Not knowing is the goal.
Here’s one way to deal with writing anxiety: know that the story you’re writing is already happening.
What if your characters are already living their story, and you don’t have to make them up? What if it wasn’t your job to come up with personalities and invent settings and conflicts and relationships?
If you believed that your plot was already happening, you wouldn’t expect yourself to have to make it. Instead, you’d discover it, and then write it down as you see it.
Way to take off some pressure.
Try this: believe that the story you’re writing is already in process right now, the characters living their lives, their actions hovering somewhere in the air around your desk, not unlike radio waves or Wi-Fi. What you have to do is tune in to receive it.
This means clearing your mind and going to your page without assumptions or threats. Believe that it’s there for you already: go gently. Be open.
Trust the relationship you have with your writing.
Meet TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi – two improv actors from Chicago who practice the art of listening and paying attention to stories every week in their 50-minute live show. The actors were interviewed for Radiolab (please listen to it: the piece is about 15 minutes).
Think of your writing desk as a stage. When the lights go on, you stand there and wait: for a glimpse of a shoulder or a voice; for a line; for a feeling that you want to know more about. You wait as long as it takes, reminding yourself: not knowing is the goal.
It’s terrifying at first – there’s nothing there! You want to bolt, but you don’t. You breathe. You stay in your chair. You tell yourself, I’m here: I showed up. Now I have to pay attention.
When you are paying attention, you can write what happens in each moment of the story without overthinking it or forcing it. This is how you will feel surprised by your own story: you will be writing it as it reveals itself to you.
“It's so encompassing,” says TJ in the interview. “It's a really still place. No one's going to ask you for anything, no one's going to call. You're just in this kind of sealed bubble with someone that you trust implicitly.”
You and your writing can work together to uncover a story that already exists. But for this to work, you need to trust your creative mind implicitly.
Do you feel that trust? How do you develop that kind of bond with your writing? Let me know in the comments, below.