The past couple of weeks have been stressful, and the next couple of weeks promise to be more so. See, I'm releasing a book this Friday. I'm also having surgery. Yes, the same day. It was either that or ruin Christmas with my kids, and I would rather miss a release day. I've been scrambling to get everything finished ahead of time, get my ducks in a row, deal with the anxiety of going under the knife, finish my next book's rough draft that is a month overdue... I know all about STRESS with a capital S (and every other letter, for that matter!). Luckily I've been able to handle it much better than I did last year, when stress just about landed me in the hospital (and not because I needed surgery). I've learned how to deal, and one of the key ways I've dealt with the chaos is through journaling.
I know what you're thinking -- well, mostly. I resisted journaling for a long time. "It just doesn't work for me," I'd say. "I can't remember to journal every day." Or "Journaling is for teenage girls." Or even "I don't have time to write pages about my feelings -- I need to write pages on my next book!" But all the excuses in the world weren't helping me deal with the stress that had taken over my life and the physical effects it was having on my body.
So I gave in.
“Art is born in attention,” Julia Cameron says in The Artist's Way. “The reward for attention is always healing.” What I found in my own life was that the chaos created by my expectations, demands, and limits kept me from paying attention to my creative voice. I had to get rid of all the chaos to find my creative path again -- so I began writing it all down.
Sounds weird, huh? But that's honestly what I did. Nothing fancy. No following the writing rules or even making sense at some points. I just put pen to paper and let whatever come out. Anything and everything that popped into my mind, it went onto the page at the beginning of the day. Cameron calls these "morning pages," but I've found that they help at any time of the day, whenever the chaos overwhelmed me. I even had my daughter journaling at night before bed, when worry would keep her from sleeping. I call it "brain drain," draining out all the emotion and worry and chaos onto the page so I don't have to carry it around with me.
And you know what? Despite all my protesting, it really works. I don't try to solve anything (though I might write down possible solutions as they come to me). I don't try to explain away what I'm feeling. I just put it down on paper. I leave it there, and often it actually stays put. :) Grab a spiral notebook, nothing fancy, and get everything out.
As time goes on, I find myself having to write less. Oh, I still write every day, but not for an hour. Often now my journaling sessions evolve into plotting sessions for my latest project. It's as if the dam has opened up and my creativity now has the ability to flow without the blockage of stress and worry. As the past couple of weeks have devolved into stress, I've journaled a little more, and found relief there. Yes, there is still a lot to do, and yes, I am still going into the hospital, but I'm not carrying the weight of the world around inside my head, trying to solve everything that needs to be solved. I can put it down on paper and leave it there for a little while.
If you're struggling with stress and worry and find it making you sick and stealing your creativity, this is one thing you can explore that just might help. I know it has me. One step at a time, one little positive move forward. Piled one on top of the other, they can be your building blocks to a healthier, more creative life. Just try it.