Writing requires energy. Life requires energy! What fuel are you running on?
Many people these days are frantically running from place to place, working too many hours, volunteering for too many projects, working nights and weekends (partly) because of a need for approval.
They are fueled by sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and adrenaline to keep going. You might get more done short-term this way, but if this is your fuel, you’re injuring your health in the long run.
Last week in the online retreat workshop, we talked about “destressing the writing life.” Before we can do much, we have to destress life in general, I think.
I don’t need to tell you that we live “on alert” these days. We are bombarded from so many information sources. We allow ourselves to be at the beck and call of anyone who rings our cell phone or shoots us an email. Adrenaline is used like a drug, pushing tired bodies to work faster and harder. The end result is a crash-and-burn depletion of your reserves.
Go Against the Flow
Do you want to have a long-term writing life? Do you want to have enough energy to write longer than a 30-day NaNoWriMo stint? Then while you still have time–while you still have your health–I urge you to develop a counter-cultural lifestyle. Look at your life now. Make a list of the things that have stressed you out this past week.
No groceries in the cupboard because a meeting ran late and you couldn’t stop at the store? Phone call from a teacher saying little Johnny forgot his required permission slip for the day’s field trip? A bounced check? Having to work late at night while everyone else is sleeping, just to keep life from derailing?
All of these things make us run on adrenaline that wears down our bodies. And much as we might argue otherwise, all of these things are preventable.
Replace the Old with the New
Habits that cause you to run on adrenaline are habits that need to be replaced. I can’t tell you which habits you need to exchange, but I can share some of mine.
For one thing, I’ve noticed that for six months, I’ve arrived places out of breath and a little bit late, and I go tearing into meetings or classes after the program has begun. So embarrassing. I sweat it on the way to the meeting, and backed-up traffic skyrockets my blood pressure. I hate to waste time, so I hate arriving somewhere early and waiting. Solution? To avoid the adrenaline rush, I plan to leave early enough to arrive early, but take work or a book along, stay in the parking lot and write or read, then walk in calmly ten minutes before the class starts.
I have also noticed that the days I DON’T run on adrenaline are the days I start with exercise and devotional reading and prayer. And yet, too many times lately, I’ve awakened feeling energetic, considered the two hours I’d lose if I stuck to my exercise/relaxation regimen, and jumped into work instead. Make hay while the sun shines, right? Mostly, I’ve made headaches and a sore back and neck. I need to remember that my health regimen actually saves me time in the long run. And I run those days, not on adrenaline, but on healthy energy supplies.
I am going to set a boundary on working in the evenings. I couldn’t see what difference it would make if, while watching a good movie with my husband or chatting, I also answered some email questions and deleted hundreds of blog spam and updated my websites. Most of it was “no think” activity, so what did it harm? A lot, I think now. My mind won’t shut off when I shut off the computer to go to bed. My neck and back hurt terribly by then. And I feel disgruntled, like I haven’t had any free time at all that day.
We must convince ourselves that it’s not selfish to slow down and live at a sane pace, to build in a buffer zone or margin around activities so you can make a slow, smooth transition from one thing to another. What’s that old saying? “We’re supposed to be human beings, not human doings.”
It’s Up to You
No one can make the change for you. And frankly, many people in your life who are used to calling the shots and like all the work you accomplish won’t help you make changes. But make them you must. If you want to have a decent quality of life, you’ll have to step outside this current “hurry frantically” electronic culture of ours, and figure out what works for YOU to have a saner, happier life.
Take this month when you have some slower time (even if it’s only when waiting in line to mail packages) and think about how you want 2012 to be different. Wishing won’t make it so–but putting a stop to certain behaviors and starting other healthier habits, can.
Running on premium fuel instead of adrenaline will make you more productive, less stressed, and be better for your health. Saner writers are happier, more productive writers. And doesn’t that sound appealing?