Manage Stress with a New Mindset

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Don’t let stress impact writing or life

By Timothy Robare

How many words? Agents? Query? Will they like it? Is it good? Is it bad? Feedback, feedback, and … feedback. We live a life of constant judgment and the frequent terms: “It’s just not for me;” “I like it, but I’m not the right fit;” or “It just needs some work.”

Stress is the death of an artist—unless you are one of those writers who has fantastic optimism in their writing, which in my experience, is far and few between. We are always searching for ways to stress less. So, how do we do just that?

Just Stop

Stop caring so much. I know that seems basic, but honestly, we are so into caring about what others say and feel that it weighs on us in an unhealthy way. We are not perfect; we mess up. That is art. Not every painting is gold, but artists continued to paint and do what they loved. Eventually, some of those paintings became worth millions and admired by billions. John Keats’ grave says, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” A now extremely admired poet, Keats was a nobody when he died. Now, his work is immortal. He believed he would be nothing—and he seemed to be—until he became one of the best-regarded poets to ever exist.

We really need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Realize that in every career, every job, every point of life, there is failure. We all fail in things, especially things we love, and that is what growth is based out of. We can never become better without the negatives that come, but you have to walk through them and know that it can be worth it.

All About Mindset

Everything is about your mindset. That may be the hardest thing to figure out and to get into. Mindset. It is so difficult to train ourselves to not stress. Something I learned long ago is to never worry about things that you cannot change, only things that you can. You cannot change others’ views, opinions, or thoughts. You can change yours. You can change how you let it affect you, and you can also become better and better. If you get a rejection, you can turn that rejection into a “I can do this better” moment instead of letting it crush you. Instead of looking at the number of words on your screen, look at the art you made, even if it is only one paragraph. You did it. You wrote a paragraph and you made something beautiful and original. That is mindset. We are so into trying to obtain these insane goals and so focused on quantity over quality that it can suck us into that rabbit hole.

All of these challenges, goals, and seeing others obtain them on Twitter when you’re struggling can up your stress level. Do what is best for you. Focus on you and your work. Do not look at others obtaining agents or reaching 50,000 words in a week. If you are struggling, then you are only going to stress because others are able to reach the goal that you can’t find a way to. Not every goal is meant for every person. Even if you write one sentence a day, that is something.

What I am saying is, we need to learn to take a win. It is difficult. I’ve been there, but keeping my focus on what I can change and can do is the best thing I have ever done. Someone can write seventeen pages in an hour, but are they good? If you write one spectacular page, that quality may be higher and that is what’s important. The world we live in is full of competition, and artists are constantly struggling. We have to realize that the struggle is a beautiful part of the journey. Not every show is for every person, not everyone loves tacos, not everyone enjoys the same hike, and not everyone experiences the same journey.

William James said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Stress destroys creativity. If you stress, you are so focused on it that it weighs you down. Lighten your mind, relieve yourself of stress, and let your fingers blaze their way as they please. If you constantly allow yourself to be weighed down, then it will always be harder to run. But if you free yourself of extra weight, you can run for a lot longer. That’s what the mindset is all about: release the stress and run. Run free across the page without the worries of the outside world. You and your pen (or keyboard) are all that matter in the world when you are writing and creating.

Relieve that Stress

If you find yourself in the thick of it, then take a break. Get some food. Sit in silence or play music, depending on which one works better for you. Sometimes I like to play some music, dance around, and make food. I can also go sit under a tree, soak in the sun, shut my eyes, and just let everything come to me as it pleases. I also tend to squeeze my dog because we all need comfort, and dogs are great relievers of negativity.

Part of mindset is knowing your boundaries. It is personal knowledge of what works for you and what you need. You have to pay attention to that. You don’t have to write that page that day. If you have to force it, you are just being stressed to meet someone else’s pressure. Anne Lamott said, “Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?” So how alive are you willing to be? Are you going to let the stress conquer you and be a part of its empire? Or will you be alive and throw stress to the side? Breathe in the air of freedom and the mindset of peace and realization.

You can do a million things to relieve stress and to not let it impact your writing. It all really comes down to one thing: mindset. Your mindset can trap you or free you. It won’t change overnight, but if you practice how you think and see the world, you’ll be amazed at how the world changes around you. Once you change your mindset from, “I need to do this or that,” or “Wow, they’re accomplishing this while I’m here,” and letting that stress impact you, then your life will change. Your writing will change with it. We are everything we let ourselves be, and as artists, our words are a huge part of us. If we stress, our words may come out with that. If we write with freedom and joy, then our writing will reflect that.