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When Mark tossed out the challenge of sending in our creative blocks, I hit the keyboard faster than a speed demon in a red wagon. I was determined. I was going to tell someone. Once and for all.
I have performance anxiety.
I know, I know, that’s a dreaded thing to have. Especially if you’re considered something of a blogosphere phenomena that churns out great content by the bucketful.
But there you have it – some days, I just can’t write. It’s not for lack of ideas. It’s not for lack of ability. It’s just performance anxiety, a very simple creative block that stops you from achieving more.
It goes like this: I sit down, determined to write The Most Brilliant Post Ever. And about 137 words or so into my work, I stop and stare at what I’ve done. I look at it and realize that what I have written is in fact The Worst Blog Post Ever.
That was not the plan.
Why do I think it’s The Worst Blog Post Ever? Well, let me tell you:
It’s not inspiring enough.
It’s not witty enough.
It’s not smart enough.
It’s not good enough.
It’s not knock-your-socks-off-rock-your-world-awesomesauce.
That wouldn’t be a problem in itself. The problem is that I’m absolutely positive rock-your-world quality is what my readers expect. (Some of them have actually told me that’s what they expect. They’re very helpful that way.)
This is part of the problem with our passions, our hobbies and our jobs – doing what we love to do every day is a long-term exercise that isn’t exactly sustainable in guaranteed quality.
We all have our moments and moods. We get tired or lose our inspiration. We doubt ourselves. We have a hard time thinking of something smart to say. We’re not always the most thoughtful homo sapiens spouting wisdom with every breath we take.
Every single one of us, especially the artists and talented people out there, has off days where we either don’t feel up to it, don’t feel like doing it or just don’t feel it at all.
But to get that rock-your-world kind of talent going on, you gotta feel it.
Solution: Stop the Show
Performance anxiety generally means that you feel stressed out because you have to do something in front of people. There may be official judges whose job it is to gauge how well you’ve performed. It might be a competition in which you have to beat out all other hopefuls (who certainly want to beat you). Or it may simply be that your audience judges you every time you step out to perform.
Whatever the reason, whatever the situation, there’s a guaranteed way to get through this: by not performing in the first place. No performance, no anxiety. Problem solved.
As I wrote to Mark, I didn’t always have this problem. I told him how the more popular my blog became, the harder it became to write. I could easily see for myself that my performance anxiety increased in relation to how much pressure to perform I felt I was under.
Impress 7 readers? No problem. 700? Can do. But 7,000? With more readers lining up every day?
Yeah. Blank page syndrome for sure.
So I ripped my eyes off the blank page. I quit trying. I said, “Screw it.” And then what did I do?
No, really. I couldn’t write for other people, but I could write for myself without any pressure at all. I’d work on some fiction, or I would pen off an email to a friend, or I’d answer a question in a forum or comment around the blogosphere. I could write website copy, or an article or an essay, if I wanted.
No problem. No sweat.
We All Did It Because We Loved It
This isn’t a post on how to cure your performance anxiety. Mark’s there for that, and he can help you far more than I can.
But this is a post on how much we screw ourselves up because we lose touch with the fact that we started doing this in the first place because we love doing it.
That’s the key – remembering that we started what we do for us, and not for anyone else. When each of us began – writers, designers, musicians, artists… we didn’t have anyone but ourselves. It was a private performance. We didn’t have readers yet. We didn’t have clients yet. We didn’t have fans yet, or traffic or customers or anything.
We had passion, and talent, and a need to do what we loved because we loved doing it. We had to do something with it or we’d burst.
I’m not cured of my performance anxiety yet, but I’m learning to love writing again. This post, for example, I wrote just for me. I didn’t think about how many people would read it, or where I would post it, or who would comment. I wrote it because Mark asked me to give a shot at the kind of performance that’s completely anxiety-free: the one you do for yourself.
It was easy. It was fun. And it absolutely flew by.
How About You?
Have you ever gotten jammed from performance anxiety? What did you do to get over it?
About the Author: Want to read more on how to overcome blogger problems that hold you back? Check out James Chartrand’s blog, Men with Pens, where you’ll find very little performance anxiety and a ton of great tips and advice to help you succeed.