Thursday, February 18, 2021

Writing Through The Dark… Or Not

 Writing Through The Dark… Or Not

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.

Stress.

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.  


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

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. 

17 comments:

  1. "Creative insomnia" is a new one for me. Thank you for these ideas, Cathy. I hope they get that drunken hussy muse to visit!

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    1. I also looked sideways at that term, but apparently it works for some people.

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  2. Those tips are 5 to live by, Cathy, for writers and for all. Great post.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. I’ve resolved to try all 5!

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  3. Cathy, you've described life at present for so many of us, including me. Writing has never been as difficult as it has been over the past year. Number 5 on your list is my saving grace. Counting blessings every day, and making sure my B is IC and my H are OK.

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    1. I’m embarrassed to admit how little I wrote last year. Acknowledgement or acceptance- aren’t those key first steps to overcoming the challenge?

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    1. Thanks, Lynn! Now to put action together with those words!

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  5. Cathy, such a marvelous article. You nailed it, my friend! I checked to all of the above! You should have called me. I was up at 3 a.m. too. We could have marked off that social isolation xo

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  6. Are you sure you weren't at my house when you wrote this. I keep saying I need to do the stress release items you list (walk, read, meditate...sleep), but so many other things get in the way of not only those things, but also of BICHOK. Oh well......

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    1. And then you get to the end of the day and wonder where it went!

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  7. I really needed this advice today, Cathy. Thanks for putting many of my unnamed thoughts into words.

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    1. I hope it sparks ideas for you! I found some mediation apps that I’m looking forward to trying.

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  8. What helps me to keep writing is to work on several projects at once. If I get stuck on one, I can turn to another. This way I'm not staring at my screen waiting for something to happen. Thanks, Cathy. Great post

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  9. What helps me to keep writing is to work on several projects at once. If I get stuck on one, I can turn to another. This way I'm not staring at my screen waiting for something to happen. Thanks, Cathy. Great post

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  10. Your post is calling my name, Cathy. I've been stressing over how to end the "covid-novel" I've been writing for a year. Finally, this morning, I resolved to de-stress and get it done. It's taken me all day, but I've emerged victorious, thanks, in part, to your advice.

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