On Creativity


Breathing out Birds by Roni Amin


I’ve been fighting with my muse lately.


It’s not that he/she/it hasn’t been talking to me, which is usually my problem.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I actually want to write lately, which has been a feeling that’s been hard to come by lately.  No, lately my problem has been to find the energy.


And the self-confidence.


The first is a lot easier to control: it means getting enough sleep and eating right and exercising, and making sure that I’m being nice to myself.  I’m still recovering from a very difficult time in my life and, if anything, have a bad habit of over-extending myself, especially on days when I feel well (like yesterday, where I helped my fiance clean his old room at his parents’ house – he was still storing stuff there – and then went shopping for house stuff, food, and new fish for the aquarium, and then went to a NaNoWriMo monthly meet).  That leads to days like Friday and Saturday, where I basically lay on the couch watching TV all day.  Neither of these days are particularly conducive to being productive in a writing sense, but there you have it…


No, that part is easy.  The self-confidence thing is a heck of a lot harder.  For example, this week, my wonderful, amazing fiance posted to social media that he had nine (NINE!) novel ideas lying in wait for when he only had the time. A lot of my writing friends claim to have the same problem – more ideas than time.  I have the opposite.  It’s rare for me to have a novel idea pop into my head.  I find that I really have to work at it to make them show up, which makes me worry that they might actually be not all that good.  Because it seems to be so easy for everyone else…


So I had a crisis of confidence this week, because I’m clearly doing this writing thing wrong if I don’t have nine or ten more ideas than I could ever write (which is funny, in retrospect, since all I’ve been able to think about has been the sequels to the book I’m currently writing, and how awesome the series is).  And it sucked, because I had finally, after nearly two years of forcing myself, felt like I was starting to re-discover the passion I had for writing.  And spending hours trapped in the conviction that I was absolutely no good at it was frustrating and maybe a little damaging.  Fortunately, I have a partner who’s well used to my confidence issues and knew all the right things to say to make me feel better.  Sometimes it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re trapped in negativity. I’m glad I have him around to be positive on occasion.


So I’m being nice to myself this week.  I’m not pushing the writing (there will be time enough for that in July).  Instead, I’m catching up on sleep and trying to feel better physically (because the last few months have been bad for that).  I’m also trying to focus on positive thoughts and reminding myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, I just need to learn how to look at everyday situations in a different light.  Of course, I think that requires me to be a little less exhausted…


How do you react when you realize you’re doing something “wrong”?

Blue Monday


Image by Ron Bennetts


So, today was apparently “Blue Monday”.  The most depressing day of the year where the holiday bills are starting to catch up and the resolutions are starting to be broken.  And yet, I feel pretty good today.


Some of that is undoubtedly because I just got off the treadmill and I always feel better when I exercise.  I didn’t do much, just a slow walk while watching some TV on my iPad, but since we only just got the treadmill set up yesterday, it seemed to go pretty well.  So far I’m pleased with the setup – it’s got internal speakers and a perfect platform for my iPad, is nice and smooth for walking/running on, and even has flat armrests that I can use to support a walking desk!  No more sedentary clicking around on Facebook for me!


Some of it is also because I again got more positive feedback at work today and, although the job is proving challenging, I do feel like it is kind of something that I can do.  It means juggling priorities and personalities, but at least I’m starting to feel like the team likes me and is supporting both me and the project.  Also, positive feedback right before a three month review is a good thing!


But really, I think the main reason that I feel pretty good is actually a more general one.  I haven’t done much writing in the last three weeks, although I have made a point of working a little more on my goals of spending more time planning and editing and I have a couple of semi-secret projects I’m working on (one of which I will reveal shortly), but I’ve also made my health my priority as well.


The term “blue” has meant a lot to me for the last couple of years, as I’ve been struggling on and off with Depression and stress.  My health has been generally not all that good as I’ve been less conscientious about my eating and a lot more sedentary.  And I feel just gross because of it and my whole self is suffering.  But the changes I’m making (including the aforementioned treadmill and a new standing desk I’ll probably blog about later) are making me feel positive even if I only started them in earnest today.  It didn’t hurt that I managed to eat “right” with little to no temptation today and that my partner has issued a walking challenge to get me a little more active during my days.


Without getting too introspective, I think that Blue Monday is a good day for me to change my negative mental, physical, and emotional states that have kept me from enjoying life as much as I might like.  And if I feel better, sleep better, and look better, I’ll be happy.  Besides, I might just find that I get more inspiration for writing too!

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?


Originally posted February 12, 2012 (before the disaster)



Photo from Dreamstime


A little like the gibbon above, I was clinging to my sanity this week.


It’s not that I’m a particularly unstable person, but every so often (once or twice a year), things combine to create the perfect storm of stress in my world.  I don’t always handle stress very well or, rather, I handle it well until it builds up to a certain point after which I just can’t take more of it.  Here’s what hit me this week:

  1. My day job is very stressful and involves working with people (both teammates and clients) with whom I don’t always see eye to eye.
  2. My writing life wasn’t going very well.  I was anxious about the critiques that I sent out last week, and was beginning to feel like the novel I’m currently re-writing just wasn’t going the way that I wanted it to.
  3. I wasn’t sleeping well, so was tired and a bit depressed.
  4. My boyfriend was busy and not sleeping very well either, meaning that our quality time together was… lacking.
  5. My cats are little brats who like to try and trip me and pee on my clothes.


When I write it all out like that, it doesn’t seem like much, but each of those items had been building for a month or more.  Items 1 and 2, with some “help” from item 3, managed to bring me down this week.


Unfortunately, item 1 isn’t something that I can fix very easily without changing jobs, although I am working with management to try to improve things within the company (one of the perks of being with a small company for nearly four years is that management are friends and tend to listen to what you’re saying).  I hope that things will get better soon, but in the meantime, it’s also the stressful time of year in my industry, where everyone’s trying to get everything done right NOW.


Fortunately, item 2 seems to have resolved itself (for now).  Most of my critiques were positive, although one critiquer in particular had some very thought-provoking things to say about the structure of my novel.  Given that I’m currently at “that point” in the novel where I’m questioning its direction and purpose, that hit me a little harder than I’d been expecting.  Still, the short story that I submitted gained some rave reviews, and I’ll probably start sending it out to publishers once I’ve tidied it up a bit.  That’s exciting, and heartening, even if “Fighter One” isn’t going quite the way I want it to… yet.


Items 3 and 4 seem to slowly be sorting themselves out as we make more and more positive changes to our lifestyle (more on that in another blog post!)  And item 5 will probably never change.  Cats will be cats!


Although writing may be stressful in and of itself, with characters that never do what you expect them to, plots veering off in unexpected directions, the dreaded Writer’s Block, and the stresses associated with an unpredictable but particular audience, I still maintain that I could manage them better than the more immediate and personal stress of my day job.


It remains my dream to figure that out one day.


What about you?  What is your major source of stress?