Being a writer is stressful.
There, I've said it.
We all know what it's like. The despair at not finding the right words to put on the page and frustration at characters who won't cooperate or a plot that's failing. The rejection at the hands of publishers, agents, and even the public. Books that don't sell, or that are criticized in reviews and blogs. The fight to get our work noticed, and the feeling that our novels are bits of plankton in a vast ocean.
A writer's life is hard!
But then again, so is a teacher's, a doctor's, a parent's, a social worker's... Writers certainly don't corner the market in occupational hazards. At least writing doesn't involve laying asphalt under the hot, summer sun or cleaning out septic tanks (ever see Dirty Jobs?).
Besides putting our writing into perspective, there are other, practical, ways writers can deal with stress. Here's a short list:
- Exercise! Writing, for the most part, is a very sedentary occupation, and being so chair-bound is not healthy. Personally, I love yoga, and try to practice it a few mornings a week. I really find that it sharpens me mentally as well as tones me physically.
- Celebrate each victory. Okay, so you're not selling books like Stephen King (And, really, who is? Besides Stephen King, that is). But surely you've done something that deserves kudos. Maybe you finally finished that chapter you've been working on, or perhaps you got an e-mail from a fan. No matter what you've accomplished, you should feel good about it instead of berating yourself for what you didn't do.
- Get social. I used to think that my ideal life would be one in which I sat in my office all day and wrote. Wrong! I find that spending too much time alone just makes me obsess over my work. To remedy this, I continue to teach because it gets me out of the house and forces me to be social. And when I come home, I'm tired, but my mind is clearer.
- Get back to nature. Last Sunday, my family and I took a hike in the woods, and the fresh air did me a world of good. The woods were quiet (except for my kids' constant chatter), and we were able to spot several blooming wildflowers as well as a few species of birds. I came home ready to re-focus on my work.
- Find a hobby. I love to knit, but unlike my writing, I don't care if my sweaters and scarves are perfect. I also play the piano (very badly) and garden (somewhat badly). I love these hobbies because there's no pressure, and I don't have to worry about being judged.
There's nothing we can do to change the frustrations that writers face, but we can make adjustments so that our attitudes about our challenges are more positive.
Causes Michelle Scott Supports
Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity