Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Best Writing Year Ever, With Less Stress

I have to say, my year is starting off well, with MORTAL MUSIC (the 7th in my Silver Rush series) released on January 27. What a way to ring in 2020!


But that one is now written and done. What would make this the "best writing year ever" for me is to figure out how to write Book #8 with less stress.

For some time, I've joked that what propels me to write is deadlines and panic. But there's more truth than fiction in that statement.

Adrenaline drives me and makes me productive in my writing life, but that sort of propulsion eventually takes its toll. One day I realized that when I begin to feel stressed and panicked, my right knee starts to buckle. When writing deadlines loom, the right side of my neck, and my right wrist and shoulder stiffen and ache to the point where it's difficult to go to sleep, much less spend hours at the keyboard.

Stress! (There's gotta be a better way to write.)
Image by Jan VaĊĦek from Pixabay

So, for me, if 2020 is to be the "best writing year ever," I need to get serious about handling stress. WebMD offers a number of general suggestions for managing stress, including:
  • Accept that there are events that you cannot control. 
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi. 
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit. 
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. 
  • Learn to manage your time more effectively. 
  • Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life. 
  • Make time for hobbies and interests.
It's all good, practical, real-world advice. But somehow when I'm running around in circles like a chicken with its head chopped off, it's a little hard to, for instance, "make time for hobbies and interests." I have a deadline! I've got to make that deadline or else, or else... (else being some undefined awful state in which my world implodes).

Digging a little deeper, I uncovered the article "How to Prevent Writing-Related Stress from Eating You Alive" on the site Writing and Wellness. This post also provided some good suggestions, including:
  • Identify what's stressing you out, and look for solutions.
  • Increase your stress-management activities (exercise, yoga, deep breathing, gardening, etc.) and schedule it into your calendar. 
  • Realize when you're distracting yourself (whether with brownies or wine or binge-watching or binge-reading, for that matter!)
  • Focus on the work (just you and your story... set aside the rest)
I plan on incorporating some of this advice in the coming year, and we'll see how it goes. I'm hoping the words will flow more freely when panic is replaced by calm.

Might less stress lead to the best writing year ever?
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

What about you? Do you have any favorite techniques or tips to share? Any suggestions that will help make 2020 the best, least-stressful writing year ever?

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer. Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit AnnParker.net for more information.

13 comments :

  1. The advice you listed is great but I do not think its practical or realistic at all. You are right, they would work in a vacuum but sadly life is a bit more complicated than just doing things that are right for you.

    Good luck with your best writing year ever and may it be so.

    https://aab-edu.net/

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    1. Ah life, it gets in the way of best intentions, right? One thing that helps me "in the moment" is to repeat: "Right now, everything is okay" (assuming it isn't a moment of crisis, of course).

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  2. As a writer who lives with "life gets in the way" syndrome, I empathize. For me, the most practical stress-reducing suggestion is the one about distractions. Thanks for sharing, Ann. :-)

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    1. Hi Linda! Sometimes just being "aware" of what's going on helps, right? :-)

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  3. I respectfully disagree with Shaban. I think most of the advice is good and realistic. It only takes five minutes to do some deep breathing Yoga style to relieve a lot of stress tension. And exercise is also great. I feel so much better after walking my dog for a mile.

    It all comes down to decisions we make: to be happy despite whatever is going on in our lives, to be productive when we are at the keyboard - ignoring the pull of social media, and to do things that refresh our creative spirits. I do a lot of coloring and quilting, but stop the minute I'm not having fun. I try not to pile on any extra frustration.

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    1. Hi Maryann... When the fun things stop being fun, I agree: it's a good time to stop and do something different. Or heck, maybe do nothing and just "be" for a while. :-)

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  4. We can only do our best when stressed, Ann. What helps me the most is taking 5 minutes to sit (or lie down), breathe, and relax my muscles, one group at a time. Anyone can take that 5 minutes.

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    1. That's a good one, Pat. I'm going to keep it in mind (or maybe write it and pin it on a nearby wall). This is doable even at work in the cubicle farm...

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  5. Believe it or not, I meditate every single day in the morning. I set my clock so I am able to add the time and it has paid off for me. I also, with few exceptions attend my weekly 'improv' writing group. Not only does the prompts help me find the events of the story I'm working on, it also helps shut the censor off in my head and lets the words flow. (The major rule, you always write, always read and no critiquing allowed). Doris

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  7. Great post, Ann, and and good advice to help other writers trying to manage and meet stressful deadlines.

    I confess to using chocolate and brownies to manage my stress, both writing-related and otherwise. I also practice deep breathing, deliberate calm and walk 3 miles a day seven days a week, and I never miss a day.

    So in this karmic world in which we live, I guess what I am saying is that I hope the mindfulness and regular walking somehow make up for the sins I regularly commit with chocolate.

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  8. First, congratulations on your publication. That alone must relieve some stress. No more agonizing about sentences, plot points, punctuation, etc, until you reread and think you wish you could change one little thing. Maybe that only happens to me. We all need a bit of stress relief these days. Thanks for the great ideas.

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  9. Congratulations and best wishes on your book Ann.

    My advice on stress reduction--inventory your life. Mind you, I have never succeeded in this, except with certain must-do things, like buying food. I stress on shopping. When I found myself in the store for the umpteenth time, I started planning menus and making lists and, incidentally, reducing binge eating. And I saved the menus and lists so as not to reinvent the wheel continuously.

    Most must-dos are stressful, so organizing them works for me.

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