Writing Through The Dark… Or Not
By Cathy Perkins
By Cathy Perkins
One of the mantras you hear a lot if you’re an author is you can’t wait around waiting for that drunken hussy of a writing muse to show up for work. Instead, it’s BICHOK. You have to put Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.
There are, of course, dozens of reasons this is true. Writing is, after all, a craft. Part of improving is doing. Practicing. Challenging yourself in new ways. Putting the words on that page.
So why are so many of us staring at a blinking cursor, if we even heave our protesting butts into the chair? Why are we cursing at that cursor?
I considered this last night during my 3 AM round of insomnia.
Sleep deprivation is an easy target. Lack of sleep has been linked to poor cognitive performance. This includes a laundry list of negative attributes including poor focus and concentration, low creativity, erratic behavior, inability to multitask, and increased mistakes. While there is a clamor about “creative insomnia” these days, the sad truth is we need sleep—and that’s before we explore the myriad ways sleep deprivation messes with the rest of our bodies.
What if you’re getting enough sleep? Or you’re trying to get enough sleep? Maybe you have to look a little deeper. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the stressors underlying that lack of sleep.
Interestingly enough, a number of the articles I read about creativity and stress actually focused on the role of a creative outlet in reducing stress. But as I explored this topic, the preferred “creative outlets” stressed repetitive motions: walking, gardening, talking with friends, activities that are too often curtailed these days by COVID-19-induced isolation and bitter winter cold.
Isolation. Cold. COVID-19. Darkness. Now those are some major stressors.
As I read more, I found useful discussions about psychological safety that doesn’t create crippling performance pressure. Basically, you need to let go of forcing yourself to “be creative.” If you’re already stressed, those threats simply trigger more fight or flights reactions—the most primitive, least creative part of your brain. Instead of demanding creativity, relax. Tell yourself, what if…
Let’s play around with this idea…
Of course, these articles also advocated, you guessed it, stress reducing activities like walking, gardening, and talking with friends. Or “going to your happy place” such as a favorite coffee shop or roaming a museum or art gallery.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to those creative inciting activities too.
In the meanwhile, the helpful ideas include:
1) Meditate. Calm your mind.
2) Walk. Get outside if possible. Let your mind relax.
3) Read. Turns out it’s a stress buster.
4) De-clutter. Research says decluttering your workspace can also clear your head.
5) Live life. Winter and COVID will end. Go enjoy every minute.
She's hard at work on Peril in the Pony Ring, the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Killer Nashville's Claymore Award.