Life gets crazy bad sometimes and the past 2 weeks were definitely there for us. In the midst of finishing my edits, I lost my day job unexpectedly. This meant a week of prepping my resume, getting medications and doctors’ appointments for everyone before we lost our insurance, etc. Lots of fear, frustration, and family support.
In the midst of the chaos, I remembered something…
Stress of any kind affects the creative process. For some, they hunker down and use the work to block out what’s happening around them. I’m not one of these lucky artists.
Most often, stress blocks my creativity. Tuning into my characters and focusing on the story becomes very difficult for me. Through previous experience with writer’s block, I know there are times I can push it and times I can’t.
This week, I knew the distraction was just the emotional chaos around and inside of me, not the writing itself, so I was able to push forward. Not easily, but I could. I had someone double check my work, because I didn’t trust that some of my distraction wasn’t leaking onto the page, but I got the work done. Now I’m down to just a final readthru before turning in a round of edits to my editor at Harlequin Desire. And I gained the satisfaction of knowing I could go on and complete that work despite the panic and upset of the last 2 weeks.
I’d like to share a couple of things I’ve learned, so if you find yourself in similar chaos, this might work for you:
1. Return to the Page
When true lack of focus hits hard, it can be difficult to even show up at the page, much less write anything. But I’ve found that the best solution IS to show up, write for however long you can, and accept that the time on the page may be short. I literally spent 5 hours in bed with my computer the day after I was fired. Did I get a lot accomplished? No. Maybe 10 pages of easy edits. I would read for a little while, then realize that I’d drifted away for 30 minutes, staring into nothing or watching television without really seeing it. But instead of punishing myself, I just brought my focus back to the page for however long I could. This routine was repeated on and off throughout the day. I didn’t accomplish an astonishing amount, but I had the satisfaction of having done something without psychologically whipping myself over things I really couldn’t control.
The next day was better, and the next. I’ll never work at top speed when my life is stressful, but that’s okay. I can still write.
2. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Hi, I’m Dani Wade, and I have anger management issues>>I constantly beat myself up.
This is something I’m also working on, but progress can be slow at times. I’m highly self-critical, and expect close to perfection in many areas of my life (yes, I do realize this is unrealistic, and I’m working on that). One major area of progress is in cutting myself some slack — when I know its just one of those days when pushing through isn’t going to help, I give in, back off, and rest. I know when I can push, but when I can’t, I don’t make it worse by continuing to pile on the pressure. Take a day off, or at least a couple of hours, and give the brain a rest. Taking care of my brain through rest, exercise, (mostly) nutritious eating means it will reward me by letting me reconnect with my story.
I’ll continue to repeat this process until the distractions pass, looking forward to the day when the connection is completely open.
So how do you get through the tough writing times?