Writing in stressful times

St. Thomas

April started off okay. We took a trip to York, and spent a nice day in town when the weather was very un-English like. Then things got a little crazy.

Work has started to get really stressful for me. One Monday morning, when I was motivated to keep working on a current project, I’d had plenty of rest, and was ready to tackle my writing whenever I had a spare minute, my colleague abruptly left.

I have been left to run the library with various cover staff every day after. This has left me with chronic heartburn, something I use to have when I was stressed out in Florida several years back, so I’m not really handling this change very well. In actuality, I’m sick, and I’m not one to say I’m sick unless I really am. I’m taking Nexium again, which I haven’t taken in six years or so, and it’s still not keeping my stomach feeling 100% normal. There’s a whole slew of worry that I have now. I’m unable to relax and wind down, so I become listless and frustrated.

Having my mind and body preoccupied with trying to handle everything has left writing on a complete back burner. However, it really should be my first go-to option for stress relief. Healthline recommends that in times of stress, “Do something that you enjoy, whether it’s playing a musical instrument, making pottery, woodworking, gardening, or another hobby that helps take you away from day-to-day stressors.” Writing certainly falls under that category.

So as part of my goal to curb stress and looking forward to what I want to accomplish this year, I’m making more lists. The list includes the usual such as getting edits done, having Steve make some book covers for me, revamping my author page, and doing some promotional book tours.

Since I get distracted so easily, and it take a while to recuperate when I’ve been social (and even more so when I have to be overly social) I find it extremely difficult to get in a comfortable headspace to write. But, in the midst of the world trying to get you down, keeping the things most important to you in mind. It helps maintain a good perspective of what you really want to do each day when life gets in the way.

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Extroverts and writing every day

Good evening, Newcastle.

March has been ticking along nicely, and the idea of Spring turns up here and there. I’ve at least been able to put my snow boots away. (Well, at least moved them from the bottom on the stairs.)

Last week I was fairly busy at the library. There’s still lots to do, but I’m confident that something good will come of our efforts to revamp the place. It’s definitely along the lines of the job I wanted to have when I first started my MLS degree.

Now that I’m working, we’ve been doing some travelling. We went to Edinburgh at the beginning of the month, and next we’ll want to visit York. Steve has been to Europe before, so he wants us to go on some city breaks this year as well.

But the writing, oh the writing. It’s not been happening. The full-time work plus commute is just exhausting, so if I don’t write over lunch or before work, I’ll never get anything done. The problem is, without the consistent writing day after day, it’s hard to get back into the swing of the plot. As is, I can only type down a scene or two without really getting anywhere. On my days off, I can organize and plot things, but getting both the outline and the content to happily coincide is another issue.

Aside from the writing, I need to spend my free time at home with Steve. I feel so relaxed just watching Fail Army on Youtube, or Downton Abbey when I’m by myself. I’ll be super glad for the Easter holidays to turn up so I can have a few days to reboot my goals and feel more like myself again.

When I’m not writing every day, even a little, I do feel like the day’s been wasted.

So am I a “real” writer anymore? I don’t know. I don’t have time to really care. I know that I want to write and I do it when I can. When I’m not writing, I think about writing. I miss it, and when I get back to it, I don’t know where to begin again.

It’s tough work, especially for people who tend to be extroverted. I am an extremely chatty person, but it drains me to be on duty all day. Without the days off and quiet time without a need to leave the house, it’s ten times harder to settle my brain down to work in the middle of the daily routine. All the other important things just distract me way too easily.

Plus, all these books I wanted to get put online and get covers sorted for – that’s been on the back burner for ages. No idea when I’ll ever be able to get any of that done either.

Unfortunately or not, it reminds me of this Anne Rice quote I saw the other day:

I’ve often said there are no rules for writers. Let me share the WORST AND MOST HARMFUL ADVICE I was ever given by others. 1) Write what you know. 2)You’ll have to polish every sentence you write three or four times. 3)Genius is one tenth talent and nine tenths hard work and 4) You’re not a real writer if you don’t write every day. — ALL OF THAT WAS HARMFUL TO ME. ALL OF IT. IT HURT AND IT SET ME BACK. —– So I say again, there are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their clichés and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams. Protect your voice, your vision, your characters, your story, your imagination, your dreams.

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White Rabbits! It’s March!

IMG_3496

It’s not quite with it in terms of Spring weather, but we’re getting there. I’ve been missing my blog, and my writing, and my reading, and everything that keeps my head sane. The cold reminds me that we really haven’t gotten too far from Christmas, but March – March sounds so promising!

I’ve moved libraries as of February. Me and another MLS grad are trying to turn around a little branch in a middle class neighbourhood. There’s chipped paint, and a bit of an unkempt feel about the place, but it’s not bad by any means. I’m really happy to be there, honestly, because it’s my branch for now and having new events and new book displays pleases me to no end.

But I’m busy, as I always say. I have to get up at 6AM, get on the bus at 7 with Steve, then by 8 I’m on the Metro through the city. I’m lucky to have lunch to myself, so I can at least get something down on paper, or read a few pages of a book. I even thought about documenting my library experience, but I only get a few lines at a time before I have to put the diary away and tend to something else.

Sunday though, Sunday is for resting. So here I am, writing in my blog, deciding which book project I want to work on today. I’ve had some good premises for book ideas lately, but stopping and starting doesn’t make for a very satisfying experience. But I keep on keeping on, as we all do.

Hope everything has a good work up to Spring.

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Being a writing librarian

Library garden in a bit of snow.

I’ve been working at my new library job for three months now and in February I am supposed to be transferred to a new, smaller and quieter library. My hope is that in this new place I’ll have a more relaxing lunch break where I can jot down something each day in order to keep up a new novella idea I had.

Being a natural procrastinator, it is really hard for me to get back into writing when I’m busy all week, riding the bus to and from work, and being on duty as the customer service representative of books that I’m supposed to be every day. But, as I’ve said, this new library may be quieter and less of a worry to scramble around and end up completely exhausted by the time I get home.

Librarians do not sit and read books all day. We don’t even stock shelves all day. Of course, in our district, librarians are locked away alone in some office somewhere away from the public. What I do is customer service – we deal with the management of the library. Helping customers with books, CV writing, emails, photocopying, room bookings, reading to kids, making sure kids don’t pull plugs out of the back of computers, the list goes on and on. It’s not a stressful job (teaching high school was the most stressful job I’ve ever had so anything not stressful to me means something that doesn’t make you physically ill every day) but it is demanding so you have to have lots of sleep and with-it-ness to make it through each day.

So trying to wind down for the hour I have at lunch it’s tough. Plus, I don’t have that whole hour alone because other people come in and out of the staff room. But I started writing a messy manuscript in a notebook that I keep in my book bag for the 10-15 minutes that I have to just sit and get some words down. I’ve started something contemporary because trying to deal with sci-fi or a thriller seems a bit too detailed for a willy-nilly word sprint in the afternoon.

A lot of people have given me great ideas on how they make time for writing, but with anything in life, I have to figure out what’s going to work best for me. I stopped worrying about a word count because it was starting to feel like it did with jogging – all I could do was stare at the numbers and pray that the countdown didn’t take too long. Number and me just don’t work well together.

January has been a crazy month, so he’s hoping that the rest of the year gives me more time to write.

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What happens before breakfast?

Breakfast toastie at Costa. #mymorninghasbroken

I’ve heard it said many times that our best time to write is when we’re sleepy. Some writers feel better getting to work before dawn, and some write better late at night. When you’re working full time, what works best for keeping your writing goals in check?

I don’t have any word count goals right now because I’ve slacked so much on the actual butt-in-chair aspect. When I have time, I sit at the computer and churn out some outlines of book ideas that have come to me. I explore details of each to see what would fit or work better for each story. Of course, it won’t be until I get the writing underway that I’ll know what will actually work.

I have such a hard time getting my head out of the real world and into my own, that when I’m running around, I can’t focus on getting words down. I don’t know what could change that problem other than trying different things until I find something that works.

So, what do you do to keep your writing afloat? Do you work late at night, early morning, during lunch? Here are some ideas of what worked for other writers:

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