When life derails your writing...

Being a writer is an interesting thing. The process of writing is so intrinsically tied up in who the writer is and requires such a personal investment, that it's only a matter of time before it gets derailed by various physical or emotional "boulders" that life tosses carelessly on the tracks. And the writer, blissfully surging along, finds themselves tossed like so much rubble onto the ground. Many will pick themselves back up, examine their wounds and rethink another path or mode of transportation. For others, the wreck seems too catastrophic and they retreat to tend to their wounds and wait until a sufficient amount of healing has occurred. I've discovered that I tend to do both.

Writing has always been my creative outlet, my "happy place," my bliss. Where I've felt understood, connected to a larger power, even loved. Life makes sense and I feel my purpose in it all. So, why would I ever abandon that, simply because life throws some challenge at me? Maybe because it's also where I feel the most doubt, experience the most frustration and can be overwhelmed by the sense that I can't ever be good enough. By walking a tightrope between those two worlds, it isn't hard to get thrown off balance and retreat to a place that seems safer--where I don't have to constantly be examining and interpreting life.

I guess that makes me a "fair weather" writer. When things are going well and I'm reasonably content, I don't mind looking back on past hurts and pain and trying to figure out how to represent the truth of those experiences on paper. But when I'm in the thick of it and see disaster all around me, I shut down the conduit of my creativity and go into survival mode--kind of like a victim of hypothermia, where all of my blood is sucked into my core, leaving my extremities exposed to the elements. It's like I'm willing to sacrifice an arm or a leg so my torso can survive. When the real answer is to get up and get moving!

A few people, when they find out I write, ask me how you get over writer's block. I used to give them an appropriate answer that you have to continue to write, even if it's just keeping a journal. That you push through the feeling and eventually it will go away. Because you're a writer and you're meant to write! It sounded really good at the time. But the truth of it is, you can't "get over" writer's block, because writer's block is really another name for fear. And fear doesn't go anywhere, it just becomes more manageable at times. Ask a tightrope walker twenty feet off the ground if they're no longer "afraid" of being suspended that high. I'll bet they say that they still get afraid, they've just had enough experience to know that even if they do fall, they were doing what they wanted and needed to do with their life--so what does it matter?

To truly be a writer, I have to allow myself to accept that there will always be an element of fear in what I do. Perhaps as I gain more experience and more confidence in my ability, I won't dwell on it as often. But I'll never completely be at ease with the knowledge that no matter how much success I might achieve or how far I go, the next second--I could fall.


The Rigors of Writing

Usually when you read a blog post about writing you're looking for valuable writing tips, like how to build your characters or develop your plot. But after I've jumped back into writing consistently, I've realized that there are other challenges to being a writer.

My back and neck ache!

After being hunched in front of the computer for hours, whether I'm in a straight-backed chair or trying to get comfy on the couch, it's not long before my muscles start tensing. My jaw beings to ache. My lower back throbs. So, I've asked my chiropractor (who also happens to be my husband!) for help. Here's what he told me:

1) Take frequent breaks. Okay, this one may not be easy, especially when your creative juices are flowing and  you're almost through with a thought or scene. But seriously. If you've been sitting in one place for an hour, it's time for a break. So get up!

2) And while you're up, try some of these stretches.
      *Clasp your hands behind your back and try to pull your elbows together. Stretch...breath...relax. Repeat!
      * Find a doorway and press the front of one shoulder against the frame. Now step slightly forward, which will extend your pectoralis muscles. Repeat on the other side.
      * With some deep breathing, tilt your head toward one shoulder. Now roll slightly forward until you come to the other shoulder, completing the circle backwards until you're back in neutral position.

4)  For the ultimate break, completely relax by laying down on your back with a small neck roll underneath your neck. That will help to readjust the natural curve in your neck and counteract all that leaning forward we writers do. You deserve it!

5) Lastly, take into consideration your workspace. You should have your keyboard slightly below elbow height (like sitting at a piano). Keep your screen up more at eye level if possible. Your chair should be supportive and not allow you to slump. And if you have a small footrest to elevate your feet, that's helpful too.

So there you have it! Help avoid the rigors of writing so you can write on!