By Liz, wishing for spring in Connecticut
Lately I feel like a walking self-help book. At least in my own head. Affirmations, sayings, mantras are all spinning around in a big jumble in my brain, the result of a desperate attempt to keep everything under control and smile while I’m doing it.
I have a tendency to get carried away by my thoughts – must be a writer thing – but when the deadlines are fast approaching, time seems to slip away and the to-do list is piling up instead of slimming down, those thoughts sometimes turn scary. Like, how the bleep am I ever going to get this all done?
But I knew this was a possibility. I planned for it. I tried – and succeeded – in getting a jump on both book deadlines. I am not procrastinating (that much, anyway). I am plotting like a fiend so I don’t get stuck in the mires of the middle and flounder, wasting time and energy. I am also constantly trying to reprogram my thoughts with the help of some of the greats.
Jessie Crockett wrote last week about bingeing on favorite TV episodes. Since New Year’s Eve, I’ve been bingeing too – but on motivational gurus like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and the like, all in hopes of keeping my monkey brain under control. I’ve dabbled in practices that I’ve either tried before or heard of that sounded good. Things like choosing an empowering word and focusing on that whenever my brain tries to derail itself. I actually picked two words: Inspired and effortless. Inspired to remind myself that the answers to all my plot problems will come if I just get out of the way, and effortless to remind myself that if I just focus my energy in a positive fashion, it will all get done.
I posted a quote in my writing area that one of my favorite teachers from grad school shared with us: Not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. A reminder that everyone in a creative endeavor feels that weight of “how will I ever get this done” but pushes on anyway, and gets it done.
I’ve also tried meditation in small doses – not my strong suit. I’ve latched on to Louise Hay’s affirmation There is plenty of time and space for everything I want to do today. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ve tried retreating to a quiet space, lighting some candles or doing something else aesthetically pleasing, and focusing on writing while keeping in mind the most important thing – this is what I love to do, and I’m blessed to be doing it.
Julie Hennrikus wrote a lovely post before the holidays about finding joy in what you’re doing instead of focusing on the next thing – a message I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind. In the same vein, I had a conversation with a friend recently who has been doing some coaching work. She shared a practice with me called The Power of a Better Question, all about corralling any negative thoughts and turning them into questions that promote positive answers. I’m still thinking through my power questions, but there is one that I’ve decided will be my mantra: How did I get so lucky?
This can apply to all areas of my life depending on where the overwhelm is coming from, but as the deadlines start to close in and the book doesn’t seem to be moving in the right direction, it’s especially pertinent. I am seeing my dream of being a published author come true. I have two series under contract, and countless possibilities ahead of me. And when I look at it that way, the deadlines don’t seem so scary anymore.
It will all get done. And I am very lucky.
Readers, how do you counter feelings of stress and overwhelm?