How My “Perfectly” Obsessed Writing Increased My Anxiety for Public Speaking

Posted By Tammy Hendricksmeyer on Jun 9, 2016 | 1 comment


When I send private newsletters to subscribers, y’all, readers get whole lotta Texas. It’s like my words flow in a cascade off the cliff of “stage fright”, comfortable and with ease.

 

But then I come here, public and all. I strain for every word. Back-spacing, replacing, and perfecting each sentence.

 

When writing blog posts, I arrange or re-arrange my thoughts. I place words in a logical and smooth order. I kill the “darlings,” those sentences or paragraphs I had enamored myself too.

 

Don't let perfection snuff your creative spark.

 

With written words, I substitute speaking out loud for print. My expression of using my hands to punctuate the air for emphasis? Hidden behind tidy words. My boisterous speech goes silent. And despite how writing draws out the contemplative side in me, once you meet me in person, my robust laughter belies any hint of seriousness.

 

Over time, I became anxious about disappointing others who only knew me online, as a blogger and writer. My anxiety toward public speaking, grew longer and longer like Pinocchio’s nose on his face, paranoid-ly awkward-ly obvious to only paranoid-ly awkward-ly, me. Not just in front of a crowd, but in front of anyone.

 

This is not my personality. This has never been me.

 

Until, that is, I began writing.

 

Let me tell you how this blogging process looks, if you don’t already know. And don’t even get me started on the process of launching your fist book. (But it’s all good. You learn to keep moving.)

 

Y’all, blogging and writing doesn’t have to be this hard, but it’s the vulnerabiiiiility that sucker punches you. Am I right? Yes? Just go with me, will ya?

 

After six blogging years, this still happens:

 

You draft a blog post, obsess over every word,  publish, and then marvel at all your new-n-shiny words only to–what is that?

 

An error? For the love of Paris!

 

For which you snatch the mouse in a mad scramble back to your Dashboard in a race against, I don’t know, all those important, prominent people (it can happen) about to read this crap.

 

“Edit! I must ediiiiiiit,” your bug-eyed self screams inside.

 

You fix the erroneous mistake (shew) and again review your work, scanning each word. You mouth turns up in secret delight.

 

“Look at those fresh, young things on the page,” you marvel.

 

So what if at 2 a.m., you’ll wake in a cold sweat and consider denoting your whole blog and move to the remote bush of Alaska. Right now, writing rewards you because you wrestled your thoughts to “paper.”

 

Scrolling to the last paragraph, you read–what?

 

You blink; look again.

 

A mistake?!? Seriously?

 

Another frantic Dashboard trip, another published reading continues the process, and you get the idea.

 

When God defines you you aren't afraid to embrace who you are

 

When I’m writing, my editor-self kicks in and I attempt to polish my thoughts until they gleam like Mr. Clean. I can change paragraphs, delete hundreds of words, or take down whole chapters when book writing.

 

When writing, my visual-learning self sees pictures as if sentences were musical lines. Poetry rises to the top. My southern twang gives way to a literary voice that sounds strangely British and Jane Ayre-ish. Well, maybe not that (good or) extreme.

 

Writing triggers different parts of the brain as a study revealed and was reported on, in the New York Times’ article titled This is Your Brain on WritingBut I believe there’s critical missing element.

 

I’d like to further add to this study: In an age of air-brushing selfies, nailing our content to perfection, lends too a fear of face-to-face communication.

 

Writing, texting, and status-ing, translates, “Hey, l can I write all the live-long day!”

 

I mean, who wants to hear my southern drawl, adverb abuse, and mangled participle clauses? See. See! Only writers care about adverbs and participles. That’s not normal-people talk.

 

After blogging and then meeting writers who’d only read my work (oh, what rude awakenings they endured!), I started adding disclaimers like “I don’t talk like I write.”

 

Why?

 

Because I’d airbrushed my words for so long, I began to deny the other half of who I am. The walking, talking, prone-to-goofy-outbursts-but-quiet-in-a-crowd-yet-will-talk-your-ear-off-in-a-small-group, self. Besides, did Emily Dickinson only speak in poetry when having casual conversations?

 

There’s a reason it is called, casual.

 

I’m not claiming to be an expert speaker. Because duh. I have twang. When speaking, I don’t murder “darlings” but I sure do murder other things like butchering word pronunciations. Or, how I innocently throw in foreign curse words completely clueless until I see the look on the other person’s face.

 

“Oh, bad word?”

 

It ain’t purty, y’all.

 

In time, I became self-conscious.

 

But in order to reverse this, because I’m totally chill and want to practice casual writing (hence this post), I’m remembering the following 4 things.

 

 

1. Perfect writing is a myth.

 

Learning the craft of writing will be an ongoing, lifelong process. Your top writing form, from two years back, will make you blush with embarrassment, today. Believe me on this one.

 

You’ll re-read your work and if you’re brave, you won’t yank that mess down, unpublish it, and give it a permanent “Draft” status.

 

Practicing, means writing. And writing leads to learning. And learning leads to improving. Once you understand the craft better, you see more errors and room for improvement. If not careful, you spend more time (over) correcting yourself that your words don’t make it to print (blog or otherwise).

 

Striving to be a better self-editor–not a bad thing. Fretting over perfecting words to always be “on” or lyrical or literary? Bye-bye authenticity and helloooo, performance.

 

You can truly be contemplative and poetic and still have a casual side. You can accept all of yourself and the truth of who how God made you.

 

 

2. Relax.

 

As if you need to say it. Um, yes, you do.

 

You need to keep this on repeat–relax and again I say, relax. In fact, let’s just stamp that word on the back of your hand so every time you reach for the keyboard, pencil, paintbrushes, mouse, or whatever, you don’t forget.

 

Creativprenuers put so much dang pressure on ourselves! I mean come on. Whether you’re a blogger, author, or artist, you are so in-tuned to your surroundings to the point, you become a pin cushion for all the things happening in the world. Just no.

 

You need a vacation from your self. Who am I kidding? You just need a vacation. With a little relaxation, you’ll be able to better tackle your creative life, or just life in general.

 

 

3. You are a writer (or artist) but your life is fluid. F-L-U-I-D.

 

You don’t walk around with a book cover image pasted on your face. Because that would just be weird.

 

You aren’t expected to spout out rhymes or speak in perfect prose.

 

You have permission to be a paradox when it comes to writing or being an artist in light of your casual, blessedly-ordinary life. Your work derives from hours of processing and crafting. Whereas, talking? That’s just stream of conscience, hopefully built up in grace, tact, and natural ability to express thoughts.

 

Of course, there’s the exception for a rehearsed public speech, then yes. That’d be a calculated way of speaking.

 

But at the end of the day, art is a part of who you are, part of the makeup of a creative brain that God gave you, but it is only one part of many other parts that make you, you.  Granted, art and writing might be feel like a big part of who you are, but it’s not the whole of it.

 

 

4. Accept the process.

 

You won’t please everyone (sigh). Hard as you try, it ain’t happening. You won’t live up to people’s lofty expectations of you. Might as well pull your own self out of the clouds and just be real, in the flesh.

 

Art requires a different outcome and your brain is wired to do it. In the same way, your in-person self comes naturally without time to hyper-edit, compulsively revise, or massage every syllable.

 

Sure, you can work on yourself and develop areas in need of improvement. But you are also a work in progress. Your art should not become a glossy cover that replaces casual authenticity.

 

Embrace who you are. Don’t partition your self into a writing self and a speaking self and a casual self. Embrace the whole self of who God made you to be.

 

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For more courage (or kick in the pants-for-us-creative-types), subscribe and receive the You Are Brave resource plus a bonus of tips-n-tricks for your Facebook page.

 

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A big thank you to everyone who came to my Facebook book launch party! If you’ve never done one of those, they are super-duper fun, y’all. And people win stuff too.

 

And for the month of July, I’m on Goodreads with “Ask an Author,” over here (<<click), if you have questions, want to read ones I already answered, or you can just follow along and stay in the loop.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Tammy,

    I missed you during your away time. I am always glad to see you in my mailbox.

    When I found you during the first days of Write31days last year, you were the first person I subscribed to follow.

    As a new hit and miss blogger since Oct 2015, I so appreciate that God led me to connect with you. Finding you in the sea of 100’s of writers was like finding a needle in a haystack. But God knew right where you were and led me there.

    This is not to overly praise you, but to tell you that I recognize his hand in it and simple say, thank you to both of you.

    This post addresses so many of the feelings I am struggling with in my short blogging life. Thank you for speaking clearly on these issues we all have in one degree or another.

    When you receive this reply I pray you know it to be..(I quote you)..

    “Whereas, talking? That’s just stream of conscience, hopefully built up in grace, tact, and natural ability to express thoughts.”

    Linda Darlene

    Post a Reply

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