Two years ago, I tried a digital minimalism experiment to simplify my life. I'm surprised at how much worked, and I'm not surprised what habits continue to grip me.
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 writingandwellness.com, 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.
- Write in short bursts. Fifteen minutes might yield a sentence. Maybe a paragraph. Possibly a page. Any word is more than you had before.
- 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.
- 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.
- If actual writing is too daunting, take notes. Brainstorm a story problem or the next scene.
- Remind yourself you’re going through a lot. Being distracted is normal.
- Celebrate every win. You wrote 250 words? Pat yourself on the back. You opened your manuscript and read through the previous scene? Great job!
- 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.”
- 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!