Coping Mechanisms For Writers

I’ve been in hiding lately in an attempt to finally finish this YA book series which started out as a standalone and then became a trilogy and is now a total of four books. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster, something I know all of my fellow writers can relate to and even though some of my “coping mechanisms” for stress and writer’s block and just fear in general may be a bit unorthodox or maybe even to some of you downright insane at least they work. Well…most of the time. Okay sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, hence the extreme variety. But for any of my fellows writers who are stuck or blocked or just downright terrified I’d definitely recommend giving some of these methods a try.

For Stress:

  1. Candy-Some people smoke cigarettes, some people do shots of tequila, and I gorge on chocolate or anything within arm’s distance that is made of sugar and rainbows. Not only will it lighten your mood but by knocking back an m&m or a chewy caramel and creating a false sense of reward you will be able to trick your body into thinking it’s already accomplished something great and deserves a treat.
  2. Writing on a yoga ball-It’s bouncy, it’s good for your back, and it’s just plain fun. Let’s face it, sitting at a desk all day isn’t enjoyable, comfortable, or ideal for our health. And since nothing gets the creative juices flowing like exercise why not write and get a little physical at the same time. Not only that but it gives you a soft place to land when you feel like jumping off a cliff.
  3. A hot bath infused with vitamin e-This is to detox your body of all of that sugar. Not only are baths relaxing but I find that I do my best thinking when submerged in water. If you respond better to fear you could always water board yourself until you come up with the solution to that plot hole that’s been driving you mad or if you prefer a more playful approach you can turn your soap and shampoo bottles into characters from your story and act out crucial scenes right on the edge of the tub.
  4. Role play your Oprah interview-Nothing cheers me up more than pretending like I’m already rich and famous. Visualization is truly the secret to success, which means wishing will get you nowhere in this world. Dreams don’t come true because we wish for them. Dreams come true because we think them into existence. Remind yourself on a daily basis what your vision is and how you’re actively achieving it and one day you’ll be sitting with Oprah and talking about how amazing you are.
  5. Plan a “staycation”-Nothing induces more guilt in a writer than idle time, which is why we rarely take a day off for fear of wasting it on watching reality television and drinking wine when we could be adding three thousand more words to our WIP. But here’s the thing, we need breaks. Regular breaks. But if you’re like me and can’t stand to just lay around when you could be writing, here’s a tip. Schedule meaningful free time for yourself where you and your friends or family are actually doing something worthwhile. If you can’t go out plan a “staycation” complete with a really ambitious home-cooked meal with desert of course and eight hours catching up on House of Cards because you only like classy narratives.
  6. Disappear off the face of the earth-Or maybe just from social media. I’m one of those authors who still hasn’t figured out how to navigate social media and seamlessly incorporate it into my daily life. Blogging is a different story. I love blogging and I love connecting with other writers and readers but when I’m in the middle of a project, sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes it’s okay, actually it’s more than okay, to step away from your Twitter and your Facebook and your blog and just focus on what needs to get done.

For Writer’s Block:

  1. Candy-See above.
  2. Read all the books-This is going to sound strange but sometimes when I’m in the middle of a WIP I have this fear of books. Of reading them and sometimes just looking at them. I know as writers we should be reading as much, if not more, than we write, but sometimes I’m stopped by the fear that I might read something so amazing and so gut-wrenchingly perfect that my own work will look like a disaster in comparison. This fear hits me at some point during the writing of every project, usually when I’m stuck, but you know what? This frightening scenario has never actually happened to me. Do you want to know what has happened? Every time I’ve chosen to pick up a book when I was feeling stuck with my own I’ve had some kind of epiphany. Reading inspires. It unlocks things in us and it reveals things to us we couldn’t see before and it’s the fastest way through writer’s block that I know of.
  3. Harry Potter Move Marathon-Because there is nothing more magical or more inspiring than the story of an orphan who triumphs over evil or the story of the author who created him who just happened to be piss-ass broke and is now a billionaire. Not to mention once you come to the glaring realization around the end of the third movie that you will never write something as spectacularly world-changing you can stop trying to be perfect and just write.
  4. Read negative reviews-Not of your own work. That would be counterproductive. The thing is, writer’s block is often caused by our impossible pursuit of perfection and we spend hours analyzing and re-writing the same paragraph because for some reason it’s just not right and because we’re holding it to some standard that doesn’t exist. But there is no such thing as perfect and there is no pleasing everyone, which is evidenced by all of the negative reviews given to New York Time’s bestselling books. However few, I promise, even your favorite author has some unflattering reviews of their books out there. Take a stroll through Goodreads or Amazon and you’ll see what I mean and not only will you probably have a good laugh you’ll realize that it’s all relative and you might as well write for the only person whose opinion really matters–you.
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12 thoughts on “Coping Mechanisms For Writers

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Great tips. I like #4 under your Writers’ Block list. When we receive a bad review, it can be helpful to peruse the reviews of the bigwigs and see that negative reviews are inevitable. We can’t please everyone, nor should we try. Oh, and of course I like the idea of some chocolate. 😉

    • Haha yes chocolate is the magical elixir. And looking at negative reviews can really help put things in perspective and like you said, help us realize that negative criticism is inevitable but at the same time relative and nothing to be afraid of.

  2. So glad to know I’m not the only one that has pretend interviews with Oprah in my mind!

  3. Jennifer K says:

    I love your suggestion to role-play the Oprah interview – it doesn’t hurt to dream! And what a nice distraction!

    • Thanks! I think making our dreams as specific as possible is one of the keys to making them come true, so why not Oprah? Like you said, it doesn’t hurt and it sure is fun!

  4. Aubrey Cann says:

    Love this post! I also NEED candy when I’m stressed about writing. I suppose it’s bad that I need sugar to feel good, but hey, whatever works. (Please note that I just finished a bag of mini Reese’s PB cups)

    • Haha I had just finished a handful of some of those new Lancaster caramels before I wrote this post and I usually don’t even like caramel. I swear, the stress of writing sometimes gives me the strangest food cravings, usually for something sugary and sweet. I know it’s not good for me but like you said, whatever works.

  5. […] subject from Steven Pressfield‘s awesome blog. And, one more for the road, this resourceful post on coping mechanisms for writers by Laekan Zea […]

  6. Julie Israel says:

    I like that candy (or “anything made of sugar and rainbows”– ha!) is #1, and #3 is a detoxing bath to counteract said candy 😉 Fabulous lists! I love your point about reading negative reviews. I think it not only grants some much needed perspective, but can even be insightful on how a book (or any writing) might be better.

  7. Reblogged this on laekanzeakemp and commented:

    *To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

  8. I like reading, and anything, not just the genre I’m writing in. It gets my creative juices flowing, gives me idea’s and lets my mind run. Candy is also good! 🙂

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