As with most other professions, we storytellers suffer often from anxiety. It can be merely a nuisance. It can be severely crippling. Zen habit expert Leo Babauta offers solid advice on dealing with our anxiety.
After outlining common causes for anxiety, Babauta suggests how to work with it:
- “Face the physical feeling. Drop out of the story that’s spinning around in your head, that’s causing the anxiety. Instead, just be mindful of how your body feels.
- “Stay with it & be curious about it. Don’t run, just stay with the physical feeling. Instead of rejecting it and wanting it to stop, just open up to it and see it with curiosity.
- “Smile at it. Develop a feeling of friendliness towards the physical sensation of this anxiety. See it as one of the fundamental realities of your existence, and learn to be friends with it. See this as a chance to work with something that will be with you for your entire life, an opportunity to get comfortable with this discomfort.
- “Open to a bigger space. Our normal way of relating to this feeling is wanting to reject it, because we’re stuck in a small-minded, self-centered way of seeing it (I say this without judgment, it’s just something we do). Instead, we can start to touch the wide-open space of our minds, like a big blue sky, not a small space but expansive. In this open space, we can hold the anxiety like a cloud against the backdrop of the blue sky, but not be lost in the cloud. We can see the anxiety but also see that like a cloud, it’s temporary, it’s not that solid, it’s not all-encompassing, and it’s just floating by. This wide-open space of our mind is always available to us.”
Babauta concludes, “Once we start to touch on this anxiety, face it with courage, stay with it like a good friend would … we start to realize it’s not so bad. It’s just something that comes up, like a ripple in a pond, like a breeze in a field, and it will go away. We don’t need to panic, we don’t need to run, we can relax, invite it to tea, and see that nothing else is required. Instead, we stay, we give it love, and see that this place of uncertainty we’re in is absolutely perfect as it is.”
Compelling advice, isn’t it? Anxiety is a fundamental reality of our (writing) existence. Learn to be friends with it. We can use it in our writing exercises. Probe the anxiety in our characters. Touch the wide-open spaces of our own minds.
As always, I think of writer Natalie Goldberg’s powerful advice. Writing practice. Do it daily.
Read Leo Babauta’s full blog article here.