I have something to confess…up until this year I had excruciatingly bad writing anxiety. I wish I could tell you why this started, but all I know is that it reared it’s ugly, sweat-inducing head the very beginning of my sophomore year. Writing essays, I felt like I was in a fog. I could focus sentence by sentence but I wasn’t able to see the full picture of my essay. I felt like I was writing blind and I’d panic because of that. I hated this feeling so much that my unhealthy coping mechanism of choice was avoidance.
I was so afraid to start essays that I would avoid them to the very last minute until I was forced to deal with them. Of course, this fear-induced procrastination coupled with the writing anxiety only made me more anxious. Let me tell you from first hand experience that trying to write an essay the night before it’s due with writing anxiety feels like you’re a flaming ball of panic racing off the side of a cliff into a pit of despair. I finally decided it was time for a change after I ended up avoiding the very first essay of my junior year to the point of turning it in a month later. To help me get over my anxiety, I enlisted the help of my freshman year English teacher/mentor. I worked with her after school to create strategies to combat the anxiety and when I did have an essay, we broke the work into chunks so I could do a little bit of it at a time. I would come to her when I felt like I couldn’t start and she’d help me get over my initial fear until I wrote something.
Today, I’m over my anxiety. Even if I do start to feel that familiar hum of anxiety (which happens occasionally), I know I have the tools to handle it, and to help others handle it as well.