How Anxiety Can Ruin a Writing Career - Glenn Gers
Can you explain how anxiety almost ruined your writing career it almost stopped it from starting i was a terribly terribly anxious young person still i'm very anxious i just actually assignment writing help writing has become sort of the way i counter anxiety it's one of the few things that's totally within my control and control is what helps with having the feeling of having something in your control is what helps anxiety so being able to go into a fictional world or create a world or follow a story in your mind was one of the few things that would prevent me from feeling anxious and yet when i tried to write them down i was always very self-critical it always seemed more complicated than just making it up in your head to actually get it down on paper was very difficult and so i started wanting to write.
When i was 10 or 11. and i would write outlines or plans for things and write beginnings of things but i wouldn't be able to actually finish them and I could not figure out why the answer was anxiety the answer was not having a process and it took about 10 15 years of struggling with that and having writer's block and being talented i mean i could think of the stuff i would write good stuff when i wrote but i would write very rarely and it would be very upsetting um and one of the things i had to teach myself which is what i now try to teach others is the importance of having a reassuring process a routine a very mechanical way of doing the work so that there's no anxiety involved because it's just like if you were a musician you would practice your instrument regardless of quality regardless of importance you just run your finger over the keys over and over and over again and if you do that as a writer if you push yourself to just write even if it's bad if you push yourself to just get used to the experience of stopping and starting and starting and stopping every day for days and days and days eventually it becomes so comforting and familiar that you can actually do the creative stuff the creative stuff comes after the process a lot of this actually reminded me i eventually ran into Stanislavskiís writing about actors and i recognize that it's the same thing i actually think of it as method writing because the idea of an actor having to go out on a stage and be able to summon up an emotion on cue every night when it was in theater and you had to do it every night was a struggle that anyone would have a problem doing and so that stanislavski tried to work out a process a method by which you can create a a very mysterious thing called emotion on cue even if it's not yours even if you don't feel it and that's essentially what a writer does there's just nobody looking but you have to sit down at your desk and somehow transport yourself into a fictional world into a created place with people who are not you and you have to feel these feelings and imagine this stuff that has to come out of you from you know not where people don't know where creativity comes from you know when you get it you know when it's happening but you don't know how it happens and you can't so what you can know is if i create this ritual this routine by which i'm going to always open the same type of notebook or i'm going to have the same format i'm working in and i'm going to understand the mechanics of writing the idea of character and story and people taking action and if you get all those things and you apply them to whatever you're writing over and over you'll eventually become so comfortable with the process that you'll become creative and after many many years where i would just panic every time i had to write now i actually find that writing is the thing that keeps me from panicking about life and that i'll find myself every day if i don't write i get nervous but if i do write or if i if i trust the process it will absolutely take away the anxiety i can you can't guarantee much about the arts but i can guarantee that practice and exposure to the process and creating a ritual is almost always guaranteed to make your art better and so it sounds like that definitely didn't come right away from you it took years because you you were enrolled in school and then you left i was i was very lucky i got into yale university on uh there was a freak moment when they were accepting very creative people without great grades um it was in the mid-1970s and the world was in turmoil and things were not as stressed as they are now i guess all i know is i was good at english but not much else and i applied to a bunch of schools and i got into yale and so i went i didn't actually even want to go to college i just wanted to be a writer and i thought this is just a waste of my time but i got in i can't not go and i went and it was a cool experience but by the end of the first year i was struggling with my writing and i blamed college i now know what i just told you which is that i had been struggling with my writing before college and i was going to struggle with it after college but for that moment i was like ah if i only didn't have this college thing i would be able to write which is crazy because like i had you know four classes and i didn't have that much to do but um i dropped out in my the beginning of my sophomore year and i called my parents i actually said to them would you take the money you're paying college and just give it to me to pay for an apartment so i can be a writer and they said no oh okay they're not insane they're supportive but not crazy okay and they said but you know if you want to come home come home so i came home and i lived in the basement um and i just tried to write and all the problems i had that i blamed on college they were still there when college wasn't and i was i tried everything it would be like oh if i only had this music to play then i would be able to write and i would go out and buy a record and then oh if i only read this book i would be prepared to write this book and a whole year went by like that i just like terribly stressed and never getting anything done and and trying every day and feeling terrified because i screwed up college and now i had nothing um and one day i was trying to write a play and i ended up writing the opening of a movie version of the play i was reading william goldman's um scripts and and novels and william goldman is such an amazing and influential writer and his style of screenwriting is so catchy that i just thought i i can't write this play but i can imagine the movie version of the play i'll write it in his style so i wrote about six or seven pages of the opening and it was the first thing i had written in about a year and it it sort of broke open the gates um to the concept of this what i was saying about having a process just learning how to understand who the characters are and what the scene they're in is and if you learn to think in scenes then you just write that one scene um so that was that i got six pages written in a year and i said i better go back to college because i need something to cover the next three years while i try and figure out how to get over this i went back to college this is a terribly long story so it wasn't far from new haven and i they they um they took me back um with some caveats and then i had a couple of years when i was going to college and trying to overcome this writing problem which i was working towards but honestly it wasn't until after that so we're talking now years and years later i'm still having a hard time with getting all the creativity out and i was trying to write a novel and i was working as an office temp i worked as an office temp for 12 years on and off after college before i started to make a living as a writer and during the many years of office tempting i was writing at different people's desks every day i would have a new job every day sometimes and i would lug my writing around a little briefcase and i had to learn how to write in the spaces when no one was bothering me at temp jobs so like someone would say go xerox something at xerox and i'd have like half an hour nothing to do and that's when i could write and so that was like the antithesis of a good writing space i'm in a public office and i have a little notebook and i learned that if you just think about the scene you're in you just think about the moment that this character is trying to accomplish this one thing that they are doing because people only do one thing at a time characters are only doing one thing at a time so you only need to write that one thing and so i specifically remember there was a scene of a character the story was that he had sublet his apartment to a serial killer he was a wannabe screenwriter and he just discovered a body in his apartment and he goes to call the police this is back in the 80s so it was he had to go to the pay phone on the corner and i had to describe what it's like to run to a pay phone in the corner in the rain and tell the police that you've sublet your apartment to a serial killer and i just tried to imagine what it was like for a struggling screenwriter and i had i had at the time holes in my shoes because they had worn through and i'd put cardboard in them so i described what it was like when the rainwater came through the hole in your shoe and what it was like to try and explain to the police why you had sublet your apartment to a serial killer i had not done that part but i was in the moment and that's really what it's about thinking about the scene and being in the moment and understanding what a character is trying to accomplish and why there's an obstacle to that in this case the obstacle was shame the fact that he was a little ashamed that he had gotten himself into this position and so that's it character objective obstacle scene there's somebody who wants something and they're trying to do it but there's something in their way if you have that then you can always find that just that little piece then you can write and i remember writing the scene and going wow i did it the thing that was here is down there and i started to learn to practice that process the process of thinking in scenes of understanding that you're not writing the whole story you're just in this moment with this character and that was the beginning of teaching myself that process and it still took a long time but that's that's what i learned that's how i survived and that's what i'm trying to tell people now and do you think by the fact that you had just a quick amount of time half hour and you knew too probably people in the office might be watching or whatever that you there were no excuses well i need to organize this and dust this before i start going oh yeah when i was in high school and i was like i'm going to be a writer but i can only write if i have nothing else to do all day i mean even when you're a full-time professional writer you have other things to do all day you never get a whole day free um so yeah i had this irrational sense that i had to have the right kind of music and the right typewriter which actually did make a difference and um and now i was in the exact opposite of that i was at a different office every week and god knows somebody could come up to me at any moment and ask me to do something that i hated and and that's when i began to recognize that all my insistence on what i thought was the writer's process um was actually making it harder and that when i started to recognize that if you think in scenes and if you understand what the character wants and if you know all of that stuff that method acting for writers you can you can do it anywhere anytime which was good because i had to do it anywhere at any time and that's really actually a very valuable thing for anyone who wants to be a professional now because most professionals are going to be working on shows not movies they're not going to be writing at home and sending it in they're going to be in a room and you've got to be able to deal with people coming around you and with orders being given and things being changed and the more that you can get a strong process a sense that somebody says to you a guy's on a bus and he's got a duck in his bag go and you have to write a scene the more that you can teach yourself that skill that tool of being able to imagine a scene understanding that someone needs to do something and then getting used to the flow of just putting something down imagining it and grabbing it in in a form that you can get onto a paper that's the most valuable skill i think if you ask any showrunner i think they're gonna say i really want someone that i can say this weird thing just was demanded of us you need to do it go and they come back next you know an hour with a scene that's really valuable and that's what office temping taught me so everyone should go out there and become office tabs and would you was there like a temporary agency that you would check in with and they would give you an assignment yeah it's called payson people they're long gone but i say um interesting it was it was sweet there was a very small office it wasn't one of the big ones and um but they had they would every week i would call in and say where am i working this week um and sometimes it was like thursday or this place friday or at this place um and sometimes it's like you're not working this week um but for much of 10 years that's what i did did anyone pressure you to or you know did they offer you a full-time job sometimes if you're a temp they go i like that guy yeah you know eventually there there was um at about the nine year mark um i did actually take one of the jobs as a full-time job the people were lovely and they knew i was a writer and i didn't i was like don't if you can't handle the fact that i'm going to be writing every free minute you know don't don't hire me but we worked it out and i so i worked for because the benefits helped a lot um and also actually at that time i was trying to learn how to do diy filmmaking and um a small eight millimeter video had just started and i had i had gotten some eight millimeter video equipment and i wanted to make features on eight millimeter radio as uh practice just i want to make a practice movie um and i thought like in theater you do a workshop you don't just send the play out into the world you do practice workshops and i thought why don't we do that for movies so i used my office after hours i got permission to uh to shoot in the office i did a whole corporate espionage drama uh about the snack industry oh wow yeah a lot of insider yeah it's brutal a thrill yeah were you riding on the subway were you taking the subway i was writing on stuff i wasn't writing on the subway i was i was absorbing the world in so many ways sure through every orifice oh yeah um but but uh no i i i tended to write either um at desks or um at home in the morning before like i'd wake up at like four and right for an hour before getting ready to go and did anyone question you and say well what are you doing with this note what is this notebook that you're oh yeah well everyone is like oh he's a writer yeah everyone knew that and there wasn't a harry at the spy thing where it's like what are you writing about us um but there was there was a sense of like he's not really at the time was called a secretary um which i was um yeah no people understood i was trying to get out of what i was doing and to be something else and that was generally looked well upon people people didn't give me a hard time you.
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