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Do I Need a Shrink?

Dear Coach,

No matter what I do, I'm never 100 percent confident in the stories I file. Hitting the "send” button is usually followed by a desire to run and hide under a rock. I’m often shocked to find that my editor didn't laugh hysterically or print out my story and pin it on the wall of the men’s room. I’m always grateful that my editor isn’t harsh or crass (or derisive) when editing me. But how do I get rid of this numbing "writer's remorse" before and after filing a story? Do I need to see a shrink? -- Perpetually Anxious Writer

Dear Anxious:

As my late great writing coach Lacey Fosburgh was fond of saying, “Your problem is never going to be talent. It’s always going to be psychology!”

One thing I’ve learned over the years: Writers who are plagued by anxiety and self-doubt are, more often than not, sensitive souls who have deep natural gifts. They doubt, cringe and want to hide under rocks because their emerging skills have not quite caught up with the vision of the story they can see in their mind’s eye.

They are sure that everyone, from the editor to the visitor in the men’s room, sees only what isn’t there – i.e., the “more perfect” story in the writer’s brain. In fact, the opposite is true. They see the good stuff that is there. (Thus, no harshness or derision.)

The sad truth of your writerly lot is that the anxiety never really goes away. The better you get, the more skill you have, the greater the stories you write, the higher your imagined self-expectation.

Do you need to see a shrink? Probably not. Neurosis, unfortunately, goes hand in hand with true talent. The trick to controlling it is understanding what it is rather than thinking there’s something truly wrong with you.

About the column
Ask the Coach is updated regularly. Have a suggestion for a future column, contact Mary Ann Hogan.

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Last updated: Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 | 15:47:23