Writing under extreme stress

Sometimes life gives you plenty of lemonades. Like a truckful of them and then some.

Can you write during difficult times? Or should you even write?

I’ve just found out that I cannot write. I can write this blog, obviously, once a week or once a forthnight or so. Writing anything else for my pleasure at the moment is impossible. My mind freezes. It’s very difficult to write about a world which you have imagined and which does have beauty in it when your life is going downhill. Survival mode kicks in. My mind focuses on the things I’ve got to do.

I do know that I should do pleasurable things, like read, write and exercise, despite of the situation. I can read, but only in small bits. I can walk, for some time. But write I cannot. Maybe I will have to let creative writing go for a while – just for so long that the situation clears up. I know that I can imagine and that I do have the ability to write. It should be enough for now.

Writing is a luxury

I used to think that writing was just another task to do.  I loved writing, but it nevertheless felt like a huge chore during my studies. My master’s degree in history consisted mostly of reading and writing essays, so there was very little energy to spare for my own writing. I was completely spent for many years after my studies. Writing a 100 page long thesis might have had something to do with it.

I have now worked for many years. I’ve learned a bit more about life, the obstacles it throws at you and also the happy times you get. I now feel that writing is a luxury. How many of us have the possibility to give ourselves the time to listen to our inner dreams and then write the things we imagine on paper?

Almost everyone in the western world either owns a computer or has access to them for example at a library. Everybody owns a pen and some paper. So why not write, if you have the means to do it?

Writing is my time, it’s just for myself and for my dreams. The best part is that nobody can take my writing and my imagination from me. It’s mine. I can do what I want on paper, as long as I don’t hurt anybody.

Freeing the inner child is so liberating. Having a bad day at work? Just write what you want. Car won’t start? Just write for your pleasure.

Of course it’s not always so easy. When you have a really bad time in your life you really need to focus on making your life better. During an easier time, try writing.

It has taken me time to get rid of the inner perfectionist. It used to sit on my shoulder and say: “Why write, if you don’t write perfectly right away?” Because writing my novel – even if it’s a mess in the beginning – makes me feel powerful.

I now have seven badly written pages of a novel in the computer. All I have to remember, is: one time my thesis consisted of only 1 page of very bad text.






5 ways to achieve flow when writing

How hard writing really is? I mean, it’s just putting words together after one another, right?

Well… no. For me writing is sometimes like pulling your teeth out without an anesthetic. On other days I effortlessly enter a flow state and hours just pass by. When you mostly do writing in your day job, living on the edge every day becomes rather tiring. So, how can you achieve a good writing flow?

  • Listen to your favourite music.  Choose the kind of music which keeps you going and doesn’t interfere too much with your writing. I cannot for example listen to music in German when I’m writing. It totally messes with my Finnish and English writing abilities.
  • Get up, walk and make some tea. Tea and honey have saved me many times. Moving gets your brain to work and relieves your anxiety.
  • Plan at least some of your blog posts, Tweets or Facebook posts in advance. You can even write your Tweets in advance and schedule their publication for later. Instant stress relief.
  • Keep a list of your ideas. You can use your phone, keep a notepad and pencil with you or dictate your ideas. Losing an idea will definitely bug you, especially if you have a deadline to meet! In a bad writing day you can just use one of your ideas and start writing from there.
  • Take content-appropriate photos in advance and create your own photo library. This can save at least 30-60 minutes of your time every day!