Sunday, January 21, 2018

Editor vs. Anxiety

Of all the stages in creating a story, editing gets a lot of mixed opinions. Writers either like it, or they don’t. Many even complain about editing. But I’m one of those strange writers who likes the editing process the best. Brainstorming is fun, sure, but I quickly get bored with it and just want to write. Then writing a rough draft can be fun, especially when I’m in the zone, but half the time I am consciously aware that my style or my dialogue or whatever stinks.

Editing allows me to combine the elements I enjoy most—writing through rewrites and clear prose. When I see something wrong with a story, I sit down, or pace, or go for a bike ride, then fix it. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable. I like it when something, particularly a story, challenges me. Life would be too boring otherwise.

But every now and then, life gets difficult. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes, the stress threatens to overwhelm me. Often times, dealing with stress is not so easy as cutting down a word count or fixing some character development. It’s much, much more difficult.

Nearly two years ago, I missed the opportunity to celebrate my brother’s birthday with him because I was studying in England while he was studying in the United States. I went to fencing that particular February evening without my usual enthusiasm to stab things. (When it comes to sports or reading or whatever, I’m either all in or I don’t care. As a result, I scared all my fellow beginners.) That particular day, I lacked motivation and form. As a result, I strained my Achilles tendon and spent the next month limping everywhere.

On another bad day, I was moping in my room about my inability to walk without pain (but I could still bike just fine). So I put on a movie to try to take my mind off myself. Of course, I picked a particularly sad one and had a good cry. Finally, some pity that wasn’t self-pity. I can’t exactly say that was the exact moment, but I soon realized I needed help, and not just for my ankle. Over Easter Break, I learned that I was struggling with depression and anxiety and sought help.

Flash forward to last January. My dad took me on trip to go skiing in the Black Forest per my request. The snow blanketed the evergreen trees, and sometimes enveloped me in a white out so I could hardly see more than ten feet in front of me. When I first got off the ski lift and surveyed the slope from the top, the clouds cleared enough for me to catch a glimpse of a golden sun amid all the white.

But what if I lost control of my skis, flew down the mountain, and slammed into a tree?

My breath caught. And I froze.

I started hyperventilating, and my yellow glasses fogged up. (Never wear yellow glasses skiing, by the way. The snow kept blowing under the glassing and getting into my eyes. Go with ski goggles.) My dad, who was just a bit further down the slope, turned back to me and said, “Come on, Azelyn. You can’t stand there forever.”

Of course, not. I came there to ski, not have a panic attack on the top of a mountain. So I swallowed my fear, angled my skis downhill, and inched down the slope, bit by bit. It was painstaking work, and I took a break in the ski lodge before noon to settle my nerves with a cup of tea and copy of Moby-Dick that fit in my pocket. After lunch, I had enough courage to follow Dad at an adequate speed down some more challenging slopes.

I never ran into a tree or went flying down a slope, but I fell down. A lot.

Of course, some panic attacks are easier to get past than others. Physical situations, like standing atop a ski slope are easier for me to overcome than social anxiety. With an encouraging word from my dad, I can work up the courage to overcome my fear of heights, but encouragement doesn’t always help with my fear of people.

Last summer, I had a panic attack when somebody mentioned I should behave with more assertion, “like I did in England.” Sure, I may have learned how to talk to my professors by preparing questions about the text before class. But I had a terrible time making friends, and I hardly ever talked to my classmates.

It is one thing to say, “No, I can do this.” And ski down a mountain even though the fear is lurking in the forefront of my mind. It’s another thing entirely to have the fear of the inability to befriend people constantly lurking in my mind.

No matter how many friends I do or don’t make where I currently live, no matter how many half-decent conversations I manage to hold, no matter how many patrons I help while I’m volunteering at the library, I can’t change the friends who stopped talking for no reason.

I can’t change the way I didn’t hang out with my peers after fencing and went straight back to my room.

I can’t go back to England for the same studying experience.

But I can take advantage of opportunities today.

I can be genuine and kind to the people I meet now.

Recently, I was attending the writer’s group at my local library where I met a fellow writer who was querying literary agents. So we got to talking about our stories, and I asked him if he had an editor look over his novel yet. He said he hadn’t, so we exchanged contact information, and I said I could put him in touch with some editors I knew.

Then I got to thinking—I’m an editor. I’ve worked on books of my own before, studied literature, worked as an editor for my school’s newspaper, taught English, and worked with professional editors. Why not offer to edit the book myself? I wanted to go into editing eventually. Why not today?

So I sent him an e-mail offering to edit his novel myself, and we set up a meeting to discuss a contract. Since then, I’ve finished my first round of edits and set up an editing page for other writers looking for an editor. My specialties include Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction with select Adult Fiction, and my preferred genres include fantasy, science-fiction, historical fiction, and contemporary.

Update (2019): I am currently unavailable to offer editing services as I re-prioritize my work and writing.

Editing isn’t just a way for me to make money. It’s a pleasure. It’s a way for me to deal with stress. It’s a God-given gift, a way for me to deal with something in a life where some things can’t be fixed so easily.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. Maybe it was six months ago. I don’t know. I don’t care either. But I would be lying if I said anxiety doesn’t affect me. Sometimes it does. But I can’t let my anxiety, whether social or otherwise, rule me.

Sometimes life is like reading a book, you have to take chances if you want to get anywhere. So start today. Take a chance. You may fail. And that’s okay. Failure is fine.

But what if you succeed? You may surprise yourself.

Let’s chat! Any fellow readers out there who struggle with anxiety? Remember, you’re not alone.



  1. Azelyn, what a story you've shared. I'm so sorry about the struggles you face. I too have been facing non-stop pain for years- I am battling multiple chronic pain syndromes (along with bouts of depression) myself- and activities I used to love like snowboarding is now out of the question. So sorry about your incident while skiing, but you got down the hill nonetheless and got to read Moby Dick so that's a huge accomplishment!! Thank you for opening up and sharing your struggles. Your story helps someone like me to see I'm not alone either. I am in the middle of writing a sequel to my teen fantasy novella Guppies, and I will keep your editing services in mind! :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Rae. Sending virtual hugs your way. May you feel better soon. And I like the sound of your novella already. YA fantasy is so much fun!