Feb 21 2018

4 ways to de-stress your writing practice

I promise, I won’t insist that writing is without stress and that you’re somehow doing it wrong if you aren’t having fun 100% of the time.

Writing should be fun, of course. Getting down the last scene of a suspenseful story or finally finding the right metaphor for a childhood experience you’ve been trying to accurately show on the page are feel-good moments in a regular writing practice.

But nothing gold can stay, writers. Inevitably, there will be days that are harder than others, days when the words won’t come but the deadlines loom or the critical self-talk reaches a fever pitch. Whether you are beginning or blocked, here are four suggestions for de-stressing your writing practice when you start to feel the heat:

Make an in-home writing space where you feel warm, comfortable, and motivated.

If your home doesn’t have a dedicated space for you to write in, give it one. It might be one unused corner of the dining room table, an attic space you’ve spruced up, or a whole room; the point is that it’s yours and it’s for writing. Make it warm, clean, bright, and with a comfy chair to maximize productivity. I guarantee, you will be one step ahead every time you sit down to write if you’re doing so in a dedicated space that is tidy and personalized to your needs. So, what do you need in a space to maximize your productivity and make you feel like a writer?

Write for you, not an audience.

This is crucial advice. When we are starting out as writers, or when we begin to feel blocked or stifled, we are often self-conscious about who might someday read what we’re writing. Banish thoughts of your audience until you are nearing a final draft. Here’s why: 1) You cannot write in an authentic voice, or fully concentrate on what is inspiring you to create, if you are pandering to an audience in your mind, and 2) hopefully, you will have a go-to trusted reader someday (more on that in a minute) who will be your first audience. Write first drafts as if no one else in the world exists, and come back at later editing stages to consider how your words might be received. When you catch yourself thinking about your audience, mentally imagine that group shrinking down until you are the only one standing there, and take a deep, cleansing breath. Now, what do YOU want to say?

Smash writer’s block with prompts, exercises, and journaling to just keep writing.

Don’t allow yourself to throw your hands up and say, “I just have writer’s block!” as if this perceived state of being is out of your control. There are too many jump-starting techniques worth trying to fall back on that excuse for not doing something you say you want to do (WRITE!). We offer a whole year’s worth of writing prompts through our email newsletter, and you can access even more prompts through books and websites. You can pick up any book, open it at random, choose a word you like, and free write about that word for 10 minutes. You can write in a journal about your day, or keep multiple journals. There’s no such thing as writer’s block! Repeat that to yourself—or write it 20 times—if you’re feeling down during less productive periods. If prompts aren’t your thing, and you already have a journal, consider how non-writing activities might rev up your creative juices and help you get back to the screen or page. The point here is that not writing is as much of a choice as writing. Which choice will you make?

Share the mental load with a trusted writer-friend.

This tip falls under the umbrella of community-building, but perhaps the word community still feels a little far away for you. Perhaps you are only just beginning to share your writing with others. We all have to start somewhere. Think about who you know; is there anyone who writes, or loves to read, and in whom you trust, who would be willing to start an exchange of creative work, ideas about writing, or both? The actual act of creation requires solitude, but everything else about your writing practice will benefit tremendously from surrounding yourself with like-minded, passionate, and discerning readers. It might not be easy to share your writing, but if you take it seriously, others will, too. Maybe you’ll get to be a reader for one or more of your friends, which will help your writing AND theirs. Plus, now you’ll have a cohort of people who understand how daunting submissions can be, how hard it is to find the right words sometimes, how beautiful that passage in a favorite book is, and how to speak the language of a writing life. We have work friends, friends from school, fitness friends, parenting friends, hobby friends—why wouldn’t you also seek writing friends?

How do you keep the words coming and the stress at bay? Share with us in the comments!

Related reading: 3 self-care tips for writers

Want to receive tips and tricks like these in your inbox every Sunday morning? Subscribe to our email list and as a thank-you from the Center, receive a link to download a FREE pdf of One Year of Weekly Writing Prompts, compiled by all six Center teachers!


Comments on ... 4 ways to de-stress your writing practice

  1. Kris says:

    Thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.

  2. Matthewles says:

    It is a really great resource!So much useful info and handy suggestions, thank you =)