Nn: Nerves, Daily Practice Overpowers Anxiety

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.

Nn: nerves, nervous, nervousness
Daily Practice Overpowers Anxiety

I call it “The Backlash.” Whatever you call it, and whenever it strikes, an unhelpful case of nerves stemming from no real cause of alarm must be talked to, soothed, and cajoled into recession.

For example, The Backlash would occur about twelve hours after I’d taken some sort of hopeful step toward my creative ambitions. Maybe I’d sent an essay to a publication. Hours later, however, an overpowering feeling of complete idiocy, ridiculousness, and even shame would strike. Under this spell, I’d feel completely sure that my earlier creative action had been the dumbest, most amateur, and embarrassing thing I could possibly have done.

When this happens, you have only one course of action: acknowledge the nerves by giving them a name, recognize they stem from some positive action you took earlier that put you and your work out there in the world (even if just a little bit), and realize your nervous system is trying to protect you from vulnerability and the vague threat it feels from your earlier confident action.

A huge benefit of daily practice has been the downgrade of “The Backlash.”

By chiseling away at your creations every day, you eventually have more completed work and more chances to publish, show, or perform that work. Therefore, you’ll be taking risks more regularly. After a good six months of daily effort, you’ll have built up tolerance for revealing/exposing your creative vision. “The Backlash” won’t strike as powerfully or last as long.

The feeling will pass. And when it does, you’ll see your life for what it is: you’re an artist who stuck his neck out, and as you wait to see what, if anything, comes of it, you’ll be back at your craft tomorrow.

Soon, a big step that would have caused debilitating dread a couple of years ago is just one more step on your creative path today. You’ll face it, acknowledge the brief bout of nerves, then wipe your sweaty palms and get back to work.


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6 Responses to Nn: Nerves, Daily Practice Overpowers Anxiety

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    This is a good point. I go through this really badly when I am nearing the end of a project. I used to just name it Self-Sabotage, because the bulk of the work was over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to complete the final few steps. Then, even if I do push myself through, I feel awful about the work, and disappointed by it. In some cases, this becomes amusing later, because the work I ended up hating the most, or really having to push at myself to complete are the works that have spoken the most to the people that have read them. So… it really must be all in my head. 😛

    • TRISTA says:

      I really do think our nervous system thinks it’s helping us! Sounds like your nerves strike just before you take a Big Final Step; whereas mine strike after. Either way, we have to convince our amygdala: “There is no snake. There is no fire. All is well.”

  2. Rose L. says:

    I am often nervous about sharing my poems with the Chrysalis women, though often the reaction is very favorable. Yet I still have that tingle of fear.
    I also sometimes fear crossing the doorway of my home to venture out. It used to be a big problem and kept me housebound, but I got help and now do venture out. But every once in a while I have that fear return and have to work through it. Nerves…

  3. TRISTA says:

    Yes, nerves indeed, Rose! I wrote an essay about stepping outside even when I don’t feel like it, and VoiceCatcher published. I’m not saying this to “toot my own horn,” but because I think you’ll relate. You can read it here if you want to: http://www.voicecatcherjournal.org/2012FallIssue/prose03.html

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