To say this has been a bad writing week would be, well, an understatement. In fact, this is the first time I’ve opened a word document all week with any intent to write something other than a quick note for a WIP. No research for my novel. No guest post (I was going to submit one today). No writing for my essay (which I was supposed to finish a first draft of TODAY).
I can’t blame work, or personal life, or even a good TV show. I’ve had a fairly average week, with no overtime, no drama, and no binge sessions on Netflix. I just haven’t been able to get out of bed these past few days, until about an hour before I had to head to work. There’s no deep reason here; I’ve just been lazy.
I think, often, I get comfortable with my life. I chase adventures in my head while remaining stationary, surrounded by cushions. It’s easy to get sucked into the “I don’t need to write today” mentality, as I’ve talked about before, and as I’ve said before, that’s the devil talking. But there are also times when thinking about the writing life, a current WIP, or any of the work involved in the two, is stressful. When I think about the novel I’m working on, I’m excited, but also nervous, because I want to get it right. There’s no room for error, as far as I’m concerned, and because of that mentality I’m often stunted in my pursuits.
But writing doesn’t have to be this gruelling, stress ridden passion. I mean, we all got into this because we love stories and telling them well, so why must we torture ourselves while we go after those paper dreams? Whenever I get overwhelmed with the writing life, I turn to these ways to relax:
- Read. Seems fairly basic, I know, but there is nothing more comforting than diving into someone else’s story. Even though I read as a writer these days, I still love entangling myself in sentence structure, word choice, and anything that makes an interesting plot something that sticks.
- Write for fun. This is where having a prompt book comes in handy, because when I just can’t seem to write another word of whatever I’m working on at the moment, I can take a break, pull that little book out, and scribble away for a few moments about what kind of tree I’d be if I could choose. Often, what I write for the prompt finds itself tieing to what my WIP is dealing with, so this can also be an exercise that helps me through the block I’m trying to break down.
- Imagine the life. I try to think about one thing, one moment in the future, that will make the labor worth it. When I first started seriously writing, I wrote a script for my first TV interview. It sounds silly, but I wrote it at a time when I wasn’t sure if this was the path I should follow. After reading that rough script, with Stephen Colbert asking me about my first novel, I knew I wanted that moment, or at least some version of it, and I didn’t give up.
- Talk with other writers. This year, I’ve really worked to grow my social media presence. I love talking with other writers on Twitter, commenting on each other’s work, and being there to like and support their creative endeavours. Writing can be such a solitary field, filled with empty coffee cups and red marked pages, so it’s nice to emerge from our cocoon of words to realize we are part of this wonderful hive of beautiful souls.
- Play a game. This can have as little to do or nothing at all to do with writing. There are plenty of writing games to play, like Scrabble, but when I’m really feeling the stress eat at me, I like to play chess. Chess is methodical, its logical. It’s thinking several steps ahead of your current move, which is something I try – and often fail – to do in writing. It’s nice, every once in a while, to participate in something that offers a bit of order to my life, if only for the pleasure of saying – or, sometimes, the displeasure of hearing – “checkmate” at the end, a moment of finality in this never ending world.
These are my ways of letting go of the stress, and now I think I’ll do one of them: write for fun. I’ve been itching to write a micro-essay about my first kiss since Valentine’s Day. Seems romantic, and it was, but it was also acquired whilst half-drunk at a college fraternity party. So stay tuned for that…
What are some ways you de-stress from the writing life?