be fun, let me just have a bit of fun here. And I was constantly I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing, and it really, for a while, was shutting me down and so I had to go to. That's okay. I'm a writer who learns and grows. I'm learning how to write a mystery novel. Isn't this fun, right? Like, yeah, you can. You really can reframe it if you try. The other thing is we, you don't reframe it once and then you're good to go.

Speaker 1:

I wish right like I'm even now, like I've got books out in the world and they've been well-received, and I write regularly, and I am always in the middle of a writing session. There's a little voice that says what the hell are you doing? Or you don't know what you're doing, or are you sure that's how you should do it, or does it even work? Yeah, does it even work? And why is that too simplistic? And, oh my God, I was two thirds of the way through my mystery novel when I realized I had the wrong murderer. Oh no, which is, for a mystery novel, big yeah, and so don't do what I didn't do. So then I was like, okay, that's just gonna need fixing, and I've got a really good red herring here now. Right, that's one that people are going to believe might be the murderer. So you never done like. You're always going to have to work with yourself and I think that's true in life. For me so it definitely is when I'm trying to make something out of absolutely nothing on the page.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I love what you said about realizing you had the wrong murder and you're kind of like, oh my gosh, this is a pretty big deal. I'm writing a mystery. It happens with plot twists, it happens with the purpose of characters. It happens with so many things and I try to tell writers don't look at it as something that you did wrong to get to that point. You got to this point and you learn that something isn't working or is working or you had a better idea. That's how you get to the gold of what is going to make your story cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah absolutely.

Speaker 2:

It's just a reframe and it all starts with how do you recognize that negative thought in the moment? And that also takes practice.

Speaker 1:

It does. Yeah, that took a long time for me because I used to think that everything I thought was just true, like it was just reality and I could find evidence, right. So if I said, oh, that sentence sucked and you challenged me on it, you'd be like that's subjective, it's not really a fact. I'd be like no, look at that. And I couldn't get out of it because I could see evidence that it might be true. So I thought, therefore, it must be true. Those are not the same things. I thought, therefore, it must be true. Those are not the same things, right. And also, there's like many things can be true at the same time. I can write a sentence that sucks and write a better one later. So I think it's really important to understand that all of your thoughts are not true. I think they say we have something like between 60 and 70,000 thoughts a day. Oh, my gosh, some of them are just stupid. Yeah, aware, in the next thing you're thinking about I don't know mini eggs. That comes to mind this morning.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's like you said, multiple things can be true at once. So even if you do end up with, let's say, a terrible sentence in your finished draft and your book goes to print, your book could still be great with that terrible sentence. So there's so many levels of things and you hear all the time. I just read something on I don't know what social media it was on, but someone was talking about Twilight and they were like that book was terribly written, but look how many people love it. So it's art, first of all, which is subjective, and then, second of all, there's a story out there for everybody, and certain people are going to relate to different things. So sometimes we just need to take the pressure off.

Speaker 2:

And I'm going back to that thing where we're in the moment. We're feeling these negative thoughts because I know there are people out there that are thinking how do I even go about catching the thought? And so for me, once I, when I was first starting to learn this, I would notice the feeling, so like the feeling that comes way after the thought or the action, like I might get up and totally walk away from my desk and feel upset and then I say, okay, let me, I don't like this. Let me see if I can unwind where this came from. So sometimes it's just that You're not going to catch it right away. It's going to. Maybe an hour or two later you'll catch it or whatever.

Speaker 2:

So it's noticing it and saying what could I have done different? What? How could that thought change? Sometimes it's you know, you might catch the thought and then you can just list out the thought and the other options of what else could be true. I do that one a lot because it's kind of like okay, that could be a result. That happens. Like, let's say, I'm about to query agents and it could be true that in querying I'm going to get 50 rejections. It could also be true I get 50 full requests, right, like I know there's statistics and things like that say you're going to get more rejections. But I feel like we need to give the positive results equal playing time. If we're going to go, you know, if we're going to be thinking of all these what ifs, throw some positive ones in there too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that's been a big thing for me, because I feel like, I mean, all of our brains are geared to the negative, right Like the brain's job is to keep you breathing and when it's done that all day, it's. Oh, look at me, I did a great job. I kept her alive.

Speaker 2:

It wants to keep you safe.

Speaker 1:

It wants to keep you safe and it does that by saying avoid all these negative things, danger, danger, danger. And it doesn't do a great job of noticing and celebrating what's great or what's possible. I think that's even more important in today's world, in the time that we live in, which can be for some of us, if you're a sensitive person at all, and many of us are, because we are artists whose medium is words, right. So we are responding to the world around us, and it can be hard. We are responding to the world around us and it can be hard. So I think that I need to find the hope, I need to look for the hope, and so I'm always asking myself okay, but what's a more hopeful thought and what else could be true? And that thing that you've said of giving the possibilities, the positive possibilities, equal airtime.

Speaker 1:

If I've spent 25 minutes down a little rabbit hole of how horrible I am and how no agent's ever going to want to pick up this book and even if it does get published, it's not going to be successful and blah, blah, blah, blah, I need 25 minutes of dreaming about I find the perfect agent and they really love the book and they're able to sell it in really well and maybe one of the big five or one of their imprints picks it up and it gets all of it as theoretically possible as well.

Speaker 1:

I let myself go down that road. And then the other thing that I love about writing and this is true now more than ever, with all of the options around self-publishing, indie publishing as well, and the options that we have to build an audience for ourselves the most powerful thing about writing, I find, is connecting with readers, and there are readers who love every kind of book. You can even imagine, right, like I didn't know there was like dinosaur romance and werewolf erotica, and you know, like dinosaur romance and werewolf erotica, and you know, and there are people who love that. And I just really feel like your book is going to reach your readers and you can do, you have total control over that. You have a lot of and a lot of influence where you don't have control, and so the odds are that your book is going to get out in the world and find the readers and they're going to connect with it and be like when's the next one coming?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you know it's all a sliding scale too, that sometimes it does depend on the effort you put in and the time you put into marketing your book and finding those readers. I mean, it does depend on that, right, not sometimes, but you know you can also control that. On the flip side, there's kind of two things I want to say. It's because I talk to writers sometimes who it's not the fear of failure sometimes that is bugging them, it's more what if I do become the next JK Rowling and my life changes. And that's not what I want, I don't know. There's so there's just a whole range of the thoughts you can have, positive and negative, and the worries that come up. But I think, even for the people who are like gosh, all this sounds hard. I don't know if I can catch and control the thoughts and yada yada. We can't help the thoughts and the feelings that come in and, like you said, it's a lifelong process of catching them and reframing them.

Speaker 2:

But I do think that we can choose what to do with them when they appear. So it's sometimes it's learning the discipline of okay, I can allow myself to sit in this muddy feeling of I'm never going to succeed or I'm worried about querying agents or whatever it is. That's not really fun and enjoyable at all. Right? So it's like you said about the control thing what can you control in that moment? You can't control how an agent receives things, you can't control if the world likes your book, but you can control how you show up to your desk, how you present your materials, right. So it's just focusing on what's in your control and choosing. Are you going to show up to the plate with fear or are you going to show up with love for your project and more in that growth mindset?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm really glad you said that. I actually think the thing that I know I have control over is my writing process, and so for me it's kind of sacred, you know, like it's. I want to be loving my writing, no matter what happens with the books out in the world. I want to be loving my writing from now until they take the pen from my cold dead hand Like I. Just this is how I want to live my life, and so when I think of all the things that could happen, I also know that over the course of my life, good and bad things have happened already, and I have managed them, I have survived them, I have thrived with them, and so I think that I'll be able to manage whatever comes good or bad, I'll be able to deal with it. And some of that certainty and knowing comes from knowing how I manage, how I feel about my writing in the moment, that I can do the work to set myself up to have a good end quote, quote, unquote writing session by centering myself, by doing all the little tiny rituals that I have, that kind of go into making it a pleasurable experience, and as long as I'm doing that, I'm doing my job.

Speaker 1:

And then the stuff that comes with the market. I can influence that. I can't control it and so I'm going to spend less time on it. That's another thing. Is I just the things I don't have control over? I'm just not going to spend time worrying about them? And one of the things I tell myself is I don't have control over that, that's okay, I don't have control over that and I set it aside. That does take some practice. I'm not going to. I didn't wake up. I wasn't born like. Being able to set that aside, totally Knowing that you can't control it to some extent just makes it that much easier, because you do everything that you can and then you just release it. There you go.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and sometimes I like to zoom out and think of because this does relate to life totally. But, like for me, I live in California, so we deal with earthquakes, right, I cannot control whether an earthquake happens. I can control how prepared I am. I can control my thought process around being prepared and what will happen if an earthquake comes, and making a plan and things like that. So sometimes I like to just look at those examples and say, okay, yes, writing is a creative project, it's not an earthquake, right, but the thoughts and the worries can feel similar. If I can have a positive association or feel prepared with an earthquake, surely I can do that for writing, right, sometimes it's just zooming out and being a little more objective. The other thing you talked about too, which is going to bring this kind of into we've talked about practical things, but this is like really practical.

Speaker 2:

You said on that episode, breaking your projects down into smaller pieces which is something I talk about a lot too, because of course, you're going to have fears if you're like I have to sit down and write an 80,000 word draft. That's perfect on my first try, so you can break things down into as small of pieces as you want. Maybe today you're outlining act one, maybe you're focusing on one paragraph. It can be anything, and every day could look different.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think I honestly, until I learned to break my work down, was in a constant state of near paralysis all the time, like I would go from feeling totally paralyzed and avoiding my writing to finally like willpowering it out, getting myself to write 500 words, and then I might not write again for three weeks because I'm back to paralysis again. And so I very much break my writing down into the drafting phase, the revision phase, the publish phase and the promote phase and break it down further within that and for revision I have a whole process that I go through. So I and I love to stay, remind myself, to stay where I am in the process. So, for example, I believe that structure is a revision task. So anytime I'm in the drafting stage I'm like I don't know that this is structured. It's still really icky about the structure. I can fix it in revision. So that really helps me.

Speaker 1:

Now, if I'm in revision and I have a 12 step thing that I go through, and so you know, if I'm on step three, I try to stay on step three. And so when I start worrying about a thing I go through, and so you know, if I'm on step three, I try to stay on step three, and so when I start worrying about a thing, I go oh no, that's. You know, that's step nine, I don't have to worry about that now. Future Rhonda's problem. Yeah, future Rhonda's problem, exactly, and I'll know how to deal with it when I get there. And that's true of life as it is writing Like when we get there, we can figure it out.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and sometimes thinking of the 80,000 word draft problem or that thing that feels overwhelming. You know, we will see a lot of writers go through the process and there's things that you just don't or can't or won't know until you get through it and get to the end. So it's no matter how much you sit there and wait for some brilliant idea or some plot puzzle to fix itself or whatever, you probably won't figure it out until you get through the draft.

Speaker 1:

And I think it's important to know that that is the nature of the creative process, right? Yes, our brain can't hold an 80,000 word work in our head in its entire detail all the time. And you can spend a lot of time and many people do getting the perfect outline right Like I know writers who do beat by beat outlines and then they sit down to write and the creative process takes over and they're writing that scene in which this is going to happen, but then, oh, all of a sudden, a new character walks into the room or something else happens. Because you can't, the work of the book is done in the moment as you're writing. You can't think your way to a perfect book in advance. No, I wish you could, like, I wish you could.

Speaker 1:

But it's just the reality of it that when you are in, when you're creative, unconscious as at work, when you're in it, it's going to throw you up some surprises when you have to decide what to do with those in the moment. For me that's the fun part of it all, but it can also be nerve wracking. You're like wait, what? Where does this fit now? That's not my job today. My job today is to write this new character that's just appeared and I'm going to figure it out later.

Speaker 2:

And in my course and membership, we call this like the discovery draft, because that's what you're doing, so you're discovering your story, you're exploring all the different things and it's not the job of you, while you're doing that, to have the perfect solution. Just like again to zoom out and think of a totally different example. When you're baking a cake, it doesn't come out fully decorated and like perfect, right, you have to mess with it. When you're building a house, it doesn't come out fully decorated and you don't run into no, zero problems. There's things that happen, you have to adjust, and things like that. You might get better ideas as you're in the process because you're seeing it. So our writing is not different.

Speaker 1:

I can remember being someone who tried to make birthday cakes that were stacked and wondering why they slid. And then I watch like YouTube videos and they put these rods down the middle of them and I'm like, are you kidding me? Yeah, I do feel like you learn new things, you grow in your skills and sometimes the problem that you experience you're in the state right now, that phase with the problem, but it really is future. You who's going to figure it out? Because by the time you get to the stage where you have to figure it out, you have more skills than when you started and you know your story better, way better than when you started.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I know it's hard for people listening to believe that if they've never experienced it. But hopefully you can trust Rhonda and I that we have seen this so many times with people where, if you can't trust yourself and believe and feel the confidence yet, maybe trust us and just hold on to that and go through the process and see what happens.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you can just borrow some of our belief for a little while.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, borrow our belief. We've seen it a lot, yeah, okay, so I love that we talked about what creative anxiety is, how it shows up, some different strategies for dealing with it, any kind of last thoughts or parting words of wisdom to share?

Speaker 1:

I would just go back to creative. Anxiety is the new black and I really want to normalize it because I think a lot of writers feel really alone with it. They feel like if other writers experience this, they don't have it as bad as I have it. We tend to internalize it and make it mean something about us, and I think it's just a normal part of the creative process and we learn the skills to deal with it because we're going to have to deal with it for the rest of our lives. So let's think about it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's. I think it's actually more abnormal that people don't have it.

Speaker 1:

Oh, so true.

Speaker 2:

So it's like if let's say I'm just making up a number, but let's say 98% of us have it Cause that's how it feels, Maybe even more 98% of us have it we don't talk about it. So it feels like when we have it, we're that one to 2%, and it's not true. It's the opposite. I'm glad that we're recording this. Hopefully it sheds some light on things for those listening and makes it less of a shameful or less of a meaningful thing, because Rhonda just said, it doesn't mean anything about your ability to write a great book or a book period. It just it's. It is what it is. It's part of the process.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is so great Savannah.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much, you're welcome, and can you let people listening know where we can find you around the internet? Sure, so probably the best place to interact with me would be on Instagram. I'm at resilient writers over there and then resilientwriterscom. There's a section where you can go to resources and get some resources to help you with wherever you are in your writing process right now.

Speaker 2:

Perfect. We will link to all of that in the show notes, your podcast, where we can find you on Instagram and your website. Thank you so much, ronna, for being here. I know this is going to be a super popular episode because, like we keep saying, everyone deals with creative anxiety. So thank you so much. Thank you, savannah, it was fun. So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support.

Speaker 2:

If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode, inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer so I'll see you next week and of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

Dealing With Creative Anxiety
Navigating Creative Anxiety as a Writer
Overcoming Writing Anxiety and Self-Doubt
Empowering Mindset for Writers
Overcoming Creative Anxiety in Writing
Podcast Promotion and Encouragement