And as much as I'm trying to "stay calm and carry on," I know it's natural to worry about things like getting to the post office on time to mail packages, or keeping the refrigerator stocked with more than toaster strudels. What isn't acceptable is getting equally worked up about the times I can't get to my art and writing, thanks to things like moving. I've also discovered that the #1 reason I worry is because I've neglected following my previously-posted 10 tips on how to stay creative every day. For instance, the times I've managed to not have pen and paper handy while waiting for the cable installer to show up, or then trying to write with a faulty pen I found in the trash.
During more settled times, my other "creative" worries can stem from not feeling "good or smart enough" to be a writer or an artist at all. (Tip #8, "Don't compare yourself to others" is the true root of this problem.) Or worrying about not having enough time to accomplish all the amazing goals swirling through my mind, especially in the middle of the night. I'm sure we've all been there, and I'm sure we've all done as much as we can to avoid the worry track, but if you're still feeling stuck and can't see a wait out, here are some ways to approach the anxiety:
- Worrying wastes energy--energy that can be used for creative work. A good trick is to simply write out or express your worries through any art form: clay, collage, even dancing.
- Some people are fuelled by worry--and that's okay if it helps get the work done. What isn't okay is wasting other people's time by incessantly voicing those worries, being the kind of worrywart Julia Cameron has referred to as a "toxic friend," someone who wants to stop your work while they complain about their own. Avoid at all costs!
- Take action! Do one small task toward your goal every day, no matter how small. For instance, because I've had zero time to write, I've been collecting visual bits and pieces for a collage about this current time in my life. It only takes a few minutes, but it does help me feel that I'm doing something.
- Procrastinating is a form of worry that is self-perpetuating and can only add to your worries. That's why schedules and routines are so important to keep. Even if you only designate 15 minutes a day as the bare minimum where you MUST work on your project, do it.
- Feeling like your work isn't matching the picture in your head? This is a big one for me. Yet no one else can possibly imagine what I'm envisioning as the perfect story or perfect painting. The same for you, so just be proud of the work you have accomplished and keep going forward. And never, ever point out to others what you think are your work's flaws, or apologize for what you think is "wrong."
- The sense of being overwhelmed by all that's required to finish any major piece can be pretty worry-making. So while it's admirable to be able to see the whole picture while you're creating, it can also seem like such a huge job to complete it can keep you from ever finishing the darn thing. To counter this, concentrate on a small portion of the work: for instance, just blocking in the hands on a portrait, or just outlining Chapter 7, or looking for new ways to build and increase tension and conflict scene-by-scene.
- "What if?" is a great question when you're writing a novel or short story, but it's a lousy way to try to get some sleep: What if I can't meet my deadline? What if I get a bad review? What if my manuscript is rejected? Stop! Listen to music, meditate, stop and smell the roses.
- And have a contingency plan in place: During your down times make a list of positive reviewers who read your book's genre; write up a new daily schedule that will allow you to meet your deadline; prepare manuscript submission packages in advance so that you can send out your work to as many readers as possible.