Anxiety Burns -- Julie Chibbaro

Anxiety causes a distinct burn in my belly – not just my stomach up near my chest area (heartburn), but also in my gut, in my intestines (you know the one where you have to go to the bathroom too often).  For the last 8 months, I had this burn.  Sometimes, it was set to low (I was able to put anxiety on the back burner), sometimes, it was high (a very present burn.)  Always, it was there.

What was causing this burn?

Last summer, we sent out a manuscript of a new novel I’d written to about 8 houses.  We waited for response (burn number 1).  We were rejected, mostly.  After about six months, an editor asked me to make a small change to the beginning, as a sort of test for an idea she had about the book.  I made the change, and didn’t hear back for a few months (burn 2).  She made a verbal offer, and we accepted.  Tra la la, burn gone, right?  No.  We had no contract (burn 3).  Nowadays, contract negotiations are different.  Because so much is changing in the publishing world, we had to go over every single lawspeak line of the contract to make sure we didn’t give away electronic rights, and whatever the future held.  Months would go by before I heard about this now-infamous contract.  The burn worsened – would it ever come?  What if they changed their minds?  Would this book ever see the light of day?

I realize this is the story of a writer’s life.  Waiting, the burn of anxiety in the waiting.  Submitting, waiting for a response – whether to a beta reader, a professor, a peer, a spouse, the world at large – is the steady burn in my guts and belly.  What will they think?  That’s the main question behind the burn. 

About two weeks ago, I did finally sign that contract, after agreeing to a full rewrite of the novel (yep, another burn, but I believe in this editor).  Now, I have a new daily burn:  will she like this version?  Will anybody?

Am I the only one who feels this?  I know there must be others out there, and maybe you have some good suggestions for dealing with anxiety burn?  I’d love to have some relief.


  1. You are definitely not the only one! What works for me: talking to writer friends who totally get it; exercise; try and put things in perspective by telling self, "It's just a story; not everyone is going to like this story; my only job is to do the best I can on it."

    But really, I think that burn just comes with the territory. Good luck with the new project!

  2. Oh yes, the burn. Know it well. I'm in the midst of a full rewrite for my agent, and every day I wonder if the changes I'm making will be what she's looking for.

    I agree with Vicky. Talking to my writing group and exercising help me keep some of my sanity. But there's no way around the burn. Best of luck!

  3. I have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol at my bedside. No joke. I enjoyed DEADLY very much and have every confidence you can produce another great novel!

  4. Thanks for the feedback! Exercise, maybe finding a writers group, talking to friends, and a big gulp of the pink stuff should help. And thanks for the confidence, Angelina. Every reader counts!

  5. Oh yes, this sounds familiar. I think the only thing that keeps me somewhat sane during the ups and downs is having writing friends to commiserate with. Glad the contract finally came--good luck!

  6. I don't relax completely until the book is on the shelves.

    Working on other projects helps me. Then I don't feel that I have all my eggs in the (burning) basket.

  7. I went through it big time with my first book. Prilosec was my lifesaver!

  8. Oh Julie! I feel your burning burning pain big time. I agree that talking about it definitely helps and I'm glad you shared this blog post because it helped me feel less alone! Glad you got your contract and I am SURE your revision will wow EVERYONE!

  9. We are all on fire here, apparently - and not in a good way. I've been trying guided meditation - it's worth a try. I've also been told to schedule "worry time" - 15 minutes at a set time per day to indulge in all of your worries, so you can be free of them the rest of the time. I haven't tried this yet, so my anxiety is often a sticky molasses flood over the whole day...but I'm getting better. I feel your pain.


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