Carrying a heavy burden these days? Writing can help.
As stressful events in my life collide a little in these weeks, I’ve been thinking about how one is supposed to keep their creative writing going in the face of obstacles. It’s difficult enough to imagine and plan writing time when everything in life is going well and you feel emotionally happy and ready to tackle work. If a stressful or upsetting event enters your life, on the other hand, it can seem virtually impossible to put a pen to the page when other things are happening. Here are a few common stress pitfalls, and ways to resolve or handle them.
Fight the guilt.
So something distressing has happened in your life or to a loved one. Dramatic events have a way of making normal things seem trivial or even frivolous. You may feel a little selfish for trying to get your own artistic work done while things are so chaotic.
To combat this feeling, remind yourself that your heart is in the right place. As long as you’re not neglecting who or what needs attention, then there’s nothing wrong with getting a little pleasure out of what you love to do. In fact, the first step toward regaining a sense of normalcy in your life is to start doing those things that make you feel like you the most. So no matter how busy things get in the wake of a disaster, set aside time for your writing.
Leave yourself time for thought.
This new event is probably dominating your thoughts during the day and might even be keeping you up nights. That’s especially why it feels difficult to write — you haven’t thought about your story at all, so it won’t come to you! Setting aside time for thinking is just as important as writing. So during your downtime, instead of shutting your brain off to watch tv, surf the web, or take a break in another way, take a thoughtful break. Get a drink, sit in a comfortable chair, and think. What do you want to write? What have you learned about the world lately that you want to capture in your fiction?
After the jump: more pitfalls and strategies for coping.
Remember why you write.
This might be the most important thing to remember when fighting stress. You may think, “I’ve got enough on my plate already — why do I have to pile worrying about my writing on top?” In reality, though, if writing really is in your blood, you’ll remember that writing doesn’t add to your stress — it takes it away. Writing is for writers what herding sheep is for sheepdogs; it’s a relief to be expressing a very natural impulse. Let yourself do a few writing exercises or a freewrite; you’ll find your stress starting to ease. That monkey on your back might start to feel a little lighter if you get back to doing what you do best.