Monday, February 13, 2012

Worry

There's been plenty said about the uselessness and negativity of worry. But when a champion worrier tries to give it up, the mental conversation can go this way:

Self: All right, I'm going to let go of that anxiety. I can't control that event anyway.
Self: But if you stop worrying about it, how will you handle it if things go wrong? You have to be prepared!
Self: I am prepared. I know what I will do if things go wrong.
Self: But if you just go merrily living your life, this thing can come out of nowhere and blindside you. Misfortune loves to do that. It waits until you're all happy and looking in the other direction, and then--pow!
Self: Wait a minute. You think that if you sit here worrying about this thing and focusing on it, you can control how it goes, don't you?
Self: I also believe that if I stop concentrating for a minute on keeping aloft a plane in which I am a passenger, it will crash. Or at least hit bad turbulence. The kind where the plane falls a thousand feet in a couple of seconds and your stomach tries to jump out through the top of your skull?

One aspect of worry is this illusion that we can control things. And in the writing world, there's plenty to worry about. There are the craft issues (Will I ever finish this thing? Does it work? Will anyone else care?) and the market issues (Will someone else write the same idea, only better and sooner? Will this find an agent/editor/readership? Will it sell?) and the career issues (Will anyone read my next book? How many different kinds of tax forms are there, anyway? Will I earn out? Can I get those rights back?).

Worrying is sometimes like bargaining: If I put myself through this pain and anxiety, I will have paid my dues, and the way will be clear for good things to come. It can be weirdly comforting and familiar; it can be scary to let go of.

One of the most effective tools I've ever found for dropping worry is chasing it away with a laugh. (Hm, now I feel like I should close with a joke.) Do you have a good strategy for letting go of worry?

7 comments:

  1. First off, Happy Valentine's Day! Although worrying is often cast off as something negative, I believe it just means that the worrier is plotting ahead. As writers, we are conditioned to think of conflicts for our characters before they happen so it wouldn't surprise me if a writer did that in their own lives as well. I learned somewhere about the necessity of creating the worse case scenario for your character. And I think the worrying kicks in when someone thinks of the worse case scenarios in their own lives too.

    I don't have a specific remedy to cure worry, but for myself, I have to occasionally remind myself that I'm lucky to have the opportunity to try for what I want to do, even if I don't get the outcome I hope for. Hope I'm making sense. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, they do say that nervousness can help us be "on" and accomplish more. It's probably a matter of degree. And yes, having something to worry about means we have (or are pursuing) something of value, so there's that, too.

      Happy Valentine's Day!

      Delete
  2. Worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not an original saying, but one I've heard many times. I try to distinguish between worry and concern. Concern can be healthy and productive.

      Delete
  3. I swear I'm a professional worrier. I'm pretty sure it's why I have bad skin and why I can't sleep sometimes. It's frustrating. I like what Angelina says about worry vs. concern. I need to concentrate on that. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not very good at letting go of worry, but I'm better than I used to be. By the time I'm 80, maybe I'll be mellow!

      Delete