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    Stress and the Writer

    Stress is a killer. Unless you've been dead for the last 3 years, you already know that. Stress will stand on your chest and scream at you like Khrushchev. Don't listen.

    We'll just skip over the horror stories you've heard about regular people being stressed and just get right to what drives writers nuts and what you can do about it.

    For writers, stress represents more than your everyday tailgater, or the bigmouth drunk on the P.A. system at the company Christmas party announcing your sexual preferences. No, for the writer, stress means deadlines. It means an editor ruthlessly changing your very best phrases so your published work is no longer recognizable as yours. The audacity. Stress is writer's block. Your piece is due on Monday, it's Friday and you haven't got a subject yet.

    For a writer, stress is deciding to wait until spring to clean the garage and not feeling guilty about it.

    Then, there are the inevitable rejection notices. Published authors still get these nasty notices, not just beginning writers. Pro or newbie, as soon as the envelope is in your hand, you know what it is just by virtue of being a writer. The envelope feels hot. Paranoia sets in. You hear the editor yelling carnal verbs at you. What an idiot you are for sending in your work without at least 3 more commas. Oh, no! Why didn't I wait and edit it yet one more time!

    Okay, we agree stress sucks. Under any circumstances, stress is not nice but if you're stressed and a writer, that would mean you're not writing.


    How to de-stress

    Watch football to de-stress

    . Of course, if football makes you vomit, you might try taking a walk instead. Remember what it smelled like outside? It's indescribable what you can discover when you're exposed to nature. Describe it already! Smell that wood burning in someone's fireplace? Describe what you smell. Is it raining? Rain hitting cement sounds like steaks sizzling on a grill. Describe it another way. Do try to ignore the dog poop your uncouth neighbor didn't remove after he walked his pet it won't help your writing much, adds a little more nature than you'd like and may interfere with the joy of the nature discovery.

    Take a voice recorder and a camera on your walk, if you have them. If you don't have either, take a small pad and paper. Take copious notes we humans only use 3% of our brain, which means we have really bad memories. When you get home after your walk, you won't remember the details of that stately garden you passed.

    Self-preservation Note: No taking pictures of anybody nude-sunbathing in their back yard. This exercise is for inspiration not recreation. Besides, according to my local constabulary, you could be fined and sued. And clubbed, if your neighbor isn't the understanding type.

    Another relaxing exercise is free-flow writing. If you sit down staring at a blank page waiting for the words to pour forth, you're wasting your time. The rationale of free-flow writing is that if you start typing whatever comes to mind for at least 10 minutes, you'll be surprised at all the literary goodies that appear on the page. Don't think, just write. Try not to think about that elusive Pulitzer on the horizon. Polish later, when the punctuation is so bad you hyperventilate.

    You obsessive/compulsives will want to maybe descend a trampoline head first before trying this free-flow writing thing. I know about this annoying trait I'm an obsessive/compulsive. This is not a method of relaxation for us unless we engage professional therapy or we collar a friend who'll listen to our whining and reassure us we're not nuts. Free-flow writing is anathema for us because we want to correct every error as it happens; change every comma to a semi-colon immediately. Incidentally, if you did correct everything while you type, this would pretty much negate the idea of free-flow writing and guarantee your personal rubber room. You can't free-flow without practice so don't give up if you pounded your keyboard into pulp. Get a new keyboard and try it again...

    And relax!

    Copyright © 2001 Lyne Royce

    Lyne Royce is a freelance writer living in the desert east of Phoenix. She lives with her devoted husband and six spoiled and previously stray cats. She's fervent about Native American history and enjoys reading books on the subject when she has the time. After 15 years teaching software classes, and two years doing Web site design, Lyne decided to listen seriously to her muse and has participated in writing workshops and clinics on the Web, including the Writer's Digest Workshops' Fundamentals of Non-Fiction Writing, Focus on the Non-Fiction Magazine Article; WriteRead.com's Query Letter Clinic; Writers.com's workshop Writing and publishing Magazine Articles; the humor clinic, Writing from the Left Side of the Brain with Jane Combs; and Secrets of the Professional Freelancer at Coffeehouse.com. She belongs to several writers discussion groups but her favorite, Writers Pad, is where she enjoys learning from her writer friends on a daily basis that it is possible for a writer to become a published writer.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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