When Panic Attacks Writers

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If you write for a living, you deal with deadlines. Sometimes you will have several jobs on your plate at the same time.

On top of that, your clients or editors don't coordinate their demands, so you might even have two or three deadlines all falling within the same day or two.

It happens.

And being the professional you are, if you think you can do the work well in the time provided, you'll tell each of them there's no problem meeting the deadline. After all, you don't want to let them down by declining the job. Nor do you wan to lose the income.

And when all goes well, you manage to organize your time to get each of the jobs written and delivered on time.

>> But what happens when things go badly?

What happens when one of your clients is three days late in delivering some of the necessary briefing information? What happens when one of them rings up and needs the work a day sooner, throwing all of your careful scheduling out of the window?

If you have a good relationship with your clients, you can usually work something out.

But still, there are times when everything conspires against you and it begins to feel like the task ahead is impossible.

And it may not be a client's fault at all. Maybe you have a burst water pipe to deal with at home. Maybe the kids are all off school for a day or two. Maybe you have a day or two or three when you feel sick.

>> Then the panic sets in.

Have you experienced this? The writer's panic attack? The sense that the task ahead is impossible and you'll never get everything done?

You feel it creeping up on you slowly. And then the real sense of panic sets in, and it makes everything a whole lot worse...because you freeze.

The sense of panic starts to take up all the space in your head. You can feel your back tightening. You're staring at the screen and you just can't write any more...because you are consumed by the knowledge that everything is coming won't meet the'll let down your won't get your pay check.

>> How to get rid of the panic attack.

Step one is the hardest. You have to get up and walk away.

Do anything. Take a walk. Go to a movie. Go visit some friends. Read a book. Take a snooze. For how long? That depends...but as a guideline, I would give yourself a good couple of hours.

Two hours? At this point the little voice in your head is saying, "Sure, brilliant idea. We're faced with this impossible set of deadlines and you think I should go watch a movie?"

Yes, I do. The longer you sit in front of the screen, the deeper the panic becomes and, at best, you'll move ahead at a snail's pace for the rest of the day. Worse still, your work probably won't be of a very good quality.

Far better to make a clean break and walk away. And walk right away. Get out of the room. Out of the house if you can. Cut yourself off from work completely. Don't compromise and decide to read through the client brief again until you get your head straight. Make a clean break.

>> Find the way that works best for you.

When it comes to taking that break, many writers have already found out what works best for them.

Some will go running or spend an hour at the gym. Some will do some stretching exercises, or yoga, or breathing exercises. And yes, others will just go out for a beer or watch a movie.

All of these activities achieve the same end. They change the focus of your mind. They prevent that panic from feeding on your insecurities and fears.

If you have been writing for a few years and have faced your fair share of deadlines, you probably already know what works best for you in these circumstances.

If you're relatively new to writing to deadlines, and have faced a panic attack or two, my two messages are:

1. You're not alone. It doesn't mean you're a bad writer or a bad scheduler. It happens to the best of us.

2. Step away from the computer. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is something completely unrelated to the work you are doing.

When you sit back down, with that sense of panic behind you, the speed with which you work will more than compensate for the time lost when you stepped away.

Nick Usborne is a freelance copywriter, author and speaker. For more articles and resources on making money as a freelance writer, visit his site,

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