No two people are going to have exactly the same journey through life, which is probably where the term “we all have a book in us” comes from. We all have a unique perspective that differs from the next person, but if we have a mental illness, it will most certainly play a part in giving us a diverse journey through life.
Anxiety is no picnic, but it has given me a few advantages when it comes to writing novels. Symptoms of anxiety every day draws focus away from a typical day-to-day experience, and shifts it towards some really specific ones.
For example, in a spiral of self-depreciation and self-doubt, we might experience some truly skewed introspection that has us hyper-focusing on all our negative traits. It’s an unhealthy practice, but it might lead us to understand our flaws a little better than someone who doesn’t have this experience. By understanding our own flaws, we are far better equipped to realistically and interestingly burden our characters with them. Sorry, guys.
As difficult as living with anxiety can be at times, it does sometimes hand us a spanner or a screwdriver when we’re writing our books, and here’s how:
Suffering breeds empathy, and my mind won’t be changed on that. If someone, or in this case something, causes us to suffer and we are capable of empathy, if we see the same thing happening to someone else, we connect with their suffering. Maybe we even begin to relive the way in which we suffered after the same treatment.
In my experience, this causes us to become more empathetic. This empathy allows us to connect with our characters on a deeper level, which in turn leads to more complex, interesting people in our books. The process isn’t exactly a picnic, but if it has to happen at all, I’m happy to have something to show for it.
The End-Of-The-World Scenarios Are Pre-Written
I’ve mentioned in a few previous The Anxious Author posts that anxiety can often have us formulating multiple worst-case scenarios to an action as simple as crossing the street. When we’re lying awake at night plagued with notions of how the world might end while we’re sleeping, we don’t get a lot of rest, but we get a bunch of inspiration.
When I’m considering end-of-the-world scenarios, as well as looking to the media for ideas, I can pluck one or two from the many I’ve generated before bed on bad anxiety days. Obviously, I’d rather just be able to get a good night’s sleep without considering the asteroid that might hit the planet overnight and kill us all. But as that is pretty unlikely, I’ll take the story ideas and run.
Escapism Helps Hone Stories
When I was a teenager, my anxiety was often crippling for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons resided inside the home, which meant that escaping anxiety stimuli was incredibly difficult at times. As a result, I developed what is tentatively known as “Maladaptive Daydreaming”, a phenomenon that has an individual escaping to a world of their own design in their minds as a means of coping.
Naturally, maladaptive daydreaming isn’t a great habit when you’re trying to study for a test or do homework, but it’s a great source of relief. If you’re an author, it’s also a great source of material. When you’re developing storylines, characters, and plot twists to escape the world, you spend a lot of time in it, and when put to paper, they can make for some really great stories.
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