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December 5, 2011
Writing requires energy. Life requires energy! What fuel are you running on?
Many people these days are frantically running from place to place, working too many hours, volunteering for too many projects, working nights and weekends (partly) because of a need for approval.
They are fueled by sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and adrenaline to keep going. You might get more done short-term this way, but if this is your fuel, you’re injuring your health in the long run.
Last week in the online retreat workshop, we talked about “destressing the writing life.” Before we can do much, we have to destress life in general, I think.
I don’t need to tell you that we live “on alert” these days. We are bombarded from so many information sources. We allow ourselves to be at the beck and call of anyone who rings our cell phone or shoots us an email. Adrenaline is used like a drug, pushing tired bodies to work faster and harder. The end result is a crash-and-burn depletion of your reserves.
Go Against the Flow
Do you want to have a long-term writing life? Do you want to have enough energy to write longer than a 30-day NaNoWriMo stint? Then while you still have time–while you still have your health–I urge you to develop a counter-cultural lifestyle. Look at your life now. Make a list of the things that have stressed you out this past week.
No groceries in the cupboard because a meeting ran late and you couldn’t stop at the store? Phone call from a teacher saying little Johnny forgot his required permission slip for the day’s field trip? A bounced check? Having to work late at night while everyone else is sleeping, just to keep life from derailing?
All of these things make us run on adrenaline that wears down our bodies. And much as we might argue otherwise, all of these things are preventable.
Replace the Old with the New
Habits that cause you to run on adrenaline are habits that need to be replaced. I can’t tell you which habits you need to exchange, but I can share some of mine.
For one thing, I’ve noticed that for six months, I’ve arrived places out of breath and a little bit late, and I go tearing into meetings or classes after the program has begun. So embarrassing. I sweat it on the way to the meeting, and backed-up traffic skyrockets my blood pressure. I hate to waste time, so I hate arriving somewhere early and waiting. Solution? To avoid the adrenaline rush, I plan to leave early enough to arrive early, but take work or a book along, stay in the parking lot and write or read, then walk in calmly ten minutes before the class starts.
I have also noticed that the days I DON’T run on adrenaline are the days I start with exercise and devotional reading and prayer. And yet, too many times lately, I’ve awakened feeling energetic, considered the two hours I’d lose if I stuck to my exercise/relaxation regimen, and jumped into work instead. Make hay while the sun shines, right? Mostly, I’ve made headaches and a sore back and neck. I need to remember that my health regimen actually saves me time in the long run. And I run those days, not on adrenaline, but on healthy energy supplies.
I am going to set a boundary on working in the evenings. I couldn’t see what difference it would make if, while watching a good movie with my husband or chatting, I also answered some email questions and deleted hundreds of blog spam and updated my websites. Most of it was “no think” activity, so what did it harm? A lot, I think now. My mind won’t shut off when I shut off the computer to go to bed. My neck and back hurt terribly by then. And I feel disgruntled, like I haven’t had any free time at all that day.
We must convince ourselves that it’s not selfish to slow down and live at a sane pace, to build in a buffer zone or margin around activities so you can make a slow, smooth transition from one thing to another. What’s that old saying? “We’re supposed to be human beings, not human doings.”
It’s Up to You
No one can make the change for you. And frankly, many people in your life who are used to calling the shots and like all the work you accomplish won’t help you make changes. But make them you must. If you want to have a decent quality of life, you’ll have to step outside this current “hurry frantically” electronic culture of ours, and figure out what works for YOU to have a saner, happier life.
Take this month when you have some slower time (even if it’s only when waiting in line to mail packages) and think about how you want 2012 to be different. Wishing won’t make it so–but putting a stop to certain behaviors and starting other healthier habits, can.
Running on premium fuel instead of adrenaline will make you more productive, less stressed, and be better for your health. Saner writers are happier, more productive writers. And doesn’t that sound appealing?
June 1, 2011
“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
~~Ken Blanchard, author of the best seller The One Minute Manager
Without a 100% commitment to anything, you spend so much time (and energy!) every day deciding whether or not to keep the commitment. If you’re truly interested in writing–but not 100% committed–you probably fight with yourself nearly every day over whether or not to stick to your writing disciplines.
I’ve been fighting this for about thirty years. Long enough! It’s high time the writing and marketing (necessary these days if you want to have a writing career) became absolute non-negotiables.
No Matter What?
What if we lived the rest of our lives the way we live our writing life? Instead of the “should I write today, or shouldn’t I write?” daily hassle, we’d be fighting nearly everything! But we don’t. We make 100% decisions all the time. Examples:
- I never pass a bank or gas station and fight with myself about whether to pull in and rob them. I don’t steal. Ever. And I don’t intend to. So I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about it.
- I don’t agonize over every attractive person I see and fight with myself about whether to initiate some illicit relationship. I don’t cheat. Ever. And I don’t intend to. So I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about it.
- I don’t agonize over whether to brush my teeth after I eat breakfast. I don’t want my teeth to rot. Ever. And I don’t waste time and energy thinking about it.
Make That Commitment
We all have things we’ve made 100% commitments to: exercise programs, drinking water, tucking our kids into bed every night, not swearing, getting to bed by eleven, praying…you name it. Isn’t it time we made our writing commitments 100% too?
And you know the kicker? Studies have proven that it’s actually far easier to keep a 100% commitment than a partial commitment. Have you ever found that to be true?
November 15, 2010
Symptoms of the “shoulds” include:
- You should write first thing in the morning.
- You should write daily.
- You should keep a journal.
- You should write down your dreams every morning.
- You should have a room of your own and be organized!
- You should write for publication.
What if some of the “shoulds” just go against your grain? Are you not a real writer then? What if you write best after 10 p.m. instead of first thing in the morning? What if you start journals repeatedly and never last more than three days? What if you can’t remember your dreams? What if an organized office makes you freeze and you secretly prefer writing in chaos?
Are you a REAL writer then? YES!
What Am I Exactly?
If you struggle with your identity as a writer–if you don’t seem to fit the mold no matter how you’ve tried–you would love the book I found over the weekend. It’s called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer’s Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, who wrote the best book on writer’s block I ever read.
This book takes you through exercises to find the real writer who lives inside you. You’ll explore the ten components that make up a writer’s “type.” They include such things as tolerance for solitude, best time of day to write, amount of time, need for variety, level of energy, and level of commitment. Finding your own personal combination of traits helps you build a writer’s life where you can be your most productive and creative.
Free to Be Me
To be honest, the exercises with switching hands (right brain/left brain) didn’t help me as much as the discussions about each trait. I could usually identify my inner preferences quite easily through the discussion. It gave me freedom to be myself as a writer. It also helped me pinpoint a few areas where I believed some “shoulds” that didn’t work for me, where I was trying to force this square peg writer into a round hole and could stop!
We’re all different–no surprise!–but we published writers are sometimes too quick to pass along our own personal experience in the form of “shoulds.” You should write first thing in the morning should actually be stated, It works well for ME to write first thing in the morning, so you might try that.
What About You?
Have you come up against traits of “real writers” that just don’t seem to fit you? Do you like to flit from one unfinished project to another instead of sticking to one story until it’s finished and submitted? Do you need noise around you and get the heebie jeebies when it’s too quiet?
If you have time, leave a comment concerning one or two areas where you have struggled in the past with a “real writer” trait. Let’s set ourselves free from the tyranny of the shoulds!
July 30, 2010
Over the weekend, I hope you’ll have time to check out some very helpful and thought-provoking blogs I read this week.
Kick back, relax, and enjoy these gems!
Gems of Wisdom
**Agent Wendy Lawton wrote a series called “Career Killers.” Full of wise advice! One post is on speed writing. Other “career killers” included impatience, playing “around the edges,” sloppiness, and skipping the apprenticeship. If you avoid these mistakes in your career, you’ll be miles ahead of the average writer.
**Are you trying to combine babies with bylines? Try “Writing Between Diapers: Tips for Writer Moms” for some practical tips.
**Is your writing journey out of whack because you have unrealistic expections? See literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s post “Managing Expections.”
**Critique groups are great, but you–the writer–must be your own best–and toughest–editor. See Victoria Strauss on “The Importance of Self-Editing.”
**We’re told to set goals and be specific about what success means to us. Do you have trouble with that? You might find clarity with motivational speaker Craig Harper’s “Goals and Anti-Goals.”
**And finish with Joe Konrath’s pithy statements in “A Writer’s Serenity Prayer.” You may want to print them out and tape them to your computer!
Share a Gem!
What have you read lately–online or off–that you felt was particularly insightful or helpful or thought-provoking? I’d love to have you share a link of your own!