In my memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy, I share how an anxiety disorder hijacked my life for a few onerous years. Anxiety showed up as an enemy but eventually became a valuable teacher. Anxiety still educates me, and in light of the Coronavirus, and for those kindred spirits whose personalities also lean toward worry and fear, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.
In my last blog and newsletter, “What Fuels Your Ambition?” I discussed challenges I’ve had in my life regarding striving. The day after I sent it, I received this thoughtful response from Hazel Breen, a writing student of mine, who has raised four children (now in college):
A couple years ago I met an old actor friend from Juilliard for lunch. I hadn’t seen him in decades. He greeted me outside the restaurant and said, “I could tell it was you from thirty yards away.”
Two weeks ago I hosted a Literary Salon. My students (present and former) read their work to an audience of family and friends. We also ate, drank, mingled, and—thanks to the brave and authentic work shared—connected in deep and meaningful ways. I mentioned at the salon that although writing is a solitary occupation, writing lives and careers require love, support, connection, and community.
Many of my students and clients tell me that they have a hard time finding the time to write. This is totally understandable. Our lives are busy. We have obligations and commitments we must fulfill, or face tangible consequences. Writing is not like this. Nobody knows or cares if we don’t write.
Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, or at least made it through with your health and happiness intact. I was in a minor car accident, which wasn’t a big deal (no injuries or auto damage), but it shook me up and slowed me down. The slowing down part was nice.
I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season—or getting through it with as much grace and ease as possible. One thing that helps keep me grounded this time of year is walking our dog, Katie, who insists upon frequent and leisurely outings. I don’t mind (usually), because they provide exercise, time outdoors, and inspiration.
This past Monday night, I did not want to attend Forest Lawn’s annual “Lights of Remembrance: An Evening of Honoring the Memories of Your Loved Ones.” I was tired (hadn’t slept well the night before) and felt like I was getting sick. I also didn’t want to drive twenty plus miles at night to a place I’d never been, or go alone (my husband was too tired and my friend declined). I wanted to stay home, lounge by the fireplace, and watch The Crown.
Sometimes I want to lay down my ambition, hit cruise control, and glide through life. But as an author (and human being) there’s so much I don’t know and want to learn. Case in point: I had a wonderful experience publishing my memoir with She Writes Press. I’ve come close to selling out my 1000-book print run—except for a few boxes left in my garage, which remind me of this important fact: books don’t sell themselves.
Do you ever expect yourself to have all the answers? Do you become frustrated and impatient when you don’t know what to do about something in your writing or in your life? Do you get hung up on doing things “right”?