Surviving the Pressure Cooker
This morning I answered a comment from a writer in my group by pointing out the pressures she is putting on herself. We writers have both internal and external pressures affecting us every day. Perhaps if we identify them, it would be easier to recognize and defend ourselves. I doubt I will list them all. There are just too many and you might have some unique to you.
External pressures include work, school, family, kids, mortgages, budgets, juggling 30 hours of responsibilities with a 24 hour day. They pull at our energy level like a vampiric octopus.
Work is one of those necessary evils. Few writers would rather be working in a store or office instead of devoting those hours to their next novel. Hopefully, the result is a paycheck that covers that mortgage and budget. Most households require two incomes. My hat goes off to single parents who manage on just one.
Some of you are in school continuing your education in hopes of higher rewards. Commuting back and forth, time spent in lectures, homework, papers due, you know it is supposed to make sense but sometimes you sit in the car and say ‘What the heck?’
Family. Ah, the wonderful world of dealing with people who know where your buttons are and how to push them. Mostly because they helped install those buttons. Identify them. Then disconnect the ones that connect to a kneejerk response. And forget the guilt and justifications. Your husband isn’t going to die if you say NO and you don’t have to explain.
Internal pressures are those we put upon ourselves. Those voices in our head that instill shame, anger, and fear into our internal dialogue. Are we a good parent? Is it selfish to take time for my writing? Maybe I should clean the house first? Who am I kidding? I can’t do this. If you really think this, you believe it in your soul, then quit now. You don’t need the added stress of continuing on a path you know you will ultimately fail at. Forget the enjoyment of creation. Listen to the internal dialogue and give up. Mad yet? Then get your backside in a chair and write! You’ve had enough time in the pity puddle.
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We are our own worst enemy and greatest ally. It’s about perspective. You are what you believe. So think about what you truly believe about yourself. Write it down on one side of a piece of paper. Now on the other side write down what you want to believe, if it is different. In the center, write down what has to happen to make the two lists the same.
Will it be easy? No. Will you have to admit some things honestly can’t be changed at this time? Then determine your coping mechanisms to deal with them until you can.
Coping mechanisms? It means whatever you need to do to stay sane without resorting to things like alcohol, drugs, or self-harm.
Try mediation. It isn’t something you really have to learn. Just sit in a comfortable position, breathe in and out, and empty your mind of all thought. Relax your forehead, your shoulders, your arms, anywhere you carry tension.
Schedule and set priorities. Mikey shows you a wadded up notice from Monday telling you he needs two dozen cookies for tomorrow (Friday). You have homework, dinner to cook, and kids to get in bed. You could stress to make homemade cookies or you could leave for school twenty minutes early and pick up a package on the way…OR you could say “No, you should have shown me this Monday.” Personal responsibility, folks. Learn it. Teach it.
You set the priorities in your own life and it takes discipline to keep them in order, but the end result is that you keep the steam from building up in your pressure cooker. And, if it does build up, don’t be afraid to blow some off. Get out, go for a walk…right to anyplace that sells chocolate.