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Archive for May, 2010

Using Writing to Reduce Stress

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Using Writing to Reduce Stress

“You worry too much”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I would be rich. Despite this, I realize it is a major character flaw for me. I do worry too much and I stress about things that I should not stress about. However, the worrying and stressing are all part of who I am and how I choose to handle the psychological side effects of my character flaws is up to me.

I have found that writing is therapuetic. It doesn’t matter what I am writing about, as long as I am writing about something. I could write in a journal, a seperate blog I am keeping or work on one of the three stories that I am currently in the process of creating. I could even start a few more story lines I have been happily entertaining in my head but have not written down on paper, yet.

Sometimes the results of stress lead me to a storyline. For example when my sister in-law was in critical condition following a horrible car accident, I had a re-occuring dream that the Grim Reaper/Death was stalking me. He would appear at odd times, give me a non-verbal warning and then disappear almost as quickly as he had come. I was also in my first semester of college and attending college full time and working 25-30 hours a week as a cashier for a large retailer. My stress level was unbelievably high and I was too busy to come up with a constructive outlet for my stress.

That particular dream continued through out her hospital stay and when she was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital the dreams suddenly stopped. However, because of this dream, I developed a story line that I am toying with as part of another story that I am currently writing. That other story is also from a dream I had several years ago.

When I am stressed, I find that my creative juices are usually flowing and I can actually work on a story for hours and come away feeling completely relaxed. My brain is working overtime anyway, so why not take advantage of that fact and put it to good use? Usually when my brain is on overtime, I find that I do my best work on my stories.

Stress and the situations that provoke stressful feelings in us can be used as inspirations in our writing and can also lead us to write fairly good stories or develop some good story lines for use in the future. That is where a writing journal comes in handy. If you cannot find the time to write for hours because your schedule simply does not allow it, you can write yourself a quick note in your writing journal. When you have a chance days, weeks or months in the future, you can bring out the journal and work out the ideas you wrote down previously.

Starting A New Story

Monday, May 10th, 2010

One of my biggest challenges with writing a story is getting started. As an example, I had a hard time working on my newest novel idea this past week. While this was partly because of other commitments in my personal life, another part of the struggle was understanding the high level story arc.

In my current story, I have great intro–a thousand words of action that give the reader a pretty good sense of the intended story. The intro came to me in moments, colors and scents of this new world rushing to me almost like a memory. These first thousand words were easy to write, in a large part because I just had to write down what my mind’s eye saw perfectly clear.

Even so, while the intro is compelling and exciting, I struggled with where to go next.

While I understood the high level idea (a conflict between two parties, where the reader has to decide who to root for), I struggled with getting the abstract down to something I can actually create.

I finally had to sit myself down for a frank discussion. “George,” I said, for that’s what I call myself…everyone else calls me ‘Mike’, “You know where you’re starting. Now all you have to do is figure out where you want to go. Once you figure that out, just think about the steps you need to get there.”

That helped. But it only got me halfway there. The truth is, I’m not 100% sure where it is that I want to go. The story is more important than the destination.

So I compromised.

Instead, I’ve planned out the next three chapters, and once those are finished, I’ll start to think more about where the story should wrap up. Sometimes I change my direction mid-course anyway, so not knowing where I’m going isn’t a big deal.

Besides, this is just the beginning. I know I have about a hundred thousand words to go, so there’s some time for me to figure out some of the details.

Why is the ending important anyway?

The big reason I want to figure out an ending is that I want to know when my story is complete. Once you know where the ending is, you can start to figure out how close you are to completing your novel. It’s something that helps for planning purposes, especially since my goal is to have this particular story ready for review by an agent in about 6 months.

Planning a book is like any other project. Having a plan helps you to understand whether you’re ahead of schedule or behind.

As of this point, I’m sure I’m behind. But now I have a plan to figure out the ending, and see how far I have to go. This will also help me to know how far I have to go in order to catch up. Six months is an aggressive goal for any novel-length work, but I’ve decided that I need to start setting goals so I can make progress every day.

I’ll keep folks updated with my word count each week. Eventually, I may even start showing graphs of the work. This should be a good way to encourage myself to keep making progress.

Current word count: 940 (~1% complete)

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