On Writing One’s Anxieties

Written by Ryan R. Campbell

Ryan R. Campbell is an International Book Awards finalist, the founder of the Writescast Network, and the co-founder of Kill Your Darlings Candle Company.

Posted on December 3, 2019

Filed under On Writing

Everyone’s imagination runs wild from time to time.

Anticipation swells within us, the possibilities playing themselves out in our minds. We predict, preempt, and plan, eager to head off impending disaster.

You can imagine, then, a Sunday evening drive, the sun long set, the interstate slick with snow. The nausea simmers in your stomach as a vehicle barrels down the interstate behind you, weaving in and out of traffic in your rearview mirror.

They’re coming. He’s coming. At his hands, the road is yours to lose—and with it, your life.

So you grip the wheel. You hold steady. You ensure you’re far from his path, or as far from it as you can be considering traffic now merges on both sides; the center lane is yours to maintain. It’s somehow the safest and least safe place on the road.

The car finally passes, and, though relief should have you in its warm embrace, you grip the wheel harder still, fretting a fate that never was.

These are the events of a Sunday in early November, and my fretting did not, would not relent. There was never any true threat from that encroaching vehicle, no, but the dread that came with its approach would not subside until I cast my anxieties onto the page.

And so I wrote.

This wasn’t the first time in recent weeks when I channeled personal distress—or, in some cases, triumph—for my work, but it did mark the first occasion on which I did so in a generally fictional space.

Whether in fiction or non, however, I’m finding writing my anxieties finally delivers the warm embrace of relief I anticipated—but never felt—in the moments following the passing of that vehicle. In this relief, I’m finding it easier now, too, to share how the experience has shaped me and to share the fruits of the process.

The true life events described above form the cornerstone of my forthcoming flash fiction piece, “State Line,” the story of a widower confronting a recent loss and interstate stereotypes, which I’ll be posting to Wattpad this Friday. I’m proud of this new short—not only because it’s the first I’ve written in years—but because it comes from a place of honesty.

And I know I can’t be alone in having experienced this.

So tell me in the comments: how do personal triumph and tragedy—real or imagined—inform your work? Does writing your woes, your anxieties, your aspirations affect your relationship to your creative process, to whether you share a particular piece?

While you collect your thoughts to post below, know I’ll return tomorrow right here with an exploration of the dynamics that underlie the interstate stereotypes at the heart of “State Line.”

Until then, however, write on. Write well. Be your best you.

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r.r. campbell


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