This week I struggled. Because of that, I have not been able to write down my thoughts and as a consequence my head felt as if it was about to explode. Even right at this moment I am struggling as I am staring at this white page where words are supposed to be. They say that you should write and write and write some more to become good at it and make it feel natural. I really want to believe that – so I suppose that is what I should do.
University has been really busy with essay deadlines, reading literature and preparing for a presentation. Besides that, there was one other major stress factor involved: my current Proficiency course is a course about creative writing. So far, the writing we have had to do has all been academic (or an attempt at being academic), and because of that peer feedback wasn’t all that scary. When I first heard that this was a course about creative writing and writing fiction and non-fiction I was really looking forward to it – until it hit me that I would have to write and people would have to read it. And not only that, they would have to criticise it. Having people read this blog is infinitely less scary because I don’t know half the people who do read it, and they do not have to have an opinion on it. Some people like it and undoubtedly other people do not, but I am not being graded. For university, people read it because they have to give (constructive) criticism. This led to a slight (or not so slight) state of panic and I found it very hard to cope. Writing stories is such a big part of me and of what I love doing, that any type of criticism scares me. In general, I have a fear of not being able to do things right. A fear of speaking in public and not being able to say the right thing, a fear of wearing the things I like because others might not like it, a fear of not being as good as others. A fear of failure. Of course I recognise that you can only get better at things if you keep improving yourself, and you cannot improve yourself if you are not open to constructive criticism.
For the proficiency course, we had to create teams of four or five people, an “editorial team”. I only knew one of the group members but the rest seemed nice enough. I voiced my concerns and they were very nice about it – they understood why I felt nervous. For them, it felt just as any other (academic) writing exercise. In a way, writing something entirely new could have made them more nervous than I was, I suppose. I have written stories more often and have taken creative writing courses so I should know what I am doing. Their understanding was a relief to me and already I felt more comfortable around them. I did tell them not to take pity on me – it is my “problem” that I have issues with receiving criticism but at some point I have to learn. We planned our first meeting, which had to be very official: we had a chairman and a secretary, made agenda points and kept a log of what was being said. When I look back on that meeting, a thought comes into my mind – a thought that I have had so, so many times before but still have not learned from. Why did I worry about this so much? In retrospect, I really enjoyed our meeting. We exchanged feedback by pointing out both positive and negative aspects. Their feedback was such a big help – the parts that I had been struggling with could be fixed easily and were a great improvement to my story. Lately I have been trying to tell the people in my life that I appreciate them and what they do for me, and even though I did not know my group members very well I decided that they deserved that. They responded very well to it and I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Because of the meeting with my editorial team I have now finished the final draft of my short story and am almost ready to hand it in – I have yet to find a fitting title.
Having to cope with stress and a constant stream of worry and anxiety has been difficult. However, I do feel as if it is getting easier. Maybe only slightly, but easier nonetheless. Whereas a few years ago I could not get a grip on myself when I was panicking, now it takes me less time to get back on track. Whereas back then I had no clue how to change my thinking, at least now I am aware of the thoughts that I have and how they may or may not aid me. Granted, my feelings do not always agree with my thoughts when I try to turn a situation around or attempt some positive thinking, but recognising that my negative thoughts are perhaps not wholly accurate is of help. Although last week was difficult, I faced something that terrified me and experienced yet again that not everything is as scary as it seems.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”