Managing Stress While Writing Your Book

-Percy Parry

image credit: Jenisse Decker (flickr)
image credit: Jenisse Decker (flickr)

Writing a book spanning 1000 to 100,000 words was never easy. As you continue your work on your book, just like many other writers, you may suffer from a temporary condition wherein your brain shuts down.

When I say shut down, I mean that the you lose track of the stream of ideas that otherwise flowed smoothly into your head while you wrote your book. Its not a severe case, so theres no need to get paranoid. This case is called the ‘Writer’s Block‘-a temporary condition in which the writer finds it impossible to continue with the writing of a book, play or any other work. The main reason behind this? Stress! Which brings us to a whole new concept-‘Writer’s Stress’. While Writer’s Block is the problem that arises specifically with the writing part of a novel, Writer’s Stress is the problem one faces with the overall process of writing a novel, publishing and marketing it.

One of the biggest challenges a writer can face while working on his or her novel is not that they can’t think of any ideas, instead that they don’t have enough time to give to their work. There are so many distractions in your daily life that it is hard to keep your mind focused on writing. This can be a majorproblem. Giving around 10 to 20 minutes of your time to your book will push you along towards the end goal of having a completed book. But I understand for some writers this might be difficult because before they start writing they need to get ‘in the zone’.

Now writing a book when you have a full time job requires a lot of patience, not to mention a calm mind filled with perseverance and desire, and if you are writing a book just for the heck of it, it will never get done. Besides if you really do want to write one, then working on it at home will serve a better purpose simply because when at work your job requires your full attention, while at home you’re free from unwanted distractions.

Here are a few tips to help you write your book while you manage your full-time job.

1. Make time.

If you want to write a book despite your work hours, the only way you can do it is by setting aside blocks of time to work on your book. But how you ask? Well, the first thing on your ‘to do’ list is think of an idea or a story for your book. You can do this while you travel to your workplace, while cooking, doing the dishes, etc. have a brainstorm of ideas and see which if them is feasible. By doing so, it’ll be easier for you to develop the next scene and in what areas you need to do a research on. All this will help you create the motivation required to write your book.

2. Let your family be aware about your work.

Your family, that is your spouse, children or parents might want to spend some quality time with you. Even if it means that you have sacrfice your day’s only free time for them. Tell your family about your wish to write and how important it is for you. Making them aware about your desire to write will not only help you get some free time for yourself, but they might also be enthusiastic enough to give you some ideas that might help you.

3. Over exerting yourself doesn’t help!

Writing continuously without a break for days together is not going to help. You’ll eventually start suffering from the writer’s block. What you need to do is give your self a break in between. Choose one particular day from the week, and on that day keep yourself away from any job that involves writing. Give yourself a chance to relax.

4. Have enough knowledge about something? Wrirte about that!

When your working a full time job, you’re not going to have enough time to dedicate to your book and the extra research associated with it. Choose a topic about which you have a considerable amount of information. It’ll help you cut down on unnecessary research and the time wasted on it. Spending less time on the net or in library stacks, will help you get far more accomplished.

5. Set your priorites straight!

You may not like this but you need to sort out your priorities if you are serious about writing. This will include giving up on the weekend trips to the mall with the girls. Or the big game nights out at the bar with the guys. Utilising this time to work on your book will give you more time for your work.

6. Set Realistic goals.

When you have a full time job, it’s going to be next to impossible to have a good finished novel within a few days or weeks. You don’t have to finish your novel in two weeks or so. Set a realistic target that you can meet. Try to finish three-four chapters every month. And somehow in the end even though it may have seemed like a very long time, you’ll have yourself your finished book.

7. Cut down on unnecessary breaks.

Full time jobs are tedious and time consuming, and I know I said take a day or two off, but that doesn’t mean you should quit writing for several days together. Getting back to working on the keyboard becomes difficult after days and days of putting off writing.

image credit: Synamingirl (flickr)
image credit: Synamingirl (flickr)

It is common for writers to go under a lot of stress while working on their book. Sometimes the stress really gets to them and they suffer from a serious case of writer’s block followed by anxiety and then depression. This will include changes in their eating patterns, sleeping patterns, the level of activities, etc. This means that you might be eating more or less than usual, sleeping more or less than usual, or feeling much more active or sluggish than usual. Typically, people who are feeling depressed tend to lose interest in activities and relationships they once enjoyed. They may isolate themselves, withdraw, and avoid social interactions. They may feel weepy, and cry easily, or they may feel very irritable, and express anger more often. They sometimes try to manage their anxiety and stress with medications, food or alcohol.

Aside from these symptoms, your progress eventually comes to a halt, and you start to become less efficient, less focused, and everything becomes much more difficult. You might feel angry with yourself, but then also hopeless of ever being able to make any significant and lasting changes.

The bad news is that you might be feeling this way. The good news is that you don’t have to.

The first step in overcoming this depression is recognizing that you feel this way. The second step is seeking out appropriate sources of help and support (which might include your spouse/partner, your friends, colleagues, your advisor, a counselor or a coach.) The third  is to take small guided and supported steps, to overcome the current routines in your life. You will get relief from a regular pattern of exercise, spending more time with your family and loved ones, and maintaining a proper diet. Regular aerobic exercise works to improve mood, sleep and appetite just as well as antidepressant medication. Until you have these basics taken care of, it makes no sense to try and write.

Once you feel better, you need to decide that you will finish, and to set a deadline for doing so. Then work hard towards that deadline, without any doubts about not meeting the goal. As long as you place one foot in front of the other, you are progressing. Sometimes people avoid setting a deadline, without realizing that this is one of the most powerful methods for regaining control of the whole process of completing your book.

It is easy to think that suffering is a must for a successful book, well this simply is not true. If you, or anyone you know is experiencing any of these negative symptoms, please take some action. All you have to take is the first step, and then the next, and so on.

Remember depression sometimes follows the writer’s block, but it doesn’t always have to.

 Percy Parry interns with CinnamonTeal Publishing.