Deadlines, editors, readers you take to heart and claim don't know what they're saying about your work, it all weighs down on our pencil-pushing minds. Writing takes a lot of imagination but also a lot of effort in the real world.
Make no mistake, we writers love this limitless life of learning. But if we have to accept one more limit on our creativity, there might be more bloodshed than a Red Wedding. Luckily, writers have more than one way to kill their darlings, especially the one named Stress.
1. Small Assignments.
Sometimes you can't get away from behind the desk. Writing can feel demanding but it doesn't have to. Write small assignments, an idea penned by Anne Lamott, the author of the writing reference book "Bird by Bird."
Rather than write large amounts of pages in one, big sitting, she suggests creating achievable writing goals the size of an index card. Whether it's word count, page count, or character development, give yourself something to work with and to edit later.
2. Read what you write.
Do you like what you write but find yourself getting lost in genre? Reading the fiction or nonfiction you long to write and just as well can be a nice refresher and motivator. Maybe it's a complex character or a plot twist you're after and need to see how other books present them.
Or you just need a break from writing and want to read something new or familiar to help your routine. Reading is a great escape and research tool to resort to, during the best of times and the worst of times.
3. Inspired by a true story.
Films and television can bring stories to life too. Granted you can't see whole paragraphs on the screen spelling it out for you, there is subtext and emotions you can see. Just like books, the silver screen and the tube can show you what scenes are made of. Queue your favorites and enjoy the show.
4. Be Authentic.
Submission guidelines can be more vague than a T.S. Eliot poem (I'm looking at you "The Wasteland"). No matter what a publication is asking for, give them what they want. Once you've met their expectations, meet your own.
No one said you can't write what you want, you just have to know your way around the page: between the lines. Like Mark Twain said, establish the facts, then bend them as you please.
5. Multitasking is a myth.
Accept the fact that you can only do one thing at a time. No, typing and looking at your screen does not count. You still have to research to write a research paper. You have to read plenty to write well. The process hasn't changed, but the more you focus on a task, the more time you'll have and the more accomplished you'll feel and be in the end.
6. Take it and leave it.
Advice can be a good thing, but for others it might not be as helpful. Listen as much as you can to as much as you can. Then decide which advice works. The same applies for media; some people don't like to laugh but maybe they have a different sense of humor. You can't please everybody, but you can please yourself. You don't have to leave it, but you don't have to take it either.
7. Sleep on it and think later.
Ideas present themselves after a nap or a good night's sleep. Even when you're head has hit the pillow, ideas can present themselves, and that's because of two things: you weren't working and you weren't thinking.
Thinking too much can get in the way of the imagination. Being patient, even when nothing is happening, when it's just you and silence, is the best time to expect the unexpected. Relax and sleep with your third eye open.
Writers lead the way through remarkable worlds, including our own. Readers might not realize the cost of their tours and that's because it's priceless by the time they've finished the trip. But not before coffee or tea, of course.