Simply put, writing is stressful for every single body.
Plus, there can be anxiety while writing, while thinking about writing,
while thinking about not writing,
fear and dread can wrap itself all the way around a writer and leave them unable to go on.
Or, like most of us,
some unpleasant but not quite so extreme version of the above.
Is there something wrong with you if writing is stressful?
Most definitely not.
Writing, especially drafting, is a process of venturing forth into the unknown.
And in a sense it is like burning our bridges behind us, because every choice we make is eliminating countless possibilities.
And sometimes that feels awful, but it is all about how we relate to these fundamental feelings.
Let’s not even talk about extremely hard times in writing. Even garden variety sessions show the same truths about writing:
Let’s look at a micro scale at what is happening when any of us write. Even in the tiniest moments of relatively pain-free writing, you are making all kinds of micro decisions.
And what we are talking about here can be very small, too small for us to really notice.
Something like this is happening, even if it isn’t actually words your hear in your head:
“Is this idea right? Should it come next? Is this the right word? Or is it this word?”
It’s a kind of energy that is running just to be able to make tiny decisions as we go.
Of course this can also be in the form of conscious thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be.
And we can’t really write without this kind of energy going on. It has to be there.
So that means that the following energies are also going to be there:
“This might be the wrong word. I might be making a mistake here. This might be the wrong turn.”
We might not actually think these thoughts. But at least in a slight way, the energy is going to be there!
Which means the following two energies are also present:
“This could end badly”
Ready for it…
“I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I don’t know” is part of the writing process.
It has to be.
And it’s the same “I don’t know” as if we were driving through a night time desert
in the pitch black with no lights
and there might be cliff ahead.
We don’t know. It could go badly at any time. We could take a wrong turn.
Now, of course we all know it’s not really as stark as all that when we write. But the problem is:
The body doesn’t know that!
The body doesn’t know if we are driving in that desert, or writing, or being stalked by a tiger. All the body “knows” is:
“Something is possibly very wrong!”
So what does the body do? Well…. if it’s possible we might be about to fall off a cliff
the body is going to brace for impact.
It’s going to do its best for us. It’s going to gear up to run or fight.
The body is doing what it has to in order to protect us from the unknown dangers.
What a hero!
Thank you body!!
And yet… we are not getting stalked by a tiger. And all this work the body is doing to protect us is completely unnecessary.
And it’s tiring. It takes its toll.
And so one of the first things we have to understand is that writing is going to have a bit of stress in it no matter what.
It’s going to have that energy of diving into the unknown. Every sentence we write is diving into the unknown.
So what do we do about it?
Well first just recognize that this is inherent in the writing process, because that can bring some relief. You might assume that there is something wrong with you because writing can be stressful sometimes. So now you have one less thing to worry about. It’s normal for writing to be stressful.
But then there are two other points we can focus on:
- mitigate that inherent bodily stress
- and deal with the unnecessary worries and fears in writing
And both of these points are powerfully addressed when we first have cultivated some mindfulness of what is happening.
So once we understand that stress in the body is inherent to writing,
we want to interrupt it’s process and bring it into the light of our awareness.
I have two tools that are going to help with that a lot: one takes some practice to learn and one is instant!
And they both work great together.
So the first is to practice awareness of body sensations. I have some guided meditations that you can use to know these sensations better that I can send you. (click here to download) Or I sent them already if you are on the email list.
What these meditations will do is make you more sensitive and aware so you can know when the fear and worry is building in the body. And you can then learn to work with them.
And the instant you know that worry or fear sensations are building in the body, you can ask yourself this quick question:
“What am I believing now?”
And whatever it is, it’s almost always untrue.
You can willfully and purposely look into that belief and see if it is in fact certain and true.
It almost never is true, not if you honestly inquire.
But the body doesn’t know that!
So you might be, in that moment, believing, for example, “I have nothing new or original to say.”
That is a typical one, the mind changing the unknown into the known: the situation of not knowing what is going to be said by you in your text yet, to “definitely” knowing that it will be nothing any good.
The mind prefers certainty to uncertainty.
But the fact is you do not know what is going to happen later and you don’t know that this thing you are going to say, which you don’t know what it is, is going to be “nothing new or original.”
But the mind prefers to think it knows what it is talking about– “This is definitely going to suck!”– and it likes to pretend it has got a handle on things. It wants you to keep believing in the things it has to say.
But such “certainty” as the mind provides is not good for drafting your text.
Drafting is about uncertainty, about diving into the unknown, even in a single sentence where you know more or less what you mean to say. There is always going to be that diving into the unknown feeling.
And you can learn to become more comfortable with inevitable feelings that will arise in that.
Because: people like to go parachute jumping or climb into roller coasters and actively seek out these same sensations of diving out into the unknown. They like to watch movies where terrible and fearful things happen.
So it’s all in how we relate to our sensations.
Writing can be a roller coaster ride, but it doesn’t have to be torture.
So Again, Step One is Practicing our Mindfulness of Sensations
And Step Two is to see through the lies that the mind tells us which are not serving us. Ask “What Am I Believing Now?”
and then ask, honestly, if you really know that to be true and certain.
And what’s left after that is not much at all. For the inevitable left-over stress we can exercise, go for walks, have fun, take breaks.
All the commonly recommended things will work, once we have it shaved it down to what is natural and necessary stress.
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and see you next time!