No One Answer to a Complicated Subject
Last week, we went over the question of stress affecting one’s creative writing. Speaking for my own personal life experience (which is the only point of view I can offer our readers) I made the observations that extreme mental and emotional stress impairs my own personal ability to write. There have been times, however, when I have been on job assignments that were only mildly tedious or unpleasant and during those times, the stress was not enough to hamper my ability to pick up a story and work on it. Obviously, there was for me – and is – a fine line for everyone between the stress that impairs and the stress that still allows us to be creative.
Unfortunately, stress is a highly personalized, complicated and extremely tricky state of being in how it affects individuals. For example, the same extreme stress has affected me differently at different stages in my life. When I was younger, I was more able to handle stress whereas now, later in life, the same amount of stress is more difficult to deal with and when it is or has been perceived as manageable, requires different techniques to mitigate than when I was younger.
I am fairly certain from reading various papers on the subject, that this is true for the majority of humans on the planet. This comes as no surprise, considering the changes our bodies go through and the declination of our health and mental state in all aspects is one of the greatest certainties of life – much like death and taxes.
Another complication of stress is something that has only been studied in-depth and better understood in my own lifetime – that of the mechanics of a panic attack.
Wikipedia defines a panic attack as,”…sudden periods of intense fear and discomfort that may include palpitations, sweating, chest pain, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling of impending doom or of losing control.” I don’t know about you, but I most certainly could never sit down and write while going through something of this magnitude, which I often went through in my early twenties until I read the new, upcoming research on what a panic attack was and how to deal with it. A panic attack is – and always will be one of those states of stress that is impossible to write through, but can crop up at any moment without warning.
The Best Advice I Can Give You Is…
…because we are all different and we all have different ways of dealing with life stressors, there is no one magic bullet that works for everyone in how to deal with the stress that gets in the way of our creativity. Coping mechanisms are as diverse as how my husband and I deal with severe stress. Dennis tends to sleep it off for many hours at a time, while I either get upset to one degree or another and/or I also sleep it off, or try to stay busy with anything and everything that does not have to do with dealing with the one thing I have no control over.
One thing I did learn recently, however, worked quite well. That was to completely remove us from the environment in which we constantly experience distress. In this case, it was in our home. We don’t normally go out and be social very much, even before the pandemic we were kind of stay-at-home bodies. However, a couple invited us over for a barbecue at their house, along with playing some darts and bocci ball. It was a new environment for us, as well as learning new games we had never played before. As the afternoon wore on, Dennis and I both found to our pleasant surprise that we were more relaxed than we had been in the entire past year! This form of distraction to a lesser degree, has been very effective for me in the past. I often utilize it when I am stuck on a scene in the story and can’t figure out where to go with it next. I walk away and leave it alone and do something completely opposite to writing. This often involves doing a much more physical activity to involve the other, non-creative side of my brain. Sometimes, however, it might just involve getting a good night’s sleep and the solution will either hit me in the shower or when I am doing something completely different, such as driving or meditating.
So When Your Writing Suffers
If through all of these personal experiences and tips or your own ways of coping you can continue to write, always take a moment after you have written during a stressful point in your life to sit back and read what you wrote. It is quite possible your story will suffer for you forcing yourself to get that book or project done, whether under deadline or not. You especially do not want the reader to be able to notice a change in the flow of your story, your writing style, your grammar, plot or direction because you were under pressure. The only hard-and-fast rule I have discovered when dealing with stress is, if it interferes with your writing style, STOP, do what it takes to remove the stress, then review what parts of your writing were affected by it and go back and start over.
Do you have any tips on how to deal with stress when facing deadlines? What do you do to get yourself back on track? Please let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
80th blog completed.
First Steampunk novel: 72,206 words.
First Steampunk screenplay: Need to update with notes from the novelization.
Second Steampunk screenplay: 116 pages
Second Steampunk novel: 0 words.
Third Steampunk screenplay: 38 pages
And this is what Duckman has to say about the stresses of life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blppKS-nz9g