Nine ways to conquer your writing stress from thesis to novel to essay and everything in between. Come to think of it, these nine things apply to just about all types of stress…
1. Retrain Your Brain
You obsess about not writing and are riddled with guilt because you should be writing.
Stop it. Silence those unhealthy, intrusive thoughts. If you are obsessing about ‘shoulds,’ you won’t be able to write when you actually sit down to do it. You burn out your brain and body by expending energy worrying instead of actually writing. Focus on Whatever You are Doing Right Now. Breathe. Count to Three. Focus on what you are doing right now. Are you sitting still? What is around you? Walking? What do you hear? Staring at a computer screen? What do the keyboard and mouse feel like beneath your hands? When you are done, do the same for whatever comes next. Stop wasting time on ‘shoulds’. Live in right now. You will write. You will finish the project. It’s more important that you be mindful. If you are having trouble breaking the obsession cycle, reach out to a professional therapist or doctor in your community. Workplaces, universities and schools, health programs and clinics often have free or low-cost resources.
2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Writing is a project: Conception – Composition – Completion. You have deadlines. Set milestones and reachable goals. One day you may dedicate six hours to researching and the next two hours to outlining. You may do a lot of prep work. You might not actually write anything for a while, but it’s still writing work. Don’t know where to start? Try AuthorMedia.com. Make your schedule achievable. We all want to finish and move on to what is next. It’s human nature. It’s natural. Don’t fight it, it’s part of the driving force behind your creativity and creation, but DO set it aside.
DON’T allot 10-16 hours to work. You will turn into an exhausted, angry, caffeine fueled ball of chaos with anxiety so tangible you will pixelate before your friends’ very eyes. A human mind can only focus for so long (anywhere from 8 seconds to 20 minutes according to various sources). The body can only be in one position for so long. You will do your best work in shorter, focused bursts when you are rested and healthy.
3. Take Breaks
You know the negative effects of sitting too long. You start to shift after 20 minutes. You perch on the edge of your chair, unaware of or ignoring your need to get up. Move.
You are torturing your body. You are working against yourself. Move. Not only will your body thank you, your mind will to. And, your project will get done faster. Author James Patterson takes breaks during his writing routine. Put these in your schedule and stick to them. Take them when you need, but remember, this is work. Keep your breaks under control. They are not an excuse to procrastinate.
4. This is Work
Treat writing like work. A thesis, a novel, a short story, a poem, a blog, they are all work. They require research, time, and effort. Make and keep a schedule, set goals within reasonable time frames, and reward your successes. Stop making excuses, stop torturing yourself. Stop avoiding and stop overworking. Be present and be focused. Act like this is a professional task. Get the resources and materials you need. Consult experts. Operate with professionalism. Do your job.
5. Have a Sacred Space
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Dedicate a box, a table space, a library or café, or an office to your writing. You don’t have to have an entire room, but a room or space designated solely for writing will make you more productive and help your focus. Appreciate the space you choose, settle in, and blaze ahead. Lock the door to your mind and ignore distractions. Find inspiration from Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work. The work you are doing is important. Treat it so.
Creativity and focus are yours when you are healthy. Exercise is a need. Stop avoiding it. You want to do it. Your body sends signals of stress through muscle tension, stiffness, feeling cold, nausea, headaches, blurred vision and itchy eyes. Fidgeting? When was the last time you went for a walk, to the gym, or ran through yoga or martial art poses? An exercised body is an exercised mind. Sitting for extended period of time can restrict circulation, causing lapses in memory and cognition. Get up and go.
7. Eat Properly
You want that comfort food. You need that comfort food. You crave it. You might even rage until you get it. Having a complete meal feeds your brain and body – your most important writing tools. Skipping meals or grabbing quick fixes increases your costs and adds empty calories, which drives you to eat more. They also deprive you of the nutrients you need to keep your work flowing. Invest in yourself. You are the only way this project of yours is getting done. That novel won’t write itself. That brain and body won’t write without food.
8. Get a Life
Take care of all of your needs. Your brain is built to do more than one thing. So is your body. Dedicate your time and energy to other areas of your life and watch your creativity spark and stamina grow. Walk away from that computer and socialize. Take a shower or a bubble bath. Take care of those other to-dos. Go on a mini-vacation, or even a real vacation. Get enough sleep. Most importantly, have fun. And lots of it. It can help inform your writing. It’s the best way to overcome that writer’s block. There are a number of models in psychology regarding the dimensions of wellness/well-being. Check out eight of them here: http://campusrec.eku.edu/eight-dimensions-wellness
9. Reward Yourself
You are working hard. Compensate yourself for it. Spend time in your favorite place, go out to your favorite restaurant with friends. Go on a date (with yourself, significant other, a friend). Read a book for pleasure. Do nothing for a bit. Reward that hard work and dedication. You deserve it.
A recent article by the Encyclopædia Britannica identified 6 fictional languages. As a nerd, my reaction was How cool! But why learn an additional language, fictional or not? And for that matter, what does it take for masters like Tolkien to create languages? While I don’t have a linguistics background like Tolkien, I did do some research.
According to the Telegraph , several different psychological studies have investigated and identified the benefits of learning an additional language. These included not only the obvious social perks, but also improvements in thought processing and memory, intelligence levels, and observational and decision making skills. As well, by learning another language’s mechanics -tense, grammar, punctuation, phrasing, slang, pronunciations- individuals improve their first or initial language skills. After all, language learners can compare structures and gain a better understanding of mechanics between new and older languages. The article also claims that additional language learning improves multitasking development and can add an average of 4 years before a person’s onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia related disease.
I would guess that benefits aren’t exclusive to fictional, pictorial, and alphabet based languages. Numerical languages, like computer programming languages and mathematics offer the ability to communicate with machines, manipulate, and understand our world in alternative manners, for example.
Languages have been created or altered for as long as humans have existed for many reasons such as alleviate isolation, oppression, or communicate secretly like cryptic languages and codes or Nushu the women’s writing developed in China. Another unique linguistic development is sign languages and other non-verbal languages like body language.
Fictionally, creating a language adds a sense of reality or quality to the work. A language can solidify a new culture or race – like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek or Tolkien did in his Middle Earth.
If you’re curious as to the how part, we live in a world now where there is a wiki how for that.
In case you were wondering, I have created a language. It was done as an exercise for education not for an actual piece of fiction I have worked on or published yet. Here is the process I followed.
- Create a character or two.
- Consider: culture, origin, location, birth, family, setting (modern, ancient, fictional), sound, values of the culture and character(s), what does the character or culture communicate about? Maybe the character is an animal – consider how animals communicate now – body language, noises, chemically, psychically?
- Decide if your language is pictorial, alphabetical, or numerical.
- Create an alphabet.
- If you are using phonetics, grammar, special phrasing, tense, suffixes, pluralization, and conjugation – decide on some of the rules. If you want/have to – create a dictionary.
- Write a journal from the character’s point of view, in the new language for a few days, weeks, or even years.
- Further develop.
Additional steps could include grabbing friends who are nerdy and teach them the language, talk in the language, then work things out further. Store it in a special folder, book, or document. Season to taste.