Eight Tips For Writing With Emotional Stress

To the surprise of practically no one, I didn’t get any writing done yesterday. This morning I’ve been doom scrolling and am still quite upset. I hope that you are doing what you need to do to soothe yourself.

One thing I learned in the midst of the 52 week challenge was how to write under emotional stress. So I am going to list those lessons here in the hope that it helps me and perhaps others as well.

  1. Hot tea and comforting food. One of the problems with strong emotions like rage or grief is that they stimulate a physical response: faster heart rate, roiling stomach, ringing ears, red haze over the eyes, and so forth. Food, tea, and exercise can redirect the physical manifestations of emotional response.
  2. Exercise, for the reason above. Outdoor exercise seems especially good for me.
  3. Avoid letter-writing to real people. It is very tempting to me to write angry letters when I am upset. This is harmful in two ways: First, sending these letters is a bad idea and in the heat of the moment I am likely to send them. Second, it just keeps the negative emotions spiraling inside me.
  4. Force myself to sit down and write. A strategy that has worked for me in the past has been to take my temptation to write real letters to real people and filter that into fiction. So writing letters from the viewpoints of my characters about their challenges and lives often works to move me into the story and out of my own grief.
  5. Meditation. This sometimes works, but typically works best if I have an ordinary practice of meditation already in place.
  6. Short writing sessions. Write for ten minutes and then allow myself to take a break to feel grief or rage or to be sick, whatever is necessary. Then get back to it.
  7. Find help with calm friends and avoid those who make me feel worse.
  8. Low expectations. Today is not the day for immortal prose. It’s not the day for high word counts. It’s a survival day. We will come through this. In the end all I expect from today’s writing is that it happens. Because each time I write against the forces of entropy and chaos, each time I pull something together, that is a day that builds the habit of productivity in my psyche. I am not writing for today’s prose. I am writing because to become a writer I need to solidify this habit.

Those are my best tips for myself. I hope they resonate with you as well. If not, I hope you will find a way through this for yourself. Remember always that it is important to be kind to yourself. If you can’t do your ordinary tasks today, that’s ok.

I hope all of you are staying safe and finding comfort. Be well, friends!

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