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Friday, December 22, 2017

WRITING TO RELIEVE STRESS by Sarah Wisseman


It started when I was in college. I’d be upset about something, usually a personal relationship, and write down some of my feelings. Or I’d be facing a critical decision point: where to live, what job to take, or whether to stay in a dead-end job.

Recently, we had some severe family stress that made me turn to writing again. Somehow, the act of putting down the facts, and separating them from my reactions, gave me perspective. I realized I was not crazy, only upset, and that my reasons for being upset were perfectly legitimate (when a loved one is threatened, I turn into a tiger!).

Perhaps being a writer of fiction is a handicap when dealing with emotions. As a writer, I am told over and over again that the way to heighten tension in a story is to ask myself: “how can I make a situation worse?” and then, “how can I make it even more awful?” Now I do that in real life, by imagining situations that haven’t happened, or may never happen. I can lie awake for hours in that gloomy space, spinning dreadful scenarios.

Back to reality: writing it down really helps. Sometimes it’s a monologue, sometimes it’s a list of pros vs. cons for making one decision over another. Seeing the words on paper gives me a little distance, as if I’m reading a psychology article or a story about someone else. Then I can remind myself, “Your worst nightmare has not happened! And guess what, it might not ever happen!” And best of all, a solution—or at least a constructive direction—can and does emerge.
 
Even better, I am not just avoiding finishing my next novel by journaling, I am exercising my writing muscles and my ability to choose the right words to say what I want to communicate. In fact, I am removing emotional clutter so I can return the novel in a better and more productive frame of mind.

The situation I was worried about is still there, but simmering away on a back burner. I can see hope ahead, and a chance that I can be helpful.


Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

2 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Sarah,

Happy holidays to you as well! First, let me say I love the painting you displayed. I'm assuming it's one of yours. Next, I agree with you about writing. Whenever I'm stressed I feel the need to write. My mind goes to that special, unique place where I have control. I also keep a daily journal.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Journaling rocks. It's so therapeutic. And sometimes those words grow into a story or a character or situation. It's amazing how writing is a part of our lives. Thank you for sharing.