Managing Stress as a Writer

Do you feel guilty because you haven’t written anything this week? You’re tired, you’re burnt out, you can’t work and write at the same time, and your husband/lover takes precedence over your writing. And instead of writing, you’re working out or playing games, or shopping, cooking and cleaning out your closets. Anything but writing.

I’ve written 12 stories and one micro-fiction (a short story under 50 words) since I’ve retired, but I suddenly stopped writing. I stopped writing because I stopped reading. Reading is inspirational. But I haven’t found a book I like or can even recommend, causing me stress. How to deal with this? See a therapist? A therapist isn’t going to cure my writer’s block – if such a thing even exists.

We all like to think we’re super-human, but we can’t do everything. So sit down and write out what you want in your life. Think about what suits your personality. Think about the rhythms of your life. You need to allow for seasonal shifts in your energy (creative or otherwise) and how much your projects mean to you. Writing these things out will keep your mind active. And who knows? These writings may become a short story, an essay or a piece of creative non-fiction. ‘Guilty Pleasures.’ ‘Anxiety For All.’ ‘Creative Jumps.’ Well, not great titles, but you get the idea.

So…. what is stressing you right now?
• Do you recognize any physical or mental symptoms of anxiety or even burnout? Write them all down even if they are not specifically related to your writing life. It’s often the cumulative effect of everything that results in stress.
• What action can you take right now to reduce some of your stress or anxiety? Will listening to music help? Playing word games? Reading a good book? Traveling?
• Are you allowing for the seasonal shifts of the day, week, time of year? How can you factor that in effectively so that it will enhance your creative mind?

I suggest you keep reading (I assume you do) and take a vacation from writing. New surroundings may open up your creative juices. Walk through a forest. Go to the beach. Visit friends. Listen to music. Go somewhere locally, go out of the country. But go. Your writer’s mind needs fresh inspiration that a new local might provide.

Sue Powers has won some awards, and has published 18 stories. She’s now working on her book of linked stories, entitled A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness. She will also be teaching Writing the Short Story, September 5 – October 17th from 7-9 p.m. at Hershey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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