Stress Management Tips for Writers

Life is stressful. Writing is stressful. How does this work?

Stress, as a writer, is bad. It always leads to poor quality work, lack of motivation and total burnout. Yet we all experience it. I’m not going to call that normal. Honestly, we all experience stress not because the life of a writer is hard – but instead because we’re not always sure how to handle feeling overwhelmed.

Here are a few simple stress management tips to help you get through today, the rest of the week, month, year, and so on.

Test your limits, and don’t cross them.

There are a lot of factors that can cause stress in the life of a writer. Probably 80 percent of the time, you’re stressed because you’re either doing too much or you aren’t using your time wisely. (If it’s the latter, I’ve got you covered.)

Before you can manage your stress, you need to figure out where it’s coming from. Pushing yourself is a good thing – until you’ve pushed yourself a little too far, too many days in a row. So for a week, keep track of how many different projects you are working on, how much time you’re spending on writing outside of work, your energy levels, your mood – when you start to feel stressed, try to pinpoint why.

Maybe you’re spending a lot of time working on something you really don’t want to be writing. That’s stressful. Maybe you really are doing too much, and you should evaluate how you can step back a little. In one way or another, you’re an overachiever – you have to be, if you’re going to make writing happen in an already stressful routine. Learn how much you can handle, and try not to go beyond that, at least not daily.

Separate your writing time into work days and rest days.

In the health and wellness space, we summarize weekly workouts by separating them into days: cardio days; strength days; rest days. It feels less overwhelming, especially if you are someone who has a hard time focusing on more than one priority at a time.

The same can be done when creating a writing schedule for yourself – something you should do if writing, on top of everything else, causes you major stress. Let’s make it easy and say you’re working on projects for five different clients. If it makes it easier, you can separate this work out by days, dedicating Mondays specifically for working with one client, Tuesdays for another, and so on.

You can also reduce stress by not writing every day,  if you find this draining. (It is not a rule that you have to write every day – if you can, do it, but if you can’t, take a break.) Declare Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays “writing days” and take Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays off. Each day you don’t write, you’ll be able to relax, let your brain recharge and prepare for a productive day of writing starting tomorrow morning.

Figure out how you work.

Some people have no trouble jumping from working on one writing project for half an hour straight into another for 60 minutes. Others cannot work on more than one thing at a time. Some can start writing at 8 a.m. and stop at their lunch break without a problem; others need a break every hour on the hour.

Everyone works differently, and holds their own keys to writing productivity. You will experience more stress when you don’t work in the way that’s best for you. This is why there’s not really much of a point to following another person’s writing routine: if it doesn’t match up with your work preferences, stress, and fewer productive working hours, is the result.

If you need to stay up until 2 a.m. to get your writing done and sleep until nine, and that’s what works for you, don’t fight against it just because it’s not “normal.” When you work inside your own parameters, you feel more relaxed and at peace. THAT is when you’ll produce your best writing.

Stress in general is just a part of life – letting it get you down or stop you from getting your work done isn’t. Focusing on doing what’s best for you and setting a schedule that works under your most favorable conditions possible.

Is writing without feeling a little bit of stress a possibility? Maybe. Maybe not. Positive stress is a good thing. Just don’t let it stop you from creating things you like. There are a lot of things we’re all responsible for besides writing. If you want to “be a writer,” you’ll find a way to fit it comfortably into your life. There is always a way.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How Stress Affects Your Creativity

Stress and creativity do not get along.

Are you stressed right now? Don’t lie to me. If you aren’t currently on the edge of panic, you’ve been there before. Stress is a mood-ruining, soul-crushing, energy-zapping mind monster. Everyone hates it and does what they can to try getting rid of it.

How much thought have you put into how closely your stress and creativity are related? How does one affect the other? It depends on the type of stress – whether it’s negative or positive. Let’s look at the differences.

Negative stress leaves you unfocused, unproductive

When you’re negatively stressed, you don’t feel good. It’s hard to think. You might feel “foggy” or find it difficult to sit down and focus on one task even for a few minutes at a time. Stressed out writers are extremely unproductive, because they keep trying to come up with new ideas or make headway on projects when there’s no hope of getting any quality work done. Negative stress is a hostile environment for ideas. They avoid emerging from their hiding places until things calm down in your brain. Meaning, if you’re way too stressed out, you need to do some yoga or something. Seriously. Chill.

It also makes you physically tired

Physical fatigue pretty much means that even if you do manage to gather up some inspiration or motivation to actually get something done, you’re not very likely to actually do anything about it. Physically, your body starts whining that it wants a nap or pizza or to watch an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy for no reason. Physical and mental fatigue are linked, and stress rarely ambushes one without simultaneously damaging the other. So, again, you need your own personal way to cope here – exercise, or caffeine, or maybe a good night’s sleep.

Positive stress can be a good thing – in small amounts

Positive stress is that little buzz of adrenaline you feel when something’s due in a few hours and you have about 20 minutes left before you’re finished. It’s that rush of energy you feel as you’re writing out today’s to-do list. It’s a busy day ahead, but you’re not panicking – you’re ready. This is why, for some people, goals, schedules and deadlines are the driving forces behind productivity and achievement. A little stress is just what you need to get task X crossed off your list. Too much stress, though, can have the opposite effect – which is why managing it, as you’ve heard a thousand times, is extremely important.

How to manage your stress as a writer
  • Don’t take on more than you can handle. There’s a difference between hard work and intentionally burning yourself out.
  • Make time for writing, and for not writing. If you’ve met your writing goals for the day and don’t want to push yourself any further, don’t.
  • A little stress is a good thing, so make sure you’re always working toward some kind of goal, even if it’s small.
  • Be nice to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve fallen behind. Take a few deep breaths, sit down and do what needs to be done, as best you can.

Obviously I’d go into much more detail if this were anything other than a writing blog, but you get the idea. Stress and creativity are estranged relatives. There’s only so much they can tolerate each other before one of them has to leave. A little stress, you can handle that. Too much, and good luck meeting those writing goals this year … you’re going to need it.

Writing is stressful. Life is stressful enough without adding writing to the equation. BREATHE. I’m on your side here. If you’re in a creative slump, maybe this is why. Go talk to somebody. Delegate some tasks. Take a vacation. Or just close your eyes and breathe.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.