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Topic of the Week - Crazy Train

Hi everyone, and Happy Canada Day Eve to our northern friends! This'll probably be a light week because of the holidays, but I figured what the heck, we need a Topic, anyway.

Two weeks ago the Topic was about how we take care of our health over the marathon course of writing a novel . To which janni  replied,
You know, how we stay emotionally healthy as writers might not be a bad topic of the week somewhere down the road, too.
This business is stressful, to say the least, and writers as a breed tend to be on the sensitive side (which helps us do what we do). Anxiety stalks us night and day (and coffee just makes it worse--SO unfair).

So how do you stay sane? Talking to friends? Professional therapy? Lifestyle strategies such as taking breaks or scheduling time for yourself?

One thing that helped me was learning to say no, whether it's doing volunteer work a week before a deadline or driving 2.75 hours one way for a third-cousin-twice-removed-in-law's First Communion. I want to make everyone happy, but my writing obligations come first.

But that's largely a negative, defensive tactic. It doesn't make me feel good to say no (unless it's to housework), it just makes me feel less bad than saying yes and stressing over how I'll keep all my promises.

So I'd love to hear your suggestions on how you stay positive--or at least non-homicidal/suicidal/wall-climbing--in the face of what can be a crazy-making business.  Stick 'em in the comments, and as always, Watchers and Members welcome!

--Jeri Smith-Ready

P.S.: Yeah, I think I've decided to name all the Topic of the Week after songs or lyrics. Because I *need* to put that extra pressure on myself.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 30th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
I talk. I talk to my husband, I talk to my parents, I talk to friends. I almost feel as if I am letting off a pressure valve, or as if I'm grounding myself after wandering along the strange mental paths I pursue while writing.

(Closely related to "I talk" is "I cry." I tend to become very emotional as I write, especially as I near the end of novels. I don't consider that to be a bad thing; rather, the tears are another way of releasing the creator-tension.)

My two cents...
Jun. 30th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
Talk and cry are very important. I talk, talk, talk to close friends I can trust in the business, and to my husband, and my cats. And I cry, too--I get very emotional as I get near the end of a deadline.

Jun. 30th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Wait..."stay sane"...you mean that was an option?
Jun. 30th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
I was thinking that, too.
Jun. 30th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
I do two things, I guess.

Thing One (Does that evoke Dr. Seuss? Sorry): No matter what happens I keep writing. Even it's just 500 words a day. If I get an amazing review? I keep writing. If I get a horrifyingly terrible review? I keep writing. If my dog threw up all over the floor? I keep writing. When I stop writing every day it's like I lose my way. That's when it's hard to stay sane.

Thing Two: I try to find ways so that I don't feel like writing is all I do. It's a job and it's an art and it's amazingly cool, but if I feel like it's my only identity or if it's my entire identity then I would absolutely lose it. Sanity would not be an option because it's such a public creation when you're published and it would be so easy to be picked apart. So, I try to create an identity that has other aspects to it, other things I can feel good about or lean on when things go wrong with writing.

Edited at 2008-06-30 05:31 pm (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Thing One is something I really ought to be taking to heart about now... It's extremely good advice!
Jun. 30th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
I send crazy emails. I blog. It's fun to just put all your rants down and send them off into the universe. My family actually reads my blog, which can be weird sometimes, but I think they respect the honesty (my dad is even on Facebook, so there's no escaping them!)

Sometimes, I just lay on the floor, crank up some inappropriate music--Peter Frampton, ELO, Meatloaf, Rocky Horror soundtrack, etc.--light up a...um...cigarette...and just let the cat sleep on top of my stomach while I don't move or do anything.
Jun. 30th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Um...I smoke like a chimney and suck back bourbon like they're going to close Lynchburg. So, probably not the best example. :-)
Jun. 30th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - stacia_kane - Jun. 30th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jul. 1st, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
I vent to my writer friends, who talk me down from the metaphorical ledges and keep me from venting in my blogs...which is never a good idea ;-)
Jun. 30th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Amen to not venting in blogs. It's sooooo NOT a good idea. ;)

Jun. 30th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Hah...I'm not sure I'm ever totally sane, but I try with keeping in the flow and talking to the husband. Brownies with chocolate frosting and toasted marshmallows help. So does going out into the big blue room...
Jun. 30th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
In total honesty, I'm not sure "sane" is an option I'd select on any self-assessing lists. I'm volatile by nature, and the writing life isn't doing much to change that. My attempts to court stability include reliance on

1) very supportive spouse, kids, and parents
2) very insightful editor, crit partner, and publicist
3) meditation
4) exercise
5) bubblebaths
6) travel

(and, when all else fails, whiskey and loud music).

Melissa Marr
Jun. 30th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Making sure I get enough people contact--working at coffee shops and such just to have some occasional background people time, and making plans to meet friends for lunch regularly

Doing things other than writing--making sure that writing, while important to me, isn't my whole life (been bad about this one lately, actually, and am thinking about getting back on track); related to this, taking time off occasionally, and not letting myself do nothing but write

Getting some sort of physical activity in most days--a walk or run or swim or whatever does remarkably things for clearing the brain, getting the endorphins going, and throwing me outside myself a little, and gives me more energy to bring back to the writing, too

Janni Lee Simner

Edited at 2008-06-30 10:00 pm (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Re: people contact--yes, yes, and yes.
Jun. 30th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
I'm a very hyper (not in action per se except I never stop working), very 'intense'...and yeah, like Melissa said, volatile person. I'll never be stable--I'm OC and bi-polar and while I make the conditions work for me and stay away from the drugs (I can manage without them), my mood swings can be pretty obvious. Stress busters: friends, husband, cats, exercise (if I can get my butt to doing it), sex, loud music, stupid TV, movies, lots of caffeine...used to be chocolate but ain't so much anymore.

Jun. 30th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Sane? Maybe I'll try that someday.

But seriously, I think I mostly just try to stay well-rounded with a lot of things going on other than writing. I read a lot. I watch TV. I talk about TV online. I go to church. I sing. I cook. I'm taking a dance class. There's enough happening in my life that if one aspect isn't working, something else is bound to make me happy. And the things I do to keep my body healthy also help keep me mentally balanced.

Generally, I'm a really mellow person. I don't do mood swings all that much. I probably need to tap into emotions more because that would help me in my writing, but it does mean that I don't hit any serious lows that don't blow over pretty quickly.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 1st, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Hurrah for doing fight choreography with your spouse! I love writing those scenes, if only because we bring out the training weapons and get to play (even though I'm taking notes the whole time...)
Jun. 30th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Since you started off the thread with a classic (God, are some of us that old?) song title, that's where my sanity lies - in music. The louder the better. Whether it's a Black Sabbath jamfest or something more current like Godsmack, that grounds me and often kills the funk!
Jul. 1st, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
I talk to writing friends who understand the ups and downs of this crazy business. *g* I get away from the project I'm working on and do other things (that might happen to feed the muse while I'm at it) like watch a movie, read a book, sit on my porch with a glass on wine...

But really the main one I've found is...giving whatever is bothering me a couple of days to die down, and then when I revisit it I see things from a different (and usually a more positive) perspective.
Jul. 1st, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
God, I wish I had the answer to this. For me, it's the worst at night, in the dark, when I'm trying to sleep and my mind is racing. Everything seems so horrible then. Minor annoyances cast a long shadow and seem overwhelming. Luckily, those long nights don't happen often, although I had one yesterday. I tossed and turned until 3 am and then finally got up and surfed the web and read some of LONESOME DOVE. I finally got to sleep around 4:30 and I feel a little zombie-ish today.

Here's what helped:

The morning -- particularly the sun.

My wife, who made an effort to be cheerful.

A four mile hike through the mountains by our house.

Outside of that, I wish I knew. Talking with friends, I guess. I know an awful lot of writers and most of them (including myself) can be gloomy at times. I just keep telling myself "wait until morning... everything will seem more cheerful then."

Almost always, that's the case.

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