Thursday, 4 August 2011

Anxiety & Art or Obsession: playing in a writer near you

Obsess: to haunt or excessively preoccupy the mind; to engage in obsessive thinking, become obsessed with an idea.

What is the primary symptom of (clinical) anxiety?  Not being able to turn your brain off. Worrying.  Having an incessant internal dialogue.  Obsessing.

While assessing one patient about his difficulty turning his thinking off, he responded, "If you mean the fact that I've taken apart two different pieces of machinery in my head and put them back together while we've been sitting here talking then, yes, I guess I do have trouble with that."

Writers and artists obsess.  There would be no story, no book, no piece without ruminating about the artistic process.

Writers tend to have an ongoing internal story in the works.  The desolate neglected house we zoomed by while driving in the country when I was a kid would prompt me to imagine about the lives of the previous occupants.  A lonely appearing older gentleman having a solitary lunch can launch a story in my mind.  You know the drill.

Does that mean all writers are inherently anxious folk?  Good question.

A writer/artist might have clinical anxiety but may be "self treating" it with the process of thinking about their art and/or craft.  Rather than feeling like they have no control and are being held hostage by their incessant internal ramble, they channel those thoughts into creative flow.

So here is the enlightenment of the day: the most effective type of therapy for the control of anxiety and depression symptoms is called cognitive therapy.  What does it consist of?  In a nutshell--controlling what you think. You capture and control the thoughts rather than the thoughts absconding and controlling you.

Anxiety ridden thoughts are full of fear and angst.  Depressive thoughts are, well, depressing.  Writers' and artists' obsessions are full of . . . creativity.

We also have the frustrated or blocked creator where thoughts get channelled into a repetitive vortex of self-flagellation: I suck; I'm not a writer; I can't think of anything; my creativity is dead; look at everyone else around writing and I'm stuck.  Clearly that circular reasoning will do nothing but lower one's mood and motivation.

Use your obsessive qualities to work for good and not evil.

Take control of what you put in your head.


Write when you are happy.

Write when you are sad.

Write when you are stuck . . . write about being stuck and how you are going to get unstuck.

And then there is the compulsion to write/create.

We'll stop here for now.


  1. I've always dreamed of visiting New Zealand. So jealous! You're one lucky lady!

  2. This is awesome. I'm at a place where I can't get those thoughts out of my head. Writing lets me do that. And i thought i was nuts! LOL. I guess I am in a good way.

  3. @Betsy-i am so grateful for my luck! it is absolutely amazing. Friend me on FB if you want to see photos, etc. becky aud-jennison

  4. hi chandara- i'm glad it was helpful to you. stay tuned . . . more on the subject coming. and congrats on your writing!