Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Stop Worrying and Start Writing

My list with my fuel and my work
Lists are usually thought of as some of the least creative writing a person can do. They have even been used as the low end comparison for terrible writing. For example, "My grocery lists have more narrative voice!"

But, like all simple things of utility, lists can have their place in a writer's life. Especially when that life is not simply a "writer's life."

I work full time (as a school psychologist--a position prone to high stress and bouts of crisis.) I am the mother of two kids. And I, like many women I know, am the acting ring leader of our household circus.

And as if that were not enough, I write books that have nothing to do with any of the above.

On any given day, I can wake up and immediately feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of actions items that need to be performed across the multiple domains of my life. These "must dos" spin, and crash, and fight for space in my brain. They make my heart race and my anxiety levels shoot through the roof, every one of them begging me to "Start with me! I'm the most important thing here!" So much drama--and I haven't even gotten out of bed yet!

Sound familiar?

Left unorganized, it has been my experience that all the THINGS can leave me in a complete state of paralysis in which NOTHING gets done. As an aside, this personal paralysis does not, I repeat, DOES NOT serve to reduce anxiety.

Ever wonder how impossible it is to write fiction when your brain is busy worrying about: day-job responsibilities; doctor appointments; scheduling flights; laundry; dishes; being out of milk, and eggs, and peanut butter; tooth fairy money; your office is a mess; your son's science project; there is something growing in the upstairs bathroom; paying bill; refinancing your mortgage; blah, blah, blah.

Enter, THE LIST.

Lists, for me, are the non-medicated solution to this anxiety because, the second I write the "must do" down, my brain stops worrying about remembering to do it. Lists have the power of a personal promise to yourself--This is what I will do today. Lists help your brain see, in a very concrete way, exactly what needs to happen in your life. They provide the structure to prioritize those things.

And when my brain stops worrying about ALL THE THINGS, it is able to think creatively about my characters, settings, and plot. My lists help to shut off all the noise so that my brain can tune into writing books.

So, while lists are hardly the most creative writing I do in a day, they are often the most powerful tool that helps me get to my writing.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely a list writer too! It does help with the chaos and make it more understandable. I actually took a creative writing class in college where one our our assignments was to make a list! Our whole story was only a list and we learned all about our character that way. It was a fun list activity! :)