//so I was thinking this morning (always a dangerous sign) that I’ve talked a bit recently about how the Tumblr RP community isn’t always very good at encouraging people to find ways to manage or get to their drafts, and is instead more likely to coddle peoples’ anxieties without actually helping them at all.
So this is a post of a few tips and tricks that might help RPers manage some of the more common anxieties I see crop up in our circle. Now, I’m not a full psychologist and nor am I licensed counselor. But I do have my master’s degree in clinical psychology with the intention to go on for the PhD (or get licensed to practice if I don’t get into a program) so I do kinda know what I’m talking about. Hopefully some of this advice is a little helpful:
1. “My drafts just stress me out.” This is a pretty common complaint, but I think in most circumstances it’s caused by stress going on outside of the RP world. Take a step back and breathe. Handle whatever is going on in your real life. That always comes first. If you come back and your drafts are still causing you to feel panicky, the next step is to find out the more specific reasons why. That’s going to help you best address the anxiety. Read on for some common reasons.
2. “I’ve gotten so behind, there’s so many and I’m overwhelmed.” This happens all the time! You take a hiatus for a week or two, or life just got really busy for a while, or just lost muse and now it’s back. But in the meantime, your drafts have piled up- suddenly you’re looking at 20, 50, 100- how do you even start?
The best way I’ve found to handle this is to break them up into smaller chunks. It might be helpful to copy and paste your partners’ replies over into one or more word documents. You can then further organize those word documents even more. One for short replies, one for long, one for medium length. Or you can organize by muses, by how long the draft has been in your folder- whichever way you want to handle this. If you want to put one reply per document, you can organize them into folders instead. How you do this is entirely up to you.
Set a small goal for yourself- even one draft a day is better than no drafts at all. But by breaking the work up into chunks, you’ve taken a lot of the pressure off yourself. A goal of 1-5 drafts a day is a lot better than looking at all 50.
Another tip- use the queue! Or simply keep completed drafts saved in the drafts folder until you’ve caught up enough to start posting. The queue will stagger your posts so replies aren’t coming out all at once, and your partners aren’t able to immediately reply back. And obviously keeping them in drafts even after they’re done lets you have more time to catch up. These are just a couple of tips, however, and there are probably other good ways to manage drafts. Find what works best for you!
And don’t be afraid to drop a couple if you have no muse for those threads anymore. Just let your partner know, they’ll understand. And if they don’t, they’re just an asshole and who needs that, right? It is better to communicate that you’re dropping them, however, so you’re partner isn’t left hanging.
3. “I haven’t replied in weeks, I’m worried my partner hates me.” I guarantee this is not true. Most people in the rp community are very understanding of slow response time. Your partners want to rp with you- they’ll be thrilled to see a response, even if it’s been several weeks. Responding, even slowly, shows a lot more dedication and excitement over your threads.
So if it’s been several weeks, and you finally have muse for that thread and want to reply to it, but feel guilty or anxious because it’s been so long- reply anyway. Your partner will be so happy to see your response.
Another way to alleviate this anxiety is to simply talk to your partner. And I know, this can be scary- but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do the thing that makes you anxious. Take it slow if you need to, but communication is the best way to feel better about it. And I guarantee, you are going to feel so much more proud of yourself if you did the thing that made you anxious than if you didn’t.
That goes for replying as well.
4. “I feel so inadequate compared to others. I should just stop.” This is an example of what mental health professionals call a “negative automatic thought”, or “NAT”. And like real gnats, these little thoughts get all up in your ears and start buzzing around. They can spiral out of control very quickly, until you feel absolutely terrible about yourself. These thoughts are very common in people with both anxiety and depression.
But the thing is, they can be changed. You can actually re-wire your brain with a little work so that it won’t think these thoughts quite as often. One of the most effective ways is to simply replace the negative thought with a positive one- even if you don’t believe it. So if your negative thought is “I’m horrible compared to other people,” a replacement thought could be “No, I’m just as good as anyone else,” or “my writing is unique to me and it has value.”
You will not believe yourself at first, and it will seem a little bit weird when you start. It’s also a little challenging- your negative thoughts are automatic, you’re so used to thinking them that you aren’t even fully aware of it it half the time. But when you do catch yourself spiraling off into those negative thoughts- try to stop them. This is something we teach in therapy and over time, it does help. And it does get easier.
5. “It has to be PERFECT.” Perfectionism is at the root of a lot of peoples’ anxieties. But I challenge you with this- why? Why does it have to be perfect? What will happen if it’s not perfect?
The answer to that, usually, is “my partners will hate me/lose interest/think I’m stupid or a bad writer.” Perfectionism is usually a fear of judgment, and it’s usually fueled by feelings of inadequacy or fears of failure. So to that, I refer you back to the previous advice about negative automatic thoughts.
Challenge your thinking about your perfectionism. A good replacement thought for this one is “even if it’s not perfect, my partner will still be happy that I responded. My writing is still valuable to them.” Another good one- “imperfection means there’s room to grow. Mistakes don’t mean I’m a failure or no good.”
In general, don’t let anxiety say “I can’t do this.” You can do it. Anxiety is not a permanent state. The body cannot sustain it very long- the elevated heart rate, heavy breathing, heightened arousal- it’s physically impossible for it to last. Eventually, your body will start to calm itself and even back out. This is something that is very hard to sit with, because your natural instinct is to run away from the thing that’s making you anxious. Your instinct is to close the drafts folder, to close the messenger, to log out of tumblr and ignore it all completely. But the truth is, that only makes your anxiety worse in the long run.
Now, if these tips don’t help, or you’re finding your anxiety is so bad that it’s affecting your daily life in almost everything- I encourage people to please see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or some other mental health professional. Anxiety that’s chronically preventing you from doing the things you enjoy is anxiety that probably needs treatment. Having the extra support of a therapist or medication often makes it possible to implement some of these strategies, or find better ones that work for you. Especially if you’re having a hard time managing things on your own.
Anybody that wants to add to this with other ideas that have been helpful to you, please feel free to do so.