Originally Published on 06.04.2020
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty anxious as of late.
Projects that were blossoming and turning into something beautiful before the lockdown have since wilted and ideas I desperately wanted to explore have lost their value amidst all the anxiety. Hopefully, I am not alone when I sit down at my keyboard and hover my eager fingertips above the keys, but find myself unable to write even one word. If I somehow string a sentence together, it’s immediately rebuffed in revulsion. The page, even after hours of experimenting with different rhythms, syntax and pace, has ended up blank. But, through putting down some creative work temporarily, I have been able to find time for other projects that have been ruminating. These are passion projects that have been pushed to the bottom of my to-do list for almost a year. I’ve not touched them. They’ve been left in a cold, dark draw to gather dust until now. I can sense these screenplays and manuscripts are angry at me for abandoning them and for leaving them for so long. Opening the documents after such a long time, there is a sense of distrust, like it doesn’t want to open up to me anymore.
Channelling my inner anxiety into (hopefully legible) prose and script has been really challenging, but there is a weapon I’ve been using.
It is the single most valuable tool for being creative around your mental illness. Be patient with yourself and be patient with your characters. When I am anxious, they are unruly instead of obedient or open to the plotting I have planned. I needed to remember that my characters are as living and breathing as I am once they are written on the page.
They will disagree with you and they will be obtuse at the best of times, but listen to them. Listen to what they need and want, and you will write.
“I am constantly at the mercy of my characters. They hold me to account...”
I find the perception of writing very odd. Many writers say that they play god and many non-writers assume the author is god. I disagree with this entirely. I am constantly at the mercy of my characters. They hold me to account and they make it known when they don’t like what I’ve written or made them do. My characters are just as alive as I let them be, and that has been the cure for my anxiety during this confusing and terrifying time. They are confidants and figments of my imagination I can turn to when it feels too much to turn to someone real. They are permanent and are never fleeting, so long as I keep a special somewhere for them in my head.
My closing remarks are: Trust yourself and in your characters. Let them guide you if you are feeling confused or overwhelmed. Above all, be patient.