Z for short

"To write more, write more." This is my writing notepad.

Stress and creativity

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Stress interrupts the creative flow.

Writing prompt: Are you stressed out right now?

Have you ever been so absorbed in the task at hand that you forgot everything else around you? You work for hours without feeling tired, you’re alert, and ideas flow freely and effortless from your innermost source and translate into words, art or piano tones. Then you know what I mean by the creative flow, the state of mind where clarity and insight rule, where we create our most genuine and artistic work, whether we are writers, designers or musicians.

Then: BANG! The phone rings or someone says Earth calling, hello? You might find the interruption intrusive and feel irritated. It’s like the alarm clock in the morning, dragging you out from wherever you were in the dreamland.

When you’re ready to resume the writing or whatever you were doing, you might not instantly find the way back to where you left off. You get stressed, and the harder you try, the higher the stress levels. Stress is an efficient roadblock.

It doesn’t mean that you cannot write; you just write other types of text than in that all-mind-consuming state of consciousness. And maybe by writing more trivial texts or doing some much needed editing, you find your way back to the creative path.

When I get interrupted and want to continue writing, I find it useful to read through what I have already written, just to get into the right/write mode. Or I put the work aside altogether and do something else until I’m called back. I always carry a notepad and pen with me in case ideas pop up. It can happen anytime and anywhere, not always in convenient places. The mind works constantly, and the more we write the more inventive and encouraged it becomes and produces wonderful new word constructions and stories and ideas. “To write more, write more.”

I strongly believe that we can find the switch that lets us travel to and from that well of creation at will. Once we’ve been there, we know we can go back.

The one thing that I find the most stressful is my reluctance to write. The resistance is sometimes so strong that it seems like a physical barrier to overcome, despite my urge to write. When I cannot find the angle of an article immediately, I give up. I don’t want to put the blame on computers – I’m probably just another procrastinator – but it seems like the faster computers become, the more impatient I become. If a web page doesn’t load in two seconds, I Escape my way out rather than wait.

The result is that I’m not utilizing my writing talents fully, which leads to even more stress, which again might lead to a complete writer’s block.

There’s only one way to break that vicious cycle: Write. Just do it. The 1-post-a-day challenge has worked wonders in that respect. I feel like I’m not writing just for myself anymore. It’s an assignment. Every day I get a new topic to work on. It’s a task I need to fit into my daily schedule. No reluctance so far.

A couple of years ago I took a series of web writing, design and communication classes. When we were asked to write a communication-related article, I first chose to write about corporate blogging. After I had collected some 80 pages of info without finding a suitable angle, an entry point, for the article, I gave up and read about free writing in my text books.

I realized that I needed to take a more focused approach. One day, while walking home, I thought: If I don’t know what to write about, can I write about not knowing what to write? Suddenly, before my inner eye, I saw a guy sitting at his desk with a pencil behind his ear and his feet on the desk. His boss stops by and asks how the newsletter is progressing. “Sorry, boss,” my guy says, “I have writer’s block.” His tone is so casual that I know his block is not a long-lasting one. By the time I arrived home, I had an idea for an article about finding again the desire to write when you think you have failed. I called it “Sorry, boss, I have writer’s block.” As for the communication article, a new topic presented itself from above, so to speak, as the cabin crew of an airline went on strike for a second time in a short period of time. I wrote about how it might affect their corporate reputation in a competitive market.

So: Write. Just do it. Stress might interrupt the creative flow, but creativity beats stress.

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Written by Solveig Hansen

January 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

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