Overcoming writing anxiety

I was in my last year of high school when I experienced my first bout of writing anxiety. A sudden, overwhelming panic that I couldn’t write, that I wasn’t good at writing.

I was sitting the end of year exams. The all-important exam that would get me into university. Halfway through, I realised that I had interpreted the question wrong. There was half an hour left on the clock. The essay I had written was brilliant, but it didn’t answer the question correctly. So I scratched out the entire essay and decided to rewrite everything.

That decision cost me my love of writing. Although I ended up getting a B on my essay, something changed inside of me when I wrote.

I would pick up the pen to write something amazing that had popped into my head, but my chest would twist into knots. I became critical of every word, every sentence, every flow. It had to be right, it had to be perfect or else I would scratch it out and throw it away. My writing stalled. For seven years, I couldn’t write.

Near the end of those seven years, I realised that every time I tried to write, I was being transported back in time to the exam room, where I was being tested and judged under the clock. The beautiful, flowy way I used to write, morphed into a rigid, emotionless piece of writing.

I cared more about whether my writing would fit into a particular style, or earn me money. I dabbled in instructional writing, advice writing, copyrighting — writing that would earn me money, as those were the only ‘right’ kinds of writing. Before beginning any piece of writing, I’d ask myself, “Is this what other people wanted to read?” It sucked the soul out of me, and I fell out of love with the laborious act of writing.

The day I started to break out of my writing anxiety, was the day I stopped holding my writing hostage to an invisible clock inside a dark exam room.

I began to be more playful. I set myself a writing challenge during lockdown, where I wrote a 20,000-word story for children. I started writing more personal stories on my blogs, nysgirl.com and almondeyedwanderer.com, as well as on Medium as @almondeyedwanderer. None of these blogs are shared across any of my social media platforms. None of my friends or family have ever read my blog. Instead, I made the decision to give my writing a private space to grow and nurture.

Slowly, I began to crawl out of that dark exam room and into the light. There are moments now, where I can see my old self shine through my writing.

Insomniac’s guide to falling asleep

It’s extremely hot and I can’t get to sleep. My sweat is sticking to the sheets and no amount of fanning can cool me down from this summer heat.

Normally, I would surrender to this heat until I’ve fallen asleep, but it’s 1am on Friday morning, the last day of the summer holiday and I don’t want to spend it in agony.

So I’m sitting up in bed typing out this blog and wondering what I should do before the day has barely begun.

Remember the singer from Owl City, the one who had insomnia? And how he used his sleepless nights to write his hit single Fireflies?

Not saying that I will produce a hit single, but I could spend it productively, like think about how to interior design my room which currently has nothing but my bed in the middle. Or I could write a poem, plan more roadtrips, read a book, or try to fall asleep.

My sister is awake in her room watching YouTube.

Seems like nobody can fall asleep in this sleepless summer heat.

What do you do when it’s boiling hot and you can’t fall asleep?