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Staying Creative in Times of Stress. Jill Kemerer

Staying Creative in Times of Stress

In some ways being a writer is the perfect occupation for our current pandemic situation. I’m used to social distancing. I already work from home, so no new skills are needed to make the transition.

But in other ways, being a writer is a terrible occupation to have during a global pandemic.

  • My imagination is always on level 10. I’ve had too many scenarios of doom and disaster run through my head.
  • I’m self-employed, and my income is sporadic.
  • The internet is slower and sometimes cuts out altogether, with so many people working from home.
  • The libraries are shut down. I can barely function without a library.
  • My family is no longer on a routine, and they are home more often than I’m used to.

I can handle all of the above. The hardest part for me right now, though, is trying to stay creative and productive while I’m stressed out.

In “How to Keep Stress from Destroying Your Creativity,” via, the author cites several scientific articles showing how stress is directly linked to reduced creativity.

” The problem is that stress hijacks our higher brain functions, so that like the rats, we are forced to revert to habitual responses. As the body is flooded with stress hormones, learning, memory, attention span, and our ability to focus are all affected.”

The article also gives tips on fighting stress, including exercise, which I find to be helpful.

Writer Deborah Ward tackles stress and creativity via Truitycom.

“Trying to think creatively when you’re stressed is like trying to open a door that’s blocked by loads of stuff piled up in front of it. No matter how hard you try, there’s just too much in your way and you can’t get through. Chances are you can’t even reach the door handle and you end up even more exhausted, frustrated and stressed.”

~ “Why Stress Stops Creativity for INFJs – And How They Can Get It Flowing Again” by Deborah Ward

Obviously, stress is a problem for writers.

However, it doesn’t mean we have to hide our notebooks, close our laptops, and shelve our work-in-progress until the stress clears. We might not be able to get into and stay in the zone as easily or for as long as we’re used to, but we can continue to write.

I’m trying everything I can to get my current book finished. Here are some ideas to tap into your creativity.

  1. Write in short bursts. Fifteen minutes might yield a sentence. Maybe a paragraph. Possibly a page. Any word is more than you had before.
  2. When stress makes you feel antsy, move your body. Walk in place. Walk outside. Stretch. Do sit-ups or push-ups or both. Physical movement helps calm our brains.
  3. Utilize a writing partner. Team up for a virtual “writing sprint” of 30 minutes or an hour. Or check in a few times a day to encourage each other to stay on track. Writers get what you’re going through–stay connected to them.
  4. If actual writing is too daunting, take notes. Brainstorm a story problem or the next scene.
  5. Remind yourself you’re going through a lot. Being distracted is normal.
  6. Celebrate every win. You wrote 250 words? Pat yourself on the back. You opened your manuscript and read through the previous scene? Great job!
  7. Set boundaries. You’re stressed. You’re not getting your book done the way you’d hoped. This can lead to a feeling of constant pressure. Rather than being hard on yourself 24/7, set your own boundaries for writing. Example: “After 6:00 pm, I will not write or think about writing. Whatever is left undone (even if it was ALL left undone), I will worry about tomorrow.”
  8. Find ways to cope. I love doing yoga stretches. They relax me. I also love to read the Bible first thing in the morning. Checking in with my family and friends helps relieve stress. And little, easy distractions help me cope, too, like putting together a puzzle, reading a novel, crocheting, baking. What could you do to help yourself cope?

Staying creative during times of stress isn’t easy. But when you have deadlines, it’s necessary. Keep chipping away at your manuscript. You can always fix the story later!

How do you stay creative during times of stress?

My new release, THE COWBOY’S SECRET, is in stores now and available as ebook on all major book retail sites. For more information and purchase links, click HERE!

Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of heartwarming, emotional, small-town romance novels often featuring cowboys. She hopes to encourage readers through her books the way so many books have encouraged her. Jill's essentials include coffee, caramels, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. For more information, visit her website,

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I try to stay creative during times of stress by praying first. Then, I often take walks in the neighborhood and absorb the beauty God provides. Nature is soothing and calming.

  2. Jill, keep hanging in there, friend. This season may be tough for most of us, but it’s nothing our Jesus cannot handle.

    As for my own writing, I’m so grateful April is a Camp NaNoWriMo month. Having someone else keep me accountable for a daily word count (the camp’s website stats as well as writing buddies in my “writing group” on the site) has been incredibly helpful, and now the words are flowing really well again. The excitement I’ve felt for months about this story has returned in excess, and I’m thrilled that my mind is hopping with ideas for how to help my characters through their trials and toward their (hopefully) happy ending.

    Happy writing, Jill.

  3. This is good, Jill. I always did work from home so that part’s not a big deal. What I find stressful is dealing with the outside world, i.e. how long it takes to Do Anything, from lines in the few stores that are open to places that have reduced hours. My bank is only letting people in by appointment, so the line at the drive-up is horrendous and I get there a half hour before they open. Also going from store to store to find something that has been gobbled up by hoarders. Nobody ever said this would be easy. Really, nobody said much of anything until we were already in it. I am meeting my writing goals, mostly out of feat that I will never have this much of a block of time again. Am also doing a carrot-and-stick thing where I promise myself all the cool things I’ll do once the quarantines and rules are lifted, but only if I get the writing done by then.

    1. You have such a great attitude, Kathy! Yes, life is slower and more difficult right now. But I’m with you, when lockdown is over, I’m looking forward to getting out there again!

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