Monday, May 2, 2011

Hey, Slow It Down...

We agreed to be honest with each other, didn't we, readers? No? Well, maybe not out loud or in some binding, written contract, but this whole blog is about overcoming all the negative that comes with writing and focusing on the positive, and to that end, I want to be honest with you.

The past couple of weeks I have been STRESSED. I am talking major anxiety. I actually told Erin last night that I feel like negativity is just following me around, like I'm Eeyore and I've got my own little personal storm cloud hovering above my head, everywhere I go. Which is both melodramatic and kind of psycho sounding, but it's really how I feel. I'm kind of a mess, a big ball of frantic worry and paranoia and frustration.

Why? A bunch of things. On the real life side, the choir and band I direct have a few end-of-the-year performances coming up. I have a lot to pay for on the horizon and I'm feeling the money crunch. My teaching schedule has doubled again and not only is it stressful planning more lessons, I'm with large groups of small children a lot more than normal, which is stressful in itself. My masters courses are about to start up again and I feel the work looming over me. 

On the writing side of life, I'm really struggling. I am writing a young adult novel that I personally think is my best work ever, but as much as I believe in it, it's hard to feel justified feeling that way. I'm going to say this honestly and hope I don't sound too whiny with it: It's really hard to feel enthusiastic about your work when you feel like you're the only one who IS enthusiastic about it. 

Don't get me wrong. I know everything I get back from my readers can't be glowing. I know they can't possibly reach my level of enthusiasm, even at their most glowing, because they didn't bring these characters to life. And I also know that most of the lack of enthusiasm isn't on purpose. A lot of the people I usually bounce ideas off of or read my work are really busy right now. It's not that they don't want to read it and spend time telling me that it's awesome, it's that they can't. I am a bona fide feedback whore, and a little encouragement goes a long way into keeping my momentum (and my morale) up, and without that crutch it's hard for me to push myself. (This subject is worth a whole slew of blogs by itself, and I'll do that, I promise.)

So... in essence, writing feels very lonely right now. Combine that with not having the time to write most days, and it's a recipe for a crap ton of stress.

So what can I do to alleviate some of this stress? Well, here are some things that have worked for me, and hopefully they might work for you too. 

  1. Do something peaceful to calm yourself down and get some clarity. Take a walk in the woods. Sit still and watch a candle burn. Do a religious ritual. Take a bubble bath while listening to Enya. Do something only for yourself, even if you have other important things to do. Forget them for a half an hour and read indulge.
  2. Make a list. To Do lists put things into perspective for me. If To Do lists stress you out even more, then make a list of things that you can do, and things that are out of control. Tear up or burn the list of things that are out of your control because THEY ARE OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. 
  3. Get Busy. Nothing will relieve stress like putting some hard work in, and although any type of work will do you some good, if you work on those items on your list from #2, you'll kill two birds. Conquer the small things first, and use that positive energy to propel you into the harder stuff.
  4. Let it go. All those things you can't change? Let them go. I know it's hard, but dwelling on it is a waste of time. My orchestra director used to say, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." This is so true. Like I said up there, burn a list of these things, or write them down and then put the list away, symbolically putting all of them aside. Or call a friend and bitch about them until you can bitch no more, and then stop thinking about them. If these things don't work, meditate on them, visualize these problems becoming smaller and smaller until they're barely grains of sand in your consciousness.
  5. Be your own counselor. Still stressed? Write yourself an encouraging note about something you've done. Leave helpful quotes on mirrors, refrigerator doors, and other places where you'll see them. Reward yourself for an accomplishment, no matter how small. Print out an example of your best writing to pull out and read every time you need to know you've done a good job.
  6. Drop it like it's hot. If you're doing something you don't have to do, don't do it. Delegate. Say no when asked to take on other projects. Put off things that can be put off in lieu of more important, more time-sensitive things. And related closely to that...
  7. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Twitter teaches some great life lessons. The best one is that if there's someone on your feed that pisses you off, raises your blood pressure with their opposing viewpoint, or likes to start drama, YOU CAN UNFOLLOW THEM. Unless they're a real life friend, there's no point in keeping them around. And this goes for anything in the world. Unfollow those things that don't matter, yet keep you on edge. That TV show you have to see, so you rush to get everything done before 8pm? It's a source of stress, no matter how much you enjoy it. Stop watching it or Tivo that shit so you can see it when you have time. That blog you just HAVE to read every day? No you don't. It's just a blog. (Oops, did I just lose readers?) Don't read it. The post will still be there in a month, when you have time for it. The scrapbooking/jewelry making/latest novel for your book club that you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW? No you don't. You're a big girl now. The only person making you do these things is yourself. Don't make yourself do them anymore. 
The best part about all of this is that even if you're not enthusiastic now, fake it. Do some of these things and after a while you won't be faking. If nothing else, they totally get the ball rolling.

Phew. Well, I'm feeling better. How about you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I especially love your "unfollow" advice. I know someone that will get all riled up over some opinion someone posted on Facebook or Twitter, to which I always say, why are they in your feed?

But I forget to do that with real life sometimes. If something is upsetting, step away!

And don't let your enthusiasm wane. Writing something that matters to you makes me think of having a kid. No one will EVER be as enthusiastic about your kid as you are, even if you aren't one of those gushy parents, because ultimately, you love and created the kid. But that doesn't mean plenty of people don't think he/she is awesome. Same with your book. Plenty of people will want to hold it and love it, just never as much as you :)