Monday 13 February 2017

Spoonie Writer: Avoiding Stress While Writing


When you're chronically ill, one thing your doctor (and lots of other people too) will tell you is to avoid stress. If you're like me then you know that avoiding stress isn't all that easy. I mean sure you can work to your limits and you can work out what makes you more stressed and avoid that, but it's kinda impossible to avoid all kinds of stress. Like right now, I have a bunch of stuff going on with my health, but I also have to get a certain level of work done as well. It would be impossible for me to just not let myself get stressed because my stressors are constant and out of my control. If you're a spoonie, you'll also know that stress exacerbates your condition and that makes you more stressed as you're unable to do what is needed of you.

So how do I avoid extra stress? To be blunt, I don't. I just make sure that when stress is a big part of my every day life, my work load reflects that. In that regard I am very lucky. I don't have a day job as it were and that means if I need to take some time, I can easily without it having a long term effect on my employability. I've spoken recently about juggling the life of an indie author as well as keeping up with the admin aspects of my job, but when you're living spoon-to-spoon it's hard sometimes to keep up which only adds to the stress load.

One of the ways I try to make sure that I don't set myself up for more stress, is I plan. I plan almost to the point where it seems a little too micro-managed, but in doing that I'm able to work around days when I'm just not well enough to be banging out a chapter and focus instead on other little jobs that need doing. Or resting if that's what I need. I talk about having yellow days (those are my days off) but I don't always use them. It's part of being in touch with how much I can do depending on the level of my health right then. That didn't come easy to me, it's taken me the majority of my life to work out how to balance between doing enough and doing too much. And there are still days when the pacing fails and I push too hard and on those days, I end up paying for it.

But back to the subject at hand. Avoiding stress while writing can be as simple as plotting out your day, your week, hell, even your month. It's what works for me and of course that doesn't mean that it will always work for everyone, but for me it's enough to keep me focused, on target and helps me avoid that pit of despair where I feel like I didn't get anything actually done! That's another stress I've come across. The fear that because I took a day off due to ill health or a flare, or even just because mentally I needed it, that I'm going to fail and never get back into the rhythm. You'd think that after over fifteen years of doing this I would realise that I always get back into the rhythm, but I never said I wasn't complicated!

My advice to anyone who's in the same boat is simply to try and work out what stress you can't avoid, accept that it'll be there and work through it as best you can. The next step is to work out if there are stressors that you *can* avoid. What are they? And how do you go about avoiding them? Whether that means timetabling your work days or it means have a to-do list where you cross everything off once it's done. Or something completely different. The idea is that you find what works for you and you work with it to make your writing life as easy as possible.

Writing brings it's own stress. There's the worry of deadlines, writer's block, promotion and all the rest of it rolled up into one big ball of stressors, but it doesn't need to be something that stops you from being able to continue in that world. Writing was, is, and always will be my escape and my passion. I just had to get organised to get to the point that I could happily continue doing it without paying for it later and starting that chain of events that sends me to bed stuck in flare hell. What works for me may not work for you, but don't be afraid to try new things and to see what does work. After all, the point is that you write, and the less time you spend in bed or in pain unable to do that, the better.

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