For the most part, authors are wriggling balls of anxieties held together by dreams and duct tape. We like to pretend we’re not, but if you catch a writer in an honest moment, (s)he’ll admit it’s true.
Before I had an agent, I thought my anxiety would disappear when I found one.
Before I had a publishing deal, I thought a contract would cure my nervous woes.
I believed a multiple-book deal would leave me smiling forever.
I should have asked for a unicorn too – because clearly, I was dreaming.
The question for authors – and, truly, for every kind of artist – isn’t how to eliminate your anxiety but how to control it. An artist’s life is something like walking through a pit full of alligators wearing T-bone steaks for shoes. No matter how nice the scenery, or how confident you feel going in, sooner or later something’s going to bite you. The question isn’t if, or how – it’s when, and what you’ll do when it happens.
In my case, it’s my seahorses . When the world starts pressing in and anxieties threaten, I spend some time with Ghillie, Ceti and Cyg.
I can feel the stress melt away every time I watch them.
Maximus’s futile anger reminds me there are things we cannot change – and that useless frustration only makes us look silly to those around us.
Flappy’s single-minded search for food helps me recall that happiness comes from simple things – and focusing on those things reduces worry.
Even the corals help my stress. I’ve watched them grow from single-polyp colonies to thriving coral clusters. The process isn’t fast. In fact, it’s much too slow to see. Some polyps die, and others grow, and over time the colony increases.
Life is like that.
Daily worry only makes the process painful as well as slow. The successful artist finds an escape – and uses it to make the fears retreat.
I haven’t conquered worry. If I’d found that secret, I’d be a millionaire many times over – and much less frazzled too. But in the end, stress is something we can’t eliminate.
The key is finding something that helps you control it.
For me, it’s fish and strange aquatic creatures. (And also escaping into a nice new book.)
What helps you drive the crocodiles back from your steak-shoes? Hop into the comments and let me know – I’d love to hear your secret!