Blog, Journal, On Writing

The Anxiety of Making Writing Serious Business

I used to be good at this. Well, honestly, I was probably never that good at it, but blogging was easy for me once. These days, I’m having trouble getting myself in the groove on anything important.

I’m sorry.

That’s way too whiney for what I want to say.

I’m suffering a pretty strong block. The kind fo block I never believed in before it really hammered into me.

I’ve always had a lot of anxieties. I’ve always been afraid of some truly ridiculous things. Now, though, I think I’m starting to become increasingly afraid of my writing. I’ve never been afraid of my writing before. It has always been the one thing that I can reliably pull myself into. I’ve never sat before a blank screen and been like, “what if it isn’t good enough?”

Sure, I’ve wondered if what I’m writing will get me fired. I’ve worried if what I’m writing will get me murdered by raving hordes of flesh-eating Viking lords, but I’ve never once worried that it wasn’t good enough.

Now it’s important that I point out that this isn’t the same as considering myself to be an amazing writer.

I don’t.

I’ve just always assumed it was okay. As long as I was doing my best, being honest and genuine, I was sure that the few people who were reading would forgive me. I guess I should have worried about it, maybe I should have striven to hone my craft a little more strongly, but I didn’t. I put words on the screen. I told a story, bitched about life, and complained in my whiniest voice that the world sucked. I never said, “No, Matt, you suck.”

Anxiety, man, what a bitch.

Maybe the problem is that my life always had some sort of unsatisfactory, often terrifying pressure crushing down on me. When you suffer from an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t take much for it to feel overwhelming. Here’s the bitch of the situation, though.

When you are used to working through anxiety, the absence of anxiety is its own fear.

See, that’s one of those things that always ran through the back of my mind. “Can I still create if I’m no longer depressed? Can I still work if I’m not struggling?”

It is incredibly stupid to allow myself to fall into that trap. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The moment I allowed that paradigm to sink into my brain, it became true. I shut down.

I can’t let myself keep going down that rabbit hole.

Part of me decided at some point that writing a book made me a serious author. It drained the fun and life from my writing. It felt good for awhile. I enjoyed the accomplishment of creating. Then I decided I was going to focus on learning to make a living from writing, and it was like flipping a switch. I suddenly began to worry about all those little things that crinkled in the back of my mind. “What if I never succeed? What if I can’t write anything commercial?”

The fun melted away.

I think one of the most important lessons I can learn and 2015 will be finding the balance between allowing myself to create without worry and still commercializing my work.

When I was writing Choices, I never even remotely considered the possibility that anyone would read it. I remember having a conversation with my father about considering it a success if I sold ten copies. He told me I should be able to guilt at least fifty family members into buying it.

I laughed.

The idea that fifty people would read my book. That was ridiculous.

It kept seeming like that was the end of it, too. After publishing Choices last March, I hit those ten sales, all to family and friends, and then it just hovered there. I went on to write Fallout, Summons, and Tragedy, all while thinking, “No one is every really going to read this.”

But people did. I’m not a bestseller or anything like that. I don’t have a following of millions. What I do have, though, is a few readers. Real, honest-to-goodness readers. People I’ve never met.

I think some part of me decided that I had to start acting professional and accomplished. I had to censor myself from just putting words on a page.

A random thoughts blog post? How will that help me sell books?

So I stopped blogging. After all, who cares about Matt’s life when I should be giving them more of Terry Howard’s life. Terry’s a spell-flinging superman. I’m an administrative assistant. Terry fights monsters. I fight spreadsheets.

Okay. This is starting to sound like a pity party.

I can’t have that. I’ve got a cool, devil-may-care image to maintain.

Oops.

See, there’s that thought again. Robbing me of my personal will to just express whatever came to mind.

Well, Matt, that’s bullshit.

Blogging is not serious business. Blogging is… well… it’s a fucking LiveJournal is what it is.

Do you remember LiveJournal? I used to write in one, like, fifteen times a day. I actually had friends stop following me on because I posted too often.

I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Jim Butcher still uses LiveJournal, you know. He’s probably my favorite author at the moment. (Sorry, Brandon Sanderson. I love your work, but, damn Dresden is just awesome.) If random crap blogging is good enough for Butcher, it’s good enough for Brotherton.

Actually, I think this has helped. Just getting my brain clean again. That was a good idea.

So, a new Seven Keys short story is in the pipeline. I’ve managed to get the first draft done. Yeah… I’m a slacker. in the entire month of January, I’ve written one draft of a short story that is only about as long as this blog post. if you’re on the mailing list, you’ll be seeing it soon, though. Even as I sit here typing my random thoughts, feet up on my desk and second-hand chair leaned back far enough I’m actually worried about structural integrity, ideas for how to kick it up a notch are flooding into my brain.

Maybe that’s the awesome station I’ve got rocking out on Pandora.

Who knows?

So, I guess I’m going to get back to work.

I mean… you’re not here to read about me slacking, are you? You’re here to find out if Terry and Ngazi are ever going to bang.

Spoiler Alert: Probably… as soon as I get over the fact that my mother will probably read it… sex scenes are hard…

No pun intended.

Okay. A little bit of a pun intended.

Damn… now I just want to write some hardcore banging….

You guys would buy that, right?

I’m going to end this before I go off on a sexy tangent and have to do research

Thanks for reading,
Matt

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.

2 thoughts on “The Anxiety of Making Writing Serious Business”

  1. jhudginsartanddesign says:

    I liked you before (since you are coming to my writing group meetings – same sort of anxiety – have a meeting and no one comes) but if you are a Jim Butcher fan….love me some Harry Dresden!

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I find it inconceivable for anyone to want to write urban fantasy and not have at least an avid respect and appreciation for Jim Butcher. Dresden might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Butcher really did pull an obscure genre out of the gutter with him.

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