If you throw me a ball out of the blue, I’ll probably catch it. If you tell me you’re going to throw me a ball, I’ll probably fumble it. That’s performance anxiety. That’s what landed me in left field in tee-ball. In fact, it’s probably responsible for where I landed in life, but I’m not writing this blog entry for the purpose of self-incrimination or to elicit sympathy.
As a writer, performance anxiety is a big part of my process. As I write, I wonder how the story I’m writing will play to the audience. The more I worry about it, the slower I write — so slow, in fact, that every word is like pulling a tooth. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who as thirty-two teeth, and they’re all in my mouth, but that’s still not a monumental amount of metaphorical progress when it comes to writing. It makes chewing a lot easier, though.
The best job interview I ever had was for a job I knew I wasn’t going to take. I was funny, witty, charming, well-spoken, and I exuded confidence from every orifice, even the one nothing really wonderful ever comes out of. When I turned down the job, they offered me more money to try to get me to take it.
(The reason I didn’t take the job was that they didn’t offer health insurance. I had just turned thirty, and everyone told me that my body would start falling apart and I’d need it. They were wrong. I didn’t start falling apart until I was thirty-five.)
When I was writing in complete obscurity, I didn’t have performance anxiety during the act of composition. I was writing for myself. Now that I’m writing for an audience, albeit a small one, I’m permeated by it. I never thought publishing would have drawbacks, but it does. How does one separate writing from critiquing once you’ve learned how to critique your writing? Please, someone, post the answer below.