Having an Article Perform Well Triggered My Social Anxiety
When a piece is well received by the audience, the attention spike it gets is probably temporary. Behind the scenes, an army of fellow writers is putting final touches to their pieces before they schedule or hit the publish button on theirs. They cross their fingers and hope that this one will be a hit too, whether for the greens, the personal recognition they seek, or for the intensity to share a story they feel the world needs to hear.
What happened when I wrote about regret
My recent piece that did well is named “My 20s Are Over — These Are My 11 Regrets”. I wrote it to deeply reflect on a decade of my life that is now in the past and share what I learned with those who it might benefit.
It took me two days to go from writing, editing, and formatting, to deciding it was now “good enough”. On the 17th of January, I submitted my draft to one of the bigger publications on Medium, The Post-Grad Survival Guide. With currently 42K+ followers, that’s a lot of potential eyeballs on my piece.
Shortly after submitting the draft, one of the editors published it, for which I thank you. The piece also got curated, meaning that the story got an extra push from Medium in certain topics. In the days thereafter, my notifications exploded. Normally any number between 1 and 10 appears on my notification bell. As the days passed, this number rose to the hundreds.
Getting feedback from the public
I checked my stats and saw that the number of claps now exceeded 1.8K. Readers were leaving comments! Thinking about all of this attention and what might be waiting for me in the comment section, I felt the pressure increase on my chest. My mind went into overdrive. What if…
- They’d spit on my writing?
- They’d demand justification or correct something they didn’t agree with?
- They were hiding in the alleys with Molotov cocktails, ready to aim at my humble home and burn down my words?
- They were simply eager to start a fight?
It’s impossible to satisfy each reader and I am aware of that. Nonetheless, it felt overwhelming. This was a first-timer, and I didn’t know what to do with it.
You can probably hear it. The “what-ifs”. I occupied myself with pure overthinking, putting a magnifying glass on potential negative feedback. Did you notice how I put the word “potential” in italics?
What if this could be bad, and that? Then again, if it does turn out like that, so what?
Each comment you as a writer receive means someone took time out of their day to read what you wrote and shared their thoughts on it. As a writer, I am curious to hear what readers think. It’s feedback to:
- My writing style
- Chosen topics
- My view on a topic
And it doesn’t have to be all bad.
I’m an inbox-zero (or as close to zero as possible) kind of person. Touching the bell icon means going through all of the notifications now. It took me more than two weeks to get myself together, and start reading through the comments one by one.
Each comment you as a writer receive means someone took time out of their day to read what you wrote and shared their thoughts on it.
Luckily, my anxiety lowered as I read the first comment, and then the next. And the next.
Seeing the notification bell explode got me feeling scared and nervous. So nervous that I put myself in a state of anxiety for more than two weeks! Just to avoid backlash by strangers on the internet. And guess how much backlash I encountered? None. There wasn’t any. The people who read the piece were kind, shared stories of their own, and could relate to a thing or two I wrote.
The problem was in my head
Not knowing how to regulate certain emotions means going into an anxious mode when I accidentally miss one of those mental trap doors, trip and fall through them. I could have dealt with comments once per day, and keep that count down to zero. That would at least satisfy my need for order and structure and being “on top” of things, or feeling like I am.
The problem was in my head. I didn’t know going “viral” for a couple of days would be a trigger. Having the article do well reminded me that I need to sort out how I deal with potential negative attention and criticism. It’s bound to come at some point. And I need to ready to handle it.
Upon leaving my 20s behind me for good, I wrote this piece as a final goodbye. To use the mistakes made and wisdom gained going forward to make better decisions. I even wrote a follow-up piece to confirm that turning thirty is not scary.
As the writing game goes on, I’m training myself to get better not only at telling stories but also at managing my anxiety.
Stepping into a new decade of life I think now is a good time to clean up issues, even trivial ones such as… fearing a comment section. It’s one of the reasons why I write and why I will continue to write. To train myself to take in whatever comments may come and to, generally speaking, learn to better deal with feedback from others.
We don’t need to see things from the same perspective, but we can learn from each other. That’s what discussions and comment sections are meant for and it’s something to always keep in mind, no matter what form the feedback takes on.