In today’s changing world, a break is needed therapy for most of us. As writers, we know the value of a bit of blissful detachment.
A brief disconnect can be a good thing for most of us. Put the phone away or keep it off for a few hours. Ignore social media for a day. Don’t watch any media for a day, real or fake. Aren’t we told that taking a hiatus from external stresses is good for both the mind and the soul? Not forever. Just long enough to re-connect with ourselves.
When we slow down, we tend to pay more attention to our own surroundings. Internal stress might travel with us, but an attentive mind may see the world at a calmer pace. This simple skill is a quintessential requirement for writers. We tend to be observant. We pay attention. In fact, silent observation often leads us to our craft. We see it. We experience it. Good or bad, we write it down.
Most of us will witness or experience hardships leading to various levels of internal stress from low to extreme throughout our lives, with or without media. The results have a way of weaving their way into an author’s work. A result our readers may appreciate.
In fact, writers dealing with stress is a common phenomenon. Click on stress in writing in your search bar and literally hundreds of results will appear. Suggestions range from journaling to relieve stress, writing prompts for stress management, and what causes writing anxiety.
Yes, I realize that last one can lead to even more stress. This is not a perfect field by any means, but most of us acknowledge that a page of utter junk causes us more satisfaction than staring at a blank page. At least that mess is out of our brains and may lead to a highly edited perfect pitch just waiting for the appropriate editor’s eyes.
Non-fiction is fairly ripe with all levels of external stress from politics to natural catastrophes, human crisis and wars. It also takes us to outer-space, honorable land mark events, and calm waters surrounding a barrier reef. Imagine a world where the lessons and horrors of past world wars went unprinted or the beauty of our serene but changing natural world escaped our libraries’ bookshelves.
The fiction writer is given much heavier license to ease or release stress into their stories. The very reason we write a novel may be based on stressful life occurrences. How many fictional stories begin with divorce, death, or separation from a loved one? Usually, the writing process takes over and the reader is eventually navigated through the characters’ challenges, consequences, and eventual outcomes from these huge life events. The ending may not always be a happy one, but the voyage occurred with some lessons learned for both writer and reader.
Beyond the motives external and internal stresses provide a writer, there are also logistical or linguistic areas to observe. We call it Lexical stress, or word stress. It is the emphasis placed on a given syllable in a word. Prosodic Stress or sentence stress takes us one step further, accentuating a certain word in a sentence by using italics. As in, I love writing about stress or I love writing about stress. The first puts all the pressure on me, but the second puts it on the emotion of love.
Maybe combine those two. “Love I” a little more. Treating ourselves as we would treat others or would wish to be treated. An old rule that should never go out of style, reversed or otherwise. Besides, a little kindness may go a long way towards reducing our anxiety
So, keep paying attention to the world around you. Good or bad, there is something of value to be learned. When it stresses you out, write about it. Feel the bliss.
Please remember that the South Carolina Writers Association offers many opportunities to learn, observe and take a break. Visit the SCWA website for more information regarding local chapters, The Quill (Newsletter), members’ published works, The Petigru Review, past blogs and much more. We hope to see many of you at the beach for the 2018 Pawleys Island Writers’ Conference next week.
Sue Cryer is a member of The SCWA Board of Directors and works as a Freelance Writer in Chapin, SC. She is a former Newspaper Correspondent and Feature News Writer.