Writing is a lot of things: a hobby, a job, a passion, a calling. And for many of us, writing is an outlet. Even if you're writing for a paycheck, writing gives you a chance to work through and process your emotions and stress. And yet, I know a lot of writers who fall into one pitfall when it comes to writing: the stress of not writing.
A vicious cycle.
I'm sure we've all heard of these sorts of cycles:
- Writer has a deadline
- Writer stresses over the deadline
- Writer can't bring self to write
- Writer stresses about not being able to write
- Writer is more stressed and cannot write
- Writer worries more about not writing
- Not writing causes more stress
- Deadline looms
Sound familiar? Even if you haven't fallen into this trap yourself, I'm willing to bet that you know someone who has. Writing can be stressful. And as such, we sometimes need to take a break from it. But taking a break from writing, especially when we have deadlines coming up, can sometimes cause us even more stress.
And I don't know about you, but I sometimes have a hard time writing when I'm stressed out. Which means stress can really play some dirty tricks on my calendars and deadlines. But, of course, deadlines don't care about stress.
Break the cycle by alleviating the stress of not writing.
Obviously, if we're stuck in a vicious cycle, the answer is to break the cycle, right? But finding the right spot to go in and place that stop sign can be easier said than done. How do you just stop stressing out?
One method that might work could be the same thing that I do when I'm having a bad day and need to turn it around fast. But that is really meant to nip a bad day in the bud before it gets a chance to spiral out of control. What if you're already spiraling?
The truth is, if you're already in a spiral of writing-related stress for not writing, then this method will help throw a wrench into the spokes of that wheel — disrupting the cycle just long enough to help you figure out a more long term plan. Stop what you're doing and smile. Then hold it. Do whatever you have to do to hold that smile for at least 60 seconds.
The reason this works is because you have to hold that smile. Which usually means you have to force yourself to think of things that make you smile. That's a lot easier to do if you're already smiling instead of stressing out.
But, this method is only going to grant you a very small break in your stress spiral. It's not going to get rid of your stress, nor will it make you forget about your stress. So, if you're already sinking into the spiraling stress of not writing, you need to add a second step.
Forgive yourself for not writing.
That's right. After you've held that smile for a couple minutes, you'll be in a better spot to say something positive. And the thing you need to say (and mean it) is “it's okay that I didn't write anything yet today.”
You see, trying to forgive yourself while you're drowning in stress won't work. You'll just find some way to make it okay to be angry. But if you come at it from a positive place, you'll find it easier to forgive yourself. You may even justify it. “Of course I couldn't write yet today, I only slept for 2 hours and my child has been sick. I can write tonight.”
And then do it.
I bet you'll find that once you've been forgiven for not writing, you'll find it so much easier to sit down and start writing. Additionally, you'll be able to work on your writing routine, to help prevent that spiral of stress from sneaking up on you again later.
Writing can be stressful. And for many of us, not writing is just as stressful. That's why normal stress-relief techniques don't always work in these situations. More often, we need a two-step process to help us break out of that cycle.
- Step One: Interrupt the cycle with an abrupt change in thoughts,
- Step Two: Break free from the cycle by forgiving yourself (and meaning it) for getting stuck