Monday, October 07, 2013

Blues Buster Ten

Someone (you know who you are) asked if I would expand on my Anti-Slump ten list last month with more specifics on how to cope with depression. So here are

Ten More Things to Help Bust the Blues

Accept What You Can't Change: You probably won't make $95 million dollars from your writing, because you have to compete with 95 million other writers who want that. Or maybe you got 95 million rejection letters last year. Whatever is happening in the biz is going to happen and unless you're the CEO of a huge publishing house you can't do anything to change it (here's a secret: neither can most of those CEOs.) Getting upset, brooding and/or feeling despair over things you cannot possible change prevent you from changing what you can, and moving forward, and enjoying your writing life. So: let it go. Accept that there will always be things about Publishing that you can't change, and that will stop them from depressing you and getting between you and the page.

Attitude Shift: With all the challenges involved with the work it's easy to fall into the trap of a negative attitude toward it. Being creative on demand is tough enough without piling dread or despair or doubts on top of it, and when you do that, you're really fighting yourself. The next time you go into your writing space, leave the bad attitude outside. Don't think about writing and all the negative things you've been associating with it. Think about nothing but the work. Aka just sit your butt in the chair and write.

Do What You Can (Instead of Hating Yourself for What You Can't): I got a shot last week and had a minor reaction to it, which temporarily disabled my left arm and resulted in constant, nagging discomfort for four days. Every time I moved my arm, pain would shoot up into my shoulder and neck, so I couldn't get any of my housework or sewing done. Which frustrated me to no end, until I considered how lucky I am. It's true that I have to get shots every couple of months, but I have friends with diabetes who have to face the needle every single day. I needed the shot, and I knew from experience that the pain would eventually disappear, and I'd get back my arm. In the meantime, I could do other things that didn't require both arms. Which I did, and subsequently knocked out one major project for October before the month even started ( and I couldn't have done that if I was wallowing in misery.)

Help Someone Else: I bet you know a person who is having a tough time right now, too, and I also bet you could do something to help. Combat your blues by doing something for them -- write them an e-mail, ask how they're doing, and/or offer your shoulder for them to lean on. This will help you stop worrying about yourself by focusing on a friend's troubles. If you and your friend are writers and a good match for critiquing, offer to swap your latest chapters. If you're both readers, ask if they want to swap the latest good book you've each read. If you live close enough, meet up for coffee or lunch.

Learn Something New: There are tons of free tutorials and classes about innumerable subjects online, and I'm sure at least one of them covers a topic of interest to you. Do a search for a free class on something you want to learn and take it.

Makeover Your Writing Space: Cherstin mentioned in comments last week that she was rearranging her writing space, and I think as a one-day project that could be a great mood booster. Take a day off from writing to give your space a makeover, clean up any clutter, alter how your work area is arranged, and otherwise change things up.

Set More Reasonable Goals: It's tempting to try to write enormous amounts of new pages every time you go to the keyboard, but that's often a guaranteed recipe for burnout, too. If you're finding your writing time is becoming more of a burden every day, and/or you're not getting what you want on the page, reset your goals to more reasonable levels. Instead of trying to write 3000 words in one session, go for 1500; if you're spending four hours at the keyboard, cut it back to two. What you lose in quantity you'll probably gain back in quality.

Talk Shop: Every writer has particular areas of expertise with the craft as well as things about it that they love. Sharing insight into some element of the craft can shift your focus from what's depressing you to what you do very well or what you'd like to improve. Write up a post about it, invite your visitors to discuss the topic and contribute what you can to help them.

Vent Constructively: Unplug from the internet, which is probably the source of 75% of your frustration, and channel your negative feelings in another direction. I use the work and my journals on days when I'm really aggravated. Most often I write a really vicious action scene and pour all my ire onto the page. If I'm too upset for that, I'll shove everything aside, grab my anger journal and indulge in a long, private tirade over whatever is bothering me (and whenever I finish an anger journal I burn it, and that always feels wonderful, too.)

Wander Off Creatively: On my worst day last month some books arrived with a pile of brand-new cardboard used as packing. I hate waste like this, so at first it didn't improve my mood at all. Then I thought of that quotation Be the change you want to see in the world and wondered if I could make something out of it. I've never worked much with corrugated cardboard except as picture backing, so that was an immediate challenge, as was coming up with designs of things things I would actually use. That day I started my Recycle X 5 project. I know how silly it may sound to everyone else, but you can't believe how much fun I've had cooking up new ideas to recycle this cardboard. The project has also provided something positive for me to look forward to every week (and project #4, which I'll show you tomorrow, was especially fun.) Now I'm almost sorry I didn't get ten pieces of cardboard in that box. Creatively wandering off like this with a short-term, spontaneous project can recharge the batteries and give you a breather from whatever's plaguing you.

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful advice. Thank you. I especially like "Do What You Can" because I sometimes (often) get caught up in trying to do things I can't.

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    1. That's a big one for me, too, Darlene. I often fall into the trap of hating myself for not being able to do what almost everyone else can.

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  2. I completely agree with all your points especially with "learning something new" and "help someone else" as these points are really important for a writer, as to enhance the capability of his/her writing one should keep reading something new and must try to go beyond their boundaries or limits in their writing.

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    1. I hope I never stop learning, John. I think it not only enriches you as a writer, it keeps you from assuming you know it all and have nothing new to discover about your art.

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