Too stressed to write. Anything.
That was me. I was too stressed, under too much pressure. I couldn’t even write a text.
I’ve been collaborating with a friend on a couple of projects, mostly just offering a bit of input here and there. So when my website went down and the support desk wasn’t being helpful, I had a meeting starting in a few minutes, several emails showed up in my inbox demanding updates, my dog is snorting at me because I’m not throwing her ball right now, and then my friend asked me a few important questions on our collaboration, all at the same time, my friend (and other email responses) got some monosyllabic answers from me. “Yep.” “Sounds good.”
The moment the meeting was done and my website started working again (yes, I fixed the problem, thank you very much), I could focus on what my friend was asking. I ended up giving her loads of information, probably more than she needed.
The point is: the stress was off, and it was way easier for me to write.
While I wasn’t writing fiction, the same theory applies.
Too much stress or pressure, can block our creativity.
Here’s what I wish I’d done:
- Recognized that these stressors were not urgent. Just because it all comes at me at the same time, doesn’t mean I have to respond to it immediately. The website could have waited an extra hour or two. The emails could have waited too.
- Instead of asking my dog to wait and be patient and telling her I was busy, I wish I’d stopped, taken a breath, and thrown her ball. She is so precious, and when I’m at my most agitated, that’s usually when she wants to play. She’s telling me something. I know it. I should play with her. Those few seconds might seem like too much of a distraction, like I’ll lose my focus. That’s not true. I will be at least a fraction more relaxed, because my dog is too damn cute, and she’s looking after me.
- Multi-tasking is a lie. And yet I still think that while I’m waiting for tech support to get back to me, I can check my email, and try and fix my tech problems myself. No. I can’t. I can, however, throw the ball for my dog to fetch while I’m waiting for the tech guy to respond. One at a time. It will all get done.
- I should have acknowledged that I was too stressed to write, even a quick text. Writing, “Will get back to you in an hour or two” would have taken the extra pressure off. Even though giving quick answers to my friend (though I wasn’t rude or anything), were supposed to do the trick, I felt horrible about not being helpful, a friend. I know she would have understood.
The thing is, when something isn’t going right, it can completely throw us off.
When you’re too stressed to write
What are you supposed to do, then, when you’re too stressed to write? We need to make a couple of assumptions here, like you’ve set aside this time for writing, and the house isn’t actually on fire. Perhaps your phone is ringing, and work email notifications are popping up, and you know you have a big work project to work on but this is your lunch break, or off work hours so you don’t actually have to do any work.
Whatever your immediate stressors are:
- Learn from my mistakes. I don’t mind. It’s what I’m here for. Think of me as the older sibling who is basically the one the parents learn on. Take a deep breath. Remember, not everything is an emergency. Multi-tasking is a lie. Take a deep breath and do one thing at a time. And throw your dog’s ball.
- Do one thing. Not just one thing at a time. One thing, period. If there is too much going on, decide to focus on one thing with your writing. One paragraph, one scene. If that’s all you can do before you have to respond to everything else, that’s ok.
- You know what else is ok? Dealing with the stressors so that you can free up your creativity again. Writing time should be writing time, but it can’t always be writing time. If something is broken and it needs to be fixed in the next few hours, do it. You will feel a thousand times better when you come back to write. Just make sure that you do come back to write!
What will you do
I’ve printed out my list of what I wish I’d done, and put it beside my computer where most of this kind of stress happens. I want it here to remind me of what went wrong, and how I can do better.
What will you do to ease your stress so you can write?
Until next time…