Writing can be incredibly rewarding. Especially when we have just finished, really finished a work, and congratulating ourselves for the feat.
Alas, writing can also be a grueling experience. I mean, there are days, at times even weeks, we seem utterly unable to find even the most basic word to convey the ideas floating about in our mind.
From this perspective it’s no wonder Kurt Vonnegut said when he wrote he felt like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.
It’s also no wonder that quotes like, There’s nothing to writing. You just open a vein and bleed abound. They are so full of drama and pathos we can hardly resist their charm.
Luckily, writers are an ingenious lot. I mean, otherwise how on earth could they come up with the gazillion ideas they then ferry onto a page? As a result, they can come up with many different ways to keep stress at bay. Really they don’t need to buy any stress relief products.
Here is the list of my stress relief products–so to speak. Or rather, what I usually do to prevent stress from sneaking up on me.
Deus ex Coffee
I wrote about coffee before. After all, this is one of those basic go-to solutions we all rely on without even having to think about them.
You’re tired? Have a cup of coffee.
You’re angry because your neighbors partied all night long and didn’t invite you? Have a cup of coffee.
You need to focus on a particularly difficult passage? Help yourself. By now you should know where we keep coffee.
You need to revise your post to insert the standard inversion that questions usually require? Go have some more coffee.
It’s simple and easy. It’s a quick fix. Just keep in mind that if you drink a lot of it you might have to delve with insomnia, palpitations and some other minor nuisances.
Coffee can help you muster your energies and focus them better. But if the tank is empty, metaphorically speaking, coffee can make nothing for you. I mean, apart from providing you with a pleasant multi-sensorial experience.
When I realize this is the case, I often resort to doodling. I grab a pencil and a sheet of paper, or fire up my tablet, and begin drawing haphazardly away. I let my hands do their thing well before I have the slightest idea of what it is I’m about to draw.
As a result on some occasions I start out with a meaningless doodle and from there I try to work out a fully-fledged drawing—well, almost a fully-fledged drawing.
Drawing can be incredibly relaxing for me. The only caveat is that, no matter what I’m drawing, it can’t take up more than one session.
Otherwise it stops being just a pastime and becomes one more project I’m working on.
This is why I have plenty of drawings that need, so to speak, to be finished. But having to choose between finishing them or a new story, my choice’s easy. However, I must admit one day I’d like to enroll for a course on painting and drawing. Just to get to understand a bit better the basics.
In the beginning it was…a chat
On some occasions I feel overwhelmed and stressed out not because I’ve exhausted my creative juices but because I’ve been living for way too long alone inside my head.
Sure there are whole universes in there—like in anyone else’s head. There are hundreds of copies of me as a small child, as an adolescent, even as an old man. There are copies of me that never were—incredibly self-confident, with extensive knowledge about pretty much anything. You know what I mean.
In my head even natural principles can be broken, overlooked. Replaced if necessary. But sooner or later this powerhouse of imagination, logic, memories, and emotions runs dry nonetheless.
When it does, it leaves me craving for something as simple as essential: the opportunity to have a chat, a real chat, with my friends. Those human beings that actually live and breathe the same air I breathe. Share with me the same speck of space and time.
In fact, no matter how great our literary works can be, we’d better live as fully as possible.
Also because in case the book we’ve been writing isn’t exactly stellar, we can find at least some solace in the knowing that we have lived intensely and sucked out all the marrow of life, to use Henry David Thoreau’s words.
This one is another classic. I know it is. But if it’s a classic it’s so for one reason: it works.
Indeed, there’s nothing like sitting in a quiet corner of your home and reading a book by one of your preferred authors.
Well, maybe there is something…sex when you no longer are an adolescent but still have a lot of steam going. Or a hike up a mountain to a place that seems taken from Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings. Also training on one of those rare days when you run effortlessly, the weather is fine, and you feel like you could go on forever…
Ok. Ok. Exceptions do apply. But reading is right up with them all. No doubt about that. So, keep a book handy. Always. And gorge on it.
Cats and dogs
Pets are another great way to recharge your batteries when you feel low. I love both dogs and cats. And while they do differ drastically in the way they relate to their owners, once you know what to expect from them you can equally enjoy them both.
For example, for me cats are the only way I can sit on an armchair and watch TV at length. In fact, years ago I had a cat who would jump on my lap whenever I sat down to watch some TV.
She would begin to purr and ‘knead’ my sweater with her front paws. Then, after a while, she would climb up toward my neck and lick me behind my ears. At first very softly, but after a while she would get bolder and bolder. Until I had to stop her from literally munching my lobes!
As for dogs, my sister has a Jack Russel. And on some occasions I have to look after him for a few days. Uncharacteristically, he is a most quiet dog. He almost never barks—that is, unless he doesn’t spot pigeons on the balcony, or hear some nearby dog yapping very loudly.
He is so quiet also because he sleeps almost as much as a cat. Besides, when you approach him with a smile and reaching out with your hand, he immediately lets himself fall belly-up on the floor, waiting for a caress. Or rather for a full session of massages.
For those who have never had a pet, it can seem strange. But pets by their mere presence can really recharge your creative batteries.
Pets also help you keep things in perspective. For example, the way they can be perfectly content just because you caressed them or gave them a tasty bite should teach us that thinking and planning all the time isn’t necessarily the shortest way to serenity. Seize the day, the old saying goes. Well, pets in their own way know how to do that.
When you go for a run or go to the gym you have to bear in mind that after your training session you have to give your muscles time to rest. To repair themselves and grow stronger than before.
Similarly we should make sure we get enough sleep. Because creative ideas are a sort of weight lifting, or of a marathon for the brain. As a result our brain needs time off to repair its creative muscles and grow them stronger.
And apparently the best way to do so is simply sleeping. For at least seven or eight hours every night. There’s nothing as prone to mistakes and unimaginative solutions as a sleep-deprived brain.
A last word
Finally it could be useful to remember that according to the most recent research stress is dangerous only for those people who fear it most–those who stress and fret about being too much stressed. So you may well acknowledge that a certain amount of stress is part and parcel of being human and alive, and just learn to appreciate it.
I’m not saying this out of masochistic exaltation, but because the alternative isn’t exactly an enthralling one…
Pictures: The sleeping fox: Pexel – for the rest blame me!