3 Ways to Relieve Your Writers Stress
Okay so I’m writing a new play. One that I’m very excited about. Haven’t been this excited about a piece of work in years. Years, I tell you. Well a few weeks ago I hit a major stumbling block. The story seemed to come to major stand still because I couldn’t figure out the voice of my protagonist. Or why the protagonist was even in the play at all. Ack, it sucked. Everything sucked. The play was unraveling and so was I.
And thus, began the insomnia.
The first night I talked to my cat about it (no help). The second night I tried meditating, did some deep breathing and looked over a cheezy article about the unresolved relationship of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. To this reporter it was a mystery why they couldn’t make it work. The third night I went back to a really bad habit and watched late night QVC.
Big mistake. Did you know that Ellen Degeneres has a line of decorative items to make your home more beautiful and appealing? I spent about 40 minutes trying to decide if I should buy a 4 pack of decorative metal artichokes.
The ladies on the show seemed to think that bringing the artichokes into your living space was a statement about surrounding yourself with whimsy and beauty which would, no doubt, encourage a feeling of joy in your life. I certainly needed joy and whimsy. But in the end, I decided against it. My own damn words were playing in my head.
The week before I had told a client who was a shoe addict that maybe she should hold off from buying shoes when writing stress hit. Maybe she should allow the discomfort of the moment, because maybe the discomfort had a message. I told her to try to take that desire to fill up her life/fix her anxiety – that is usually spent on buying – and shift to a deep kindness toward herself. After all I told her, she was doing the best she could.
Lesson Number 1
- Don’t buy the artichokes. Shift to kindness and compassion for yourself.
The next day I walked around reminding myself that I was not late for anything. That I was doing the very best I could, and that I deserved a mental break. With a far less anxious day, I felt surely I would sleep that night. Nope. 1:30 am – wide awake wondering if Selena’s song, “Same old Love” was indeed abut Justin Bieber. This time, no QVC. I instead flipped through the movies and settled on Cheech and Chong.
It had been years since I had watched Cheech and Chong and I found myself giggling like a dork. I can’t say that watching Up In Smoke brought me any major epiphanies but I went to sleep giggling and slept a few hours.
Lesson Number 2
- Watch Cheech and Chong. (or anything that makes you laugh) Bring lightness to the situation.
The third night I did find myself in better spirits. I wasn’t buying any Swiffer Sweepers or magic egg making contraptions. I was moving closer to lightness of spirit, reading silly books to my son and allowing him to show me the goofiest YouTube videos he could find. Yet in the middle of the night I woke up with a sudden compulsion that I must know exactly what happened to Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Now hear this – never in my life have I googled at celebrity couple. Yet that night, it became a mystery to solve. Were they back together? Why had they broken up in the first place? Would it ever work out?
At about 4:07 I realized I was trying to solve some puzzle that had nothing to do with me, so I could take the focus off myself and somehow gain some control. Over something. Cause the answers to my story problems were not within my grasp at the moment. Which brought me to number 3:
- Forget about Bieber and Selena (and everything beyond your control). Shift to trust. Know that the creative process is working itself out in your head.
I decided I would try trust. I was in no race. I had time. I was right where I was supposed to be. I would consciously fill my life with as much humor and patience as I could find.
For about a week I was kinder and gentler to my poor psyche and slept a bit better, but still no solution. Until one day, out of the blue, listening to 1970’s disco queens, the protagonist’s voice began speaking. Clear and vivid and real.
As if it had been there all along.
I grabbed my notebook and wrote it all out – and exhaled.
How funny, I thought, that by lightening up and letting go– and in essence not doing work – the idea materialized. Which essentially meant that some part of my creative brain was at work even when I was not.
That night I went home and wrote these three rules next to my computer.
- Don’t buy the artichokes.
- Watch Cheech and Chong
- Shift to trust. The process is working.
And slept the whole damn night.