If you want to be a successful freelance writer of any type, you will have to learn to deal with deadlines. Deadlines mean that sometimes you write no matter what else is going on. It means you have to be able to access creativity in stressful times.
Life happens, though, right? Certainly, publishers will understand that something came up, someone is sick, you are overbooked, your kid is having trouble in school, or you are experiencing a bit of anxiety or depression that is getting the way of words. If you are lucky, you have an editor that is willing to work with you, but that doesn’t mean the book, article or other item can remain in stasis.
At some point, you have to buckle down and write. For those times when stress is hampering your concentration and life keeps getting in the way, here are some tips to access your creativity.
1. Face the Problem and Move Forward
Ignoring your stress and striving to write may only cause more stress or writer’s block. You need to acknowledge the issue and determine whether or not you can deal with it. If you are stressed because the housework has piled up, then take a few hours to clean. The physical activity and resolution may open the valves for creation.
If your stress is due to a bigger situation, like trouble at work or health issues, consider this fact: You probably can’t do a single thing about it in the next half hour. You can, however, get a couple of hundreds words down. Putting your stress in perspective gives your creativity the permission to move forward.
2. Cooperate with Your Stress
If you are having a hard time working past your stress or frustration, then use it as part of the creative process. This probably works best when writing fiction. Your emotional state can help bring out the tension in a scene, and your scene may help ease the frustration. Some scenes you might try include:
- An argument between two characters.
- A scene that includes a sense of fear or danger.
- A first-person narration from a frustrated character.
- A physical fight or battle.
- A physical or high-movement scene of any kind.
Sometimes, emotional writing is fast-paced and gritty. Other times, it is contemplative or heavy. Choose a scene that goes with your writing at the time.
3. Practice Relaxation Techniques
You may be able to access creativity by relaxing your mind prior to writing. By practicing certain techniques, you can learn to achieve a period of calmness even in a stressful time. Here are a few tips for relaxing in order to access your creativity:
- Use imagery. Sit or lay in a relaxed setting and consider a scene in your story that is interesting to you. Try to watch it fold out like a movie in your mind. Concentrate on the scene, letting your characters draw you in. They have their own problems, desires and needs. Sometimes, you can get caught up in their world for a while and forget about yours. Start writing!
- Practice deep breathing exercises. Find a comfortable sitting position. Breathe slowly in through your nose, pause, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to concentrate only on the breathing. Counting to five or six as you breathe in and out helps with concentration and can create calm.
- Get out of the situation. Even if the stress is not where you are, a break in scenery can sometimes break up a series of negative thoughts. If I’m stressing in my office or home, I relocate to the public library, the patio, or a coffee house to write. Just changing surroundings often startles my mind, reduces stress, and allows me to access creativity.
- Take a hot shower. I can’t tell you how many author blogs I’ve read that credit the shower for inspiration. There’s something about the hot running water, the feeling of isolation, the ability to think, and slowly relaxing muscles. Keep a notebook nearby so you can throw on a comfortable set of running pants and t-shirt and get to work.
You can access creativity anytime without waiting for the elusive muse to visit. What are some ways you move beyond the stress of the day to get down to creative work?