In our current situation of the Great Resignation, I see the effects of stress. Some are quitting their jobs. Some are being asked to expand their jobs because others have quit. Burnout is high. This is affecting writers. I’m seeing it in colleagues of mine. Most of the writers I know have day jobs. The stress impacts their creativity. This stress leads to fatigue and non-performance. This has to be fixed. Some are even abandoning their writing—postponing they say—because of the demands of their daily life. That, honestly, makes me sad.
I’ve been on that treadmill. Even as a writer and filmmaker, I’ve felt that weight. For me, having been self-employed my whole life, mine was self-imposed. Whether self-imposed or coming from a third-party employer—stress is stress—here are a few thoughts I’ve had for carving out time to write, and also for getting oneself in the frame of mind to be the most creative. Hopefully this can offer some perspective. It does for me. And, even knowing this, I have to remind myself of this often. You will, too.
1. Pretend you are self-employed
When it is time to write, view yourself as self-employed. It’s difficult to tear yourself away from your other job or family and social commitments. But for thirty minutes, be disciplined that you have somewhere to be (at your writing desk). Like your day job, let everyone know you are working. Set a time each day, a specific time. Hold others and yourself to it. Even if you get only two-hundred-and-fifty words out, that is two-hundred-and-fifty words more than when you started. Treat your writing as a second job if it is not your first. Take it that seriously. The stress from the rest of your life will be there when you are finished. For thirty minutes, close the door on outside stress and the rest of the world. Simply create.
2. Slow down
We all have too much work and our lives are running too fast. This is not conducive to writing. Once again, carve out the time and close the door. When you sit down to write, stop and take the time to find meaning. Sometimes that is only making a few notes that you’ll pick back up on tomorrow. Whatever you do, though, clear your mind, make the time, fall into another world of your own creating, and enjoy. Stories are escapism. Take the story at its pace, not the pace of the other world you are escaping from. Slow down. Enjoy. Dig deeply.
3. Be realistic and be kind to yourself
Set realistic expectations. You have a life and responsibilities. To say that you are going to write your book or collection of works within a certain amount of time is noble, but is it productive? Or does it only add more stress? Setting your expectations too high can only lead to disappointment and eventual abandonment of what you love. Don’t let life do this to you. Concentrate instead on the story. People read stories, not word counts.
5. Set specific and realistic expectations
Know what you want to accomplish. Saying I’m going to write two-thousand words is stressful. If you’ve got the time for it, then good. But if you only have thirty minutes, then maybe your expectations should be clear that for that thirty minutes you devote your focus on your story and whatever is accomplished is more than was accomplished when you started. And it might even be better in quality than putting yourself on a quota.
5. Expect and be happy with only your best effort
Don’t expect too much of yourself. This causes stress. Your best effort is enough. It’s easy to work for thirty minutes, look at your work, and then—here it comes—compare. No matter where you are, you have many drafts to make things right. Comparing your work-in-progress with a finished and polished book only adds to your stress. Don’t do it. Leave the stress with your day job. Keep the writing fun. Be content with your thirty minutes. Leave it at that.
6. Keep perspective with those you work with
For those of us who are on deadlines, keep it in perspective. Work diligently. Work focused. Do your best. Sometimes team members can stress us out. Keep them in perspective. They have jobs to do, their own stresses. Don’t let their stresses become yours. Focus on your part of the teamwork and you’ll be just fine, and your work will be better for it.
7. Intentionally carve out time
Between day job, family, other obligations, I know that time is scarce. Resources, especially time, are few. Stress is everywhere. It’s easy to throw in long hours of work for your day job, it’s easy to practice self-neglect, easy to overeat from stress, it’s easy to start drinking too much, and it’s easy to put your writing on the backburner. Carve out time and stick to it. It is the only way you are going to write the project currently on your computer.
8. You be in control
It’s easy to let life lead us and dictate our every move, emotion, and thought. Instead, take control. Eat well, get enough sleep, give yourself fifteen minutes a day to take a walk around the neighborhood and think about your writing, make time for your family, friends, and fun hobbies, and give that thirty minutes to your writing. Make it something you look forward to. Put it on your calendar. Close the door. And don’t give up.
9. Don’t give up on your dreams.
Number nine is within your power. You take the control. You make the choice. Now write.
Clay Stafford is a proud to be a club member.