Flying High


Photo from Dreamstime

This week, I drugged my cat.


No, not with anything illegal, and not without the enthusiastic agreement of my veterinarian.


You see, he hates his vet with a fiery passion that has led to the drawing of some blood from an unfortunate vet tech and the near injury of some of the rest of us.  He wasn’t always like this, but one year he decided that he didn’t like the way that his vet smelled and annual visits have been difficult for us all ever since.  Unfortunately, he has one of those coming up.


This year we’re trying a sedative to ease him through the visit (hopefully it will all be a beautiful dream).  Like a responsible pet owner I tried the sedative out in advance of the visit.  I naively thought that it would work, but it turned out that it didn’t calm my cat so much as it made him manically snugly and kept him (and thus us) up all night crying.  Last night I tried a different combination the vet prescribed, which seemed to work a lot better.


But what does all of this have to do with writing?


I’m glad you asked, because it’s quite simple.  Tuesday night, when my poor boy was wandering the house crying and couldn’t settle, he kept us all up with his woe.  And really, isn’t that what characters do?  Keep nagging us about everything that’s wrong in their lives until we just sit down and solve their problems for us.


At least my characters do that.  Your mileage may vary.


I didn’t want to drug my cat, and I’ve tried every other option before getting to this point.  That’s similar to writing too: sometimes we all have to do things that we don’t want to do.  I don’t want to kill characters, or torture them, or hurt them, or really put them in any bad situations at all!  I like my characters, in a way that I can only hope the reader will too.  But it’s for the growth of the character and ultimately the good of the story, so I must sometimes do things to my wonderful characters that I hate doing.


I suppose that’s part of what being a writer is all about: listening to the story and helping it unfold in the way that it wants to be.  And I guess sometimes that’s easy and other days it keeps us up all night and leaves us surviving off coffee for the rest of the day.


When was the last time something kept you up all night?

Seven Tips for Passing the Stress Test

Skeletal hands

Image from Dreamstime


I posted a little while ago about some stresses I was dealing with.   I’m sure my post made it sound like nothing, but I’ll admit to minimizing things a little bit (typing out every little detail that was stressing me was, in itself, stressful.  And not really necessary to the point that I was trying to make).


I don’t particularly want to end up in a situation depicted in the photograph above and I’ve been consciously working on reducing my stress levels lately.  (Regardless of the fact that small bursts of stress may make you live longer, I know that high, prolonged levels are bad for me, personally.)


I certainly can’t claim to be an expert, but I have been, generally, feeling better over the last two weeks.  It may help that a major source of my work stress was removed just after I returned from vacation when I was essentially removed from a project.  It meant a little bit of personal pain, as I initially felt like I had failed, but it eventually turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.


So what are some other things that I am doing to reduce my stress load (and help my mind and body heal)?  Here’s my top seven:


1. Eat Right.  I’m still failing somewhat on this one in that I have an ongoing love affair with anything chocolate.  Add that to the fact that all of my favourite Easter treats are out in the store and… well, you get the idea.  Still, I’ve been making an effort to eat healthy balanced meals, getting the right supplements into my routine, and cutting back on the sugary snacks.


2. Reduce Caffeine (and Sugar).  Again, not doing so well on the sugar thing, but I have not had a cup of coffee in over three weeks (decaf notwithstanding – sometimes a hot drink in the morning is pleasant).  It’s certainly not hurt my moods and it’s nice to not need something to help get me going in the morning.


3. Get Enough Sleep.  I try at this one, with varying levels of success.  I am quite frequently tired at bedtime (a far cry from my previous bouts with insomnia) and sleep deeply, although not always through the night (having a cat walk across your head is a bit distracting).  My partner and I have also managed to return to our normal routine after our vacation, which helps a great deal.


4. Reduce my Workload.  This one is kind of two-fold.  The first part was that I am no longer working as much on my difficult project, but the second is that I recently cut back my work hours from 8 hours a day to 7.5 (I am lucky to have a flexible work schedule).  This doesn’t sound like much, but it keeps me from staying late like I am known to do and lets me catch the same bus every morning and night.  Now I don’t have to take the crowded train, and get to relax while the express bus takes me right to where I need to be!


5. Do Things for Me.  These include playing with kitties, visiting my godson, talking with friends, knitting, reading, writing, or walking around at the zoo.  Taking time just for myself is one of the better things that I’ve started to do.  Recently, this meant passing up a free ticket to a fancy dinner with coworkers.  I think I benefited more from the time spent at home than from a late night out.


6. Maintaing Healthy Relationships.  When I am really stressed, good friend and family are invaluable.  Usually they manage to cheer me up and deflect my negative thoughts for a while.  In the worst case, they listen to me vent about what is stressing me and can offer suggestions I might not see myself.


7. Relaxing.  Hot baths, a good book, writing, knitting, watching TV, playing with kitties, or even just reading an amusing blog all help me relax and forget about my troubles.  Meditation and bio-feedback, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can also work, although I find it hard to focus my thoughts for long enough to be successful.  Something to keep working at, I suppose!


What are your top tips for beating stress?