Monday, July 19, 2010

Stress Relief for the Crazed Writer

It's no secret that writers, and for that matter, generally anyone within the publishing industry, can be some of the most stressed out people you will ever meet. Between writing first drafts, endless editing, pitching to agents, meeting deadlines, marketing, and countless other ventures that are necessary to be a successful and professional author, it can be a lot to handle. Combine these business aspects with those still trying to maintain the whimsical artistry which comes from dreaming up stories and you've got a recipe for some crazed writers.

Yes, I am one of the above--accused of trying to maintain the business end of my career while simultaneously holding onto my artistic quirks. It's enough to drive anyone bonkers. How many times have we heard that writers need to put their butt in the chair and force themselves to meet that word count? Well I've been contemplating this the last few days and I think that like most things, it's all good in moderation.

It's great to treat writing like a business--that's what it is! But it's also an artistic expression, something that comes from a place more mysterious than the logic of our frontal lobe. Claiming that writers who don't force themselves to write every day are unprofessional and not serious about their craft is unfair. I agree, there is a certain limit on this. If you've been working on the same novel for over a year, waiting for the magic lady of muse to give you ideas, then yes, you're one of those people who need to sit your butt in the chair and force it all out. But if you can get your novel finished within a reasonable time frame, without forcing yourself, and while still riding on those enjoyable "aha!" inspiration moments, then more power to you!

Personally, I'm tired of the mantras about "we don't need a muse." That's just it, you DO need a muse! Without 'the muse' and those bursts of inspiration, writing is flat and lifeless. What we need to learn is not to force ourselves to write without the muse, but how to keep that muse up and running. I think the biggest muse surpressor is stress, so I've listed a few stress relieving things that writers, and others as well, can use to cool off. *Not in order of importance.*

1. A planner: I find writing everything down and keeping things organized takes the stress off my shoulders. It's when everything is scattered about in my brain that things are the worst.

2. Sleep: One thing stressed people don't get enough of is sleep. You NEED sleep in order to function on your most productive level, so stop depriving yourself. I'm one of the many who are guilty of sleeping less so we can have "the time" to get everything done. Don't. Just don't. Your work is going to be better and come out faster if you're firing on all pistons.

3. Exercise: I'm not talking exercise for the sake of losing weight. Exercise for relaxation. It releases endorphins (happy chemicals) into your brain. That's going to bring about bursts of inspiration. Not to mention, going for a walk, doing yoga, taking a bike ride, are all good ways to clear your head and get that creativity flowing.

4. Singing: When you're feeling anxious and full of worry over all the things you need to do, then sing. It doesn't matter whether you sound like a dying whale or not, the point is that you're concentrating on something other than your stress. Even if this only gives you a few minutes of relief, it's worth it. Listening to music, dancing, reading, or even watching T.V can have the same effect--as long as you're focusing on something other than your stress.

5. Eliminate Distractions/Don't multi-task: Turn off the internet, T.V, radio, etc when you're trying to write. These are all distractions that get in the way of the creative process. Of course your muse isn't working right if you're surfing through Facebook and Twitter rather than focusing on what you're writing. You're creating more stress for yourself, because it's easier to say "I don't have any inspiration" than admitting that you have a ridiculous addiction to Farmville.

6. Take a break. If you've been writing for an hour or more and you suddenly have a block, walk away from the computer or notebook for a few minutes and come back to it later. Sometimes you've stared at one thing for so long that your mind refuses to care anymore. This goes for homework, or other work as well.

7. Make realistic goals: Rather than saying I'm going to write this many words a day, say "I'm going to get this chapter done by the end of this week" Life happens, things get in the way, and if you don't meet your daily word count that's going to stress you out. So do yourself a favor, and plan ahead, allow time for interruptions because they can and will happen.

These are just a few short tips. But I'd like to hear, what do you do to de-stress and kick that muse in the butt? Anyone, writer or not, can answer. Until Wednesday! Hasta luego!


  1. Those are awesome stress relievers! For me, if the words aren't flowing or my writerly mojo isn't working, then I can't force it. I have to take a break. I'd been guilting myself pretty badly this past week for not being able to sit down and write. But then a very dear friend of mine (winks) reminded me that I wasn't in any hurry, and that the words will come when I'm not so busy with the every day life stuff I've been dealing with. Great post!

  2. Wow, you are so Smart! I agree, we all need to find more stress reliever. A very good friend of mine was having trouble recently, due to her over achieving writing skills, and I think your advice will help her! Thanks!

  3. Lisa, glad it gave you some relief. I needed to take my own advice lol. I was trying to force BTB so much that it was driving me crazy and yesterday, I finally decided it wasn't worth it. I've never pitched TFC to Robert Brown and he will take every genre at a conference, so this will be the only time I can pitch it to him since he is not taking YA right now. I can always query him later with BTB, and who knows, maybe if I mention it to him he'll invite me to send it when I'm done (but I might just be dreaming of that happening hahaha).

  4. David, you are such a goober =P