Dealing with Career Anxiety

Dealing with Career Anxiety

My brain is very full.

As we speak, I have 2 novels, 2 non-fiction books, and 20 blog posts floating around in my brain. That’s on top of my usual anxieties (will I ever make it as a writer? Am I wasting my life in a job that I hate?), day-to-day to-do’s (must remember to buy kitchen roll on my way home from work), wedding planning (damnit I still haven’t emailed the videographer back), buying a house (will our mortgage application ever get accepted??) and anger at the current political climate (oh for fuck’s sake Theresa, did you HAVE to call an election NOW? Couldn’t you have waited a BIT longer?).

That’s a lot of thoughts for one little brain.

Normally, I deal with my full brain by writing. This is not unique. Most writers write because they just need to get the thoughts out of their brain so they can concentrate on something other than the half-formed sentences charging around in their head.

The problem is, I seem to have forgotten how to write.

In March, I wrote a lot. I wrote more than I’ve probably ever written in a single month ever. Maybe I wasn’t writing here (sorry little blog!), but in March I wrote for 4 different publications, 3 different freelance clients, my own lil newsletter (holla at the Anti-Fascist Babe Club) and filled an entire notebook with scribblings and scratchings and ideas. I wrote so much that I finally started to believe I was a real writer that stood a chance of making this her actual career.

But then April came and I was dried up. My brain was empty. I couldn’t bring myself to start another notebook or find more freelance work or write anything more than a few (okay, a lot of) tweets. A month of waking up at 5am to write before my 9-5 (which is more like 7-7 once you factor in my commute) had hit me. I was tired.

So I took a break and waited for my brain to fill up again.

And it has. My brain is very full. It is practically overflowing. It’s been overflowing since the middle of April, but now we’re at the end of May and still have no idea how to empty it.

Every time I sit down to write one of the many ideas in my brain, I get stuck. Sentences don’t sound right. Everything I want to say has already been said by someone twice as eloquent and three times more successful than me. My thoughts are unoriginal and my prose is bland.

I have been kidding myself. I’m not a writer.

I am a person who can string sentences together, sure. But a writer? Those are skilled people. Artistic people. Creative people. I am nothing.

Or so my brain keeps telling me.

Which makes writing even harder than it already was.

See, 7 year old me had a dream. She assumed she’d be a best-selling novelist by the age of 16. 20 at the absolute latest. When you’re 7, those kind of dreams make sense. 20 is old. Ancient. A real grown up with a real career. By 22 – hell, by 18 – those dreams need a little adjusting. The goal posts need moving a touch. 16 needs to become 30. 20 needs to become 40. Better yet, we need to re-define success altogether and detach it entirely from arbitrary ages that mean nothing.

Unfortunately, redefining your ambitions; re-calibrating what success means to you, is not an easy task.

Do you know what easy? Comparing YouTubers who are just a couple of years older than you and have millions of subscribers and a book deal. Measuring up your career against journalists you admire and convincing yourself that you’ll never achieve everything they have before you hit 30 – as if 30 is the magic age that you need to have ‘made it’ by.

But comparison is – as they say – the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to writers you admire can be a great way to inspire and motivate you – but it’s also a great way to leave you crippled with anxiety so great that it takes you 3 weeks to write this very blog post.

Rationally, I know this. I know that I do not have to have my dream career at the age of 22. Or ever. The number of bylines under my belt does not define my worth as a human being. I do not have to make the 30 Under 30 list to be valuable. 

I know this. Unfortunately, my brain does not.

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