It’s a known fact that writing is hard (see the quote from Hemingway about it being like opening up a vein and bleeding out onto the page). Sure you can do it from an easy chair and with coffee by your side, but no matter what genre you’re working in or what type of project you’re doing, all writing forces you to confront your vulnerabilities, your insecurities, and your overall abilities, which is emotionally and intellectually draining. On some days, you’re able to make peace with this and overcome; on others, you may dread writing and can barely drag yourself to the chair or admit defeat and lose a valuable day of making progress with your work.
Feelings happen to the best of us, but every serious writer with goals, plans, or a deadline (self or externally imposed) knows you can’t give into them every time they show up or else you’ll never get past the first page. That means keeping a bag of tools handy you can use to trick yourself into turning your dread into enthusiasm, so you can get back to work.
These 2 tricks in particular are highly effective at turning your dread into enthusiasm because they tap into chemical responses in the brain. Every time you feel dread, use them, and within seconds, you’ll be back in the chair and getting your work done. They’re simple, free, and only take seconds to have an effect!
When you smile, whether it’s genuine or a forced grimace, the activation of those particular muscles in the face triggers chemicals that signal to the brain that you’re happy and calm. Once the brain gets the memo, voila, you feel happy and calm. What a revelation- by smiling on command, within seconds you feel much better!
Smiling activates tiny molecules in your brain that are designed to fend off stress. These molecules, called neuropeptides, facilitate communication between neurons in your brain. Also, when you smile, your brain releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are associated with lowering your anxiety and increasing feelings of happiness. In fact, serotonin is often the chemical that anti-depressant medications attempt to regulate. This natural, feel-good chemical cocktail that your brain serves up helps you feel happier and more relaxed, and it can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Source: “Smiling Affects Your Brain”
The outcome isn’t just a lift in your chest where dread tends to pool up, but you get an instant lift and feeling of general contentment and wellness that goes throughout your entire body.
(Plus, if you really want to feel the effects, smile at yourself in the mirror. Doing this will reinforce and deepen these feelings, inviting you to feel doubly happy and rewarded!)
#2 Use Enthusiastic Self-Talk
Here’s a neat fact: your brain cannot distinguish between fear and excitement. The same region of the brain is stimulated regardless of whether you’re facing a snarling tiger or on a roller coaster, and your body has the same psychological response to both: sweaty palms, faster heartbeat, and increased stress hormones.
So here is where the ball is entirely in your court as it’s what you do with your feelings that dictates your next steps. Scientists have coined the agency you have in this moment “Anxiety Reappraisal.”
This means you can as easily let yourself dissolve into a puddle by acknowledging how afraid or overwhelmed you are and giving into those negative anxious feelings, and, well, that’s game over … or you can employ our second trick and greet your fears, worries and dread as if you’re super excited about them and turn the ship around!
The way you use anxiety reappraisal and turn your dread into enthusiasm is by “catching” or reframing your fear-based feelings with positive words and an anticipatory tone.
Instead of saying:
- “I’m a hack; there’s no way I will ever get this story published.”
- “Everyone is going to laugh at me because I can’t write for crap.”
- “Who do I think I am to even try to write this memoir? No one will want to read it.”
- I can’t wait to keep writing this stupid story and get 78 rejection letters!
- It’s going to be so awesome to put all of my energy into this scary thing and know it will never look as polished as I want it to!
- What a rush it will be to write for an entire hour today even though I would way rather bake snickerdoodles!
Say it loud and proud like you mean it, exclamation mark and all. Not only will you probably crack yourself up, but … oh, look: there’s that smile! Which you know is now doing double-duty, and don’t you already feel better?
Turn That Nameless Dread into Enthusiasm That Will Enhance Your Writing (And Your Life!)
On the days when you feel like you have to drag yourself to the chair, if you spend 20 minutes Googling “how to cure writer’s block,” or clean your house, or hate-scroll through Instagram instead of writing, take comfort in knowing your feelings of dread are normal. All writers, from the widely published best sellers to those working on their first book, feel the gamut of feelings one can feel on any given day.
But the one thing that sets apart the writers whose work makes it into the public and their books on the shelves vs. those whose writing doesn’t happen at all is their resourcefulness with the tricks they use and their willingness to use them knowing feelings pass, but each writing day is precious.
You may feel silly cheerleading for yourself or grinning at your computer like a Halloween pumpkin, but once you try these 2 tricks, you’ll feel your dread turn into enthusiasm, and you’ll be sold on their efficacy.
It feels good to know you’re in the power seat here. You can allow your worries to rear up like a great white wave and overtake you, or you can smile, put words to your thoughts in the most Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader voice you have, and watch your fears melt away.
Then, you can get another coffee, return to your comfy chair, and return to doing as you’re meant to, and write.