Keeping Creative in Stressful Times

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about as much media overload as any one person can stand. In my corner of the world, my state has shut down non-essential businesses and issued a stay at home order for my county and several others. If we do go out in public, social distancing is strongly encouraged. And the stores…well, you’ve heard how people have been hoarding. But hubs and I did manage to find the groceries on our list, so hopefully we won’t have to venture forth again any time soon.

Well, other than for work. Because we’re also both essential personnel. I am a biologist, and my lab is still open, so I am in every day there is lab work and analyzing data and writing reports when I’m at home. And then of course there’s just life itself, and we all know how that can be.

It’s a lot for someone to handle. And I know many of you are feeling the same kinds of stress, or even just the stress of being at home, not having enough to do, or worrying about paychecks. And on top of this, I’m sure you may have seen the posts encouraging us writers to write a “quarantine novel.” I’d love to…if I wasn’t still working full-time. (Thanks to all you essential workers out there…you’re keeping us going!)

But how do we keep on top of our creative endeavors when we’re feeling so much stress and pressure, when things are so crazy out of control?

I have three quick tips, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

Set reasonable goals.

I say this one for a lot of situations, but one of the biggest things you can do to boost your creativity when you’re stressed is to set goals that are attainable. Write a sentence a day? Sure! Browse the interwebs for new ideas? That works!

Perhaps make a list of potential goals that can help you baby-step forward on your larger goals. Then, you can check less stressful things off in a way that’s still making progress.

Whatever you’re working on, just set goals you can hit that won’t overwhelm you during this time. And you may even find that once you start working on these smaller things, you’ll have the fuel to keep going longer than you expected!

Find and consume inspiring things.

I don’t know about you, but for me, consuming certain things can really boost my inspiration and make me excited to do creative work.

This may be reading articles or listening to podcasts related to writing. Or sometimes it’s looking at pretty pictures to inspire settings or paintings. Maybe what you really need is to take a few days to just read new books.

Whatever it is, find the thing that excites you to get back to work!

Cut yourself some slack.

Yup, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Don’t be afraid to change your goals or even to step back for a bit to reset. It’s okay to take a break if you need to…without criticizing yourself for whatever you’re not getting done. It will still be there when you’re ready to go back to it.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a hard time for everyone, but there is so much community online. Reach out to your friends and peers, your fellow creative individuals. Let’s build each other up during these stressful days and try not to be hard on ourselves (or others), no matter how much or how little creative work we’re doing.

And don’t forget that we’re all in this together.

Stay safe, my friends! ❤

The Therapeutic Power of Writing

Did you know writing can be a powerful tool…for anyone?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, life is super crazy right now. There’s a pandemic outside our doors, the media is telling us the world is ending, and we still have to deal with life along with social isolation (though as an introvert, I really don’t mind that last part so much).

But it does get to be a lot to cope with, especially with all the hype about the risks and the constant updates. And the memes. And the people hoarding supplies (please don’t do that).

So how can we deal with these uncertain and anxious times? There are a lot of good coping options out there (and I encourage you to find what works for you, either through internet searches, therapy, or trial and error), but today I want to talk about the therapeutic power of writing.

Hint: writing isn’t just for “writers.”

So how can writing help us cope with difficult situations?

Writing is a way that we can truly examine our thoughts and feelings, to put them clearly down on paper in a way that we can understand things that weren’t clear to us before. It can help us think through difficult times and work out problems we struggle with, to better understand ourselves. We can think in complete thoughts and sentences by writing it out, and we can avoid censoring ourselves when we write just for us and give ourselves permission to examine our deeper thoughts and feelings.

Writing can also be a type of catharsis, especially in fiction or memoir writing. A chance to say something that happened. To find the resolution we wish we’d had. To finally say the thing we thought of days later. This is one reason I love first drafts. With a first draft, I can say whatever I want to the person who yelled at me at the grocery store! (that didn’t happen…at least not to me) And then, after I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can erase it from my next draft.

But what kinds of ways can we write? How do we apply these ideas?

  • As I mentioned above, you can write an experience out as fiction. This can distance yourself a bit while still leaving some of yourself in the story. Plus, it can always be erased in a later draft.
  • You can journal it out. I used to do this all the time, and just the process of putting my thoughts down let me get them out of my head so I stopped cycling through them over and over. This is also a way you can think to yourself without censoring yourself. Just letting you be honest with you.
  • You can write a letter. You don’t have to send it, but writing a letter to someone and saying what you’re thinking and feeling can help you articulate yourself better and figure out what needs to be said to them versus what you just needed to express and understand for yourself. I do this, too, so I can process how I’m feeling about something that happened with another person…and why. And how to fix it.
  • You can put it down into poetry. I’m still learning this one, but when I was younger, I found that I dealt best with really strong pain or other emotion by putting it into poetry. Now, mind you, they weren’t good poems. But they were only for me.

So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed in these strange times, maybe try picking up a pen. At the very least, you’ve tried something new. And at best, you’ve found something you enjoy that helps you process difficult things.

Either way, I hope you find the thing that works for you.

Keep writing friends. Or whatever it is you do. Stay safe, and stay healthy. ❤