Overcoming Writing Anxiety

As I write more news stories,  I’m struggling with this hurdle: anxiety.

There’s no rational basis: I haven’t received any negative feedback. 

It’s not writer’s block– this is different. It’s about pervasive insecurity. Journalism is important- thousands of people read it. Every story needs to be detailed and correct. If you misspell someone’s name or worst– get something wrong– it’s brutal. You will be judged not just by your editor, but by your peers and the community. 

You build trust as a reporter by consistently getting it right. Exhibiting tenacity. Quoting people accurately. Treating your interview subjects well. Remaining unbiased. You’re better off double or triple checking your facts and quotes. But at the same time, you have deadlines. So you do your best to be fair, accurate and quick. And hope it’s enough.

Also, inevitably there will be opposite opinions on your work: some love it, some are haters. That’s just the nature of the business. So you can’t worry about approval of your sources, subjects or the public. You listen to your editors and peers, who give you constructive  criticism about an angle you might have missed or a compliment when you nail it and write a great lead.

You aim to be honest above all. 

The motto of The Daily Eastern News, my college newspaper, is “Tell the truth and don’t be afraid.”

I’m working on it. I’m persisting. 

I have to psych myself up for interviews before I make contact to schedule them.

I don’t know why this is happening now– I was never like this 15 years ago as a journalism major and then cub reporter.

I suppose it’s because I’m coming up on 40 and I HAVE been away 15 years. Luckily right now I’m a stringer, which means I’m not on a daily deadline like a staff writer. My editors give me freedom to take a little longer to write my stories. But the surprise has been that during this COVID-19 chaos, journalism has been the most steady work.

I’m like a singer who can only sing with her eyes closed. Afraid to play an actual venue, though I know I’m good.

All the feedback has been good. I was even told for my current and last assignments to write what I need and not worry about word count. That demonstrates trust in my abilities and professional judgement. That is a win for me, however you look at it. But I never realized this until a friend pointed it out to me today, a bestie. A sister who always reminds me who I am when I feel inadequate or frustrated with myself. I worry that my stories are merely average, that it could have been done better.

I fret about my assignments precisely because my writing is sacred to me.

I want it to be excellent, remarkable, creative. Above all, accurate and objective.

I feel I need to pray over this. Ask Jesus for focus, confidence, decisiveness.

Maybe pray to St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers.

Lord, bless me with insight, objectivity, courage to ask the right questions and resolve to write the best article possible. Grant me power and speed so that I can write more stories quicker, and make more money in doing so.

I ask this as your humble child,

 

Amee

Goodbye, Superstition

I’ve always kept my left finger unadorned.

As if that finger were sacred– to be saved for the future.

But today I decided otherwise.

Because that finger belongs to me– rather and some imagined future spouse. It struck me as not just hopelessly patriarchal, but silly, to continue waiting.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone’s future wife or future mother. I’ve always kept “The Big Picture” in mind, and that has largely governed my actions. It’s kept me  responsible and practical.

But today I define myself alone– without any other influence.

I am not a woman who considers parts of herself verboten unless claimed by a relationship. It may seem trivial, but I find it empowering.

I’m no longer passive.

I put a ring on it myself! It’s just cute costume jewelry, but I chose it.

And now when I look at my right hand ring finger, I smile.

I chose myself over superstition.

And I feel a new security in that choice.