How Not to Die (when writing, of course)

Often, I get stressed, and, like Kathy in the cartoon, it shows in the craziness of my hair.  It can also show itself in miles of to-do lists and Post-its on the wall as well as erratic writing.  That’s where the professionalism behind writing gets tough.  I get bogged down with where it might go and for what audience I’m writing, so much so that I forget my first purposes in writing: to be clear (so that my brilliant ideas can be understood) and to be empathetic, showing and feeling empathy, or an understanding of what others might feel.

Right now, I have a headache, the approach of a migraine in the nerves behind my eye.  Caffeine might help, but I don’t have time to get coffee.  I have to get stuff done so that I can write.   

I also have lots of places to go, errands to run, lunches with friends to coordinate, boxing and yoga classes, swim sessions, and so forth.  I’m overbooked, and I have myself to blame.  To me, though, that’s okay, as I have a variety of things to do.  I’m not always overwhelmed, but today I just happen to be.

Am I complaining?  Yes.  But I’m also trying to set up grounds for empathy for when I write.  I’m certain I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

Check out this “Opinionator” post from The New York Times (June 30, 2012) by Jim Kreider.  It’s called “The Busy Trap”:

In case you don’t feel like skimming the article, it basically states that those who are too busy bring it upon themselves and impose busyness on their children, just as it was imposed upon them.  Busyness takes over their lives, especially their social lives.  There is pride in the complaint, “I’m too busy,” but where does that pride come from?  

That’s all fine and well, but then we get to this part: how does the writer spend his days?  He disconnects physically and mentally, running away to the wilderness where email doesn’t exist, and he writes.  It’s an enviable life.

However, it’s not practical for most of us.  We have to earn a living, and we have aspirations to reach.  In order to do so, we must get things done.  And if that means being busy, so be it.

I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, though, as I do enjoy slowing time down in the botanical gardens and watching a good Real Housewives marathon now and then (and probably a little more now than then).  I certainly know how to shut off life and relax, but that was a tool I learned in grad school, when I had to compartmentalize my brain between work, learning, fun, and exercise.  There had to be time for all of this in order for me to feel balanced, but the pay dirt is busyness.  To me, it’s all a circle that’s not necessarily vicious.

The thing is–what do you do when you’re out and about and an idea strikes?  Do you grab a tiny notebook from your pocket or purse and scribble it down?  Do you, in a more tech-savvy way, jot it into your phone?  Or do you mark it in your mind to return to later?  

I tend to do the latter.

How often do we return to these ideas, and how often do they sit there, growing lives of their own, without you, in your head?

I often imagine, when I’m stressed, what the life of something I write might be after I’ve written the piece.  Will this novel’s cover show up on Amazon?  Will my screenplay be optioned?

The trouble with this kind of thinking is that, while it is motivating, it can also get in the way of accomplishing the writing needed to reach these ends.  

My advice?  Well, I’ll steal it from a proverb: “live in the now.”  That, and write, write, write.


About Em-dash Lady

Em-dash Lady enjoys creative writing most of all, but her interests include art forms from music to writing to visual art to indie films and so forth. She's especially interested in how the art forms influence each other and blend together. She's a creative writing teacher and writer who mostly writes memoir and poetry about her favorite activity, watching TV. I would say I'm kidding, but I'm not. Naps are also her favorite. Too many favorites to count! Enjoy following Em-dash Lady as she figures out how she fits in the ever-evolving world of art.
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