Writing As a Character to Combat Anxiety
Waaay back when I decided I wanted to be a journalist and looked upon the medium with a doe-eyed naivety, I didn’t really take into account the effect being a journalist would have on my mental wellbeing.
Firstly I’d like to say that I love being a journalist. I love having the opportunity to express my opinion and I love how accessible my opinion is to anyone who gives a shit about what I have to think. I love getting to interview my heroes, and I love getting to develop any bizarre, weird or absurdist idea I conjure up in my weird ol’ brain — like reviewing albums with PornHub comments or framing Cotton Eye Joe as a serial killer with a parody exposé.
What I quickly learned after writing my first few articles is that being accessible is a double-edged sword. Yeah, people are reading my work but they can also find me on social media and give me shit because my opinion doesn’t align with theirs. It’s atrocious behaviour from the consumer, but even with that knowledge it’s still easy to get your confidence shattered by someone who won’t even think about your story again after they’ve fired off their opinion and ruined your day.
I, like a lot of people my age, am a very anxious human being and I nearly threw the towel in more than a few times during my first couple of years of writing because of the constant dread. I still enjoyed writing and I was having a lot of fun developing my own unique style, so I was pretty determined to figure out how I could continue… and I did!
I used to write under my real name, but eventually adopted the name I write under now: R.A. Hagan. This is my chosen pen name and it’s what I ask every single editor to credit me as. Why? Because who is R.A. Hagan? They could be anyone. My actual name is Ryan, but anyone who reads my stories won’t know that. I could be Rodney Albert, Rachel Allison, Ricardo Antonio… Rather Anonymous?
I view R.A. Hagan as an extension of myself — a character, for lack of a better term. All the opinions and stories I write come from the brain of Ryan Hagan, but are published by R.A. Hagan. I use this extension of myself to form a work/life separation between my personal life and journalism — and my anxiety is much easier to cope with. Knowing I can send an article through to whichever editor I’m working with and then just switch off to go do other things is a blessing.
I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone or if it’s applicable in many other fields, but hey; it stopped me quitting something I love to do and am kinda good at!