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“I feel nervousness about writing today” sounds like a grammatically clunky sentence – as though the person meant to say simply, “I’m nervous about writing today.”
In fact – and apologies to all the grammar nerds out there -there’s a meaningful difference between the two sentences. And the first one could be a more useful way to describe your creative anxiety.
It’s a technique that Mark Manson uses, and that he shares in his ebook, “The Guide to Self-Knowledge.” Manson is also the bestselling author of the 2016 book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and he writes a popular blog at MarkManson.net.
In the ebook, Manson explains that he “defuses” from his emotions when they’re interfering with his writing process and encouraging procrastination. The clunky sentence about nervousness is an example of how he does that – and he says it helps him write at least 5,000 words in a single day.
Whatever you do, don’t try to resist the thought or emotion. Manson writes: “As soon as you try to eliminate a thought or emotion, you make it stronger.”
Let’s use another example from Manson – you’re telling yourself, “I hate my ex-girlfriend.”
Instead of fighting that thought and trying to pretend you don’t hate her, and instead of giving into that thought and focusing on how much you hate her, you can simply say to yourself, “I am feeling hatred toward my ex-girlfriend.”
Here’s Manson: “Language is very powerful. Notice when you disidentify from these emotions and thoughts in this way it 1) implies that they’re temporary states, and not permanent conditions and 2) forces you to take responsibility for them. They’re nobody’s fault, they just are.”
Manson’s ideas about defusing from emotion are rooted in the concept of mindfulness, or the ability to be fully present. I learned more about these ideas in a program developed at Google, called “Search Inside Yourself.”
One of the teachers at SIY recommended framing emotions differently – so instead of saying, “I am angry,” you’d say, “I experience anger in my body.” Another teacher suggested thinking of emotions as “passing through me like a cloud,” so that they don’t define you.
Once you’ve accepted your emotions and defused from them, Manson says it’s time to act in spite of them. If you feel nervousness about writing, you write anyway. If you’re feeling hatred toward your ex, you still address her politely when you bump into her in your neighborhood.
It’s about taking control over your emotions, rather than letting them control you. It’s much easier said than done, but it gets easier and increasingly helpful the more you practice.