This past week I experienced one of the bigger problems in writing; Procrastinating until the last second.
Normally I’m a girl who is on top of her deadlines and starts stuff early and leaves enough time to edit. But sometimes a paper (in my case) sneaks up on you and all of a sudden you can’t think or write but you know you have to.
I have found several little things that help get through the stress without making me feel awful the next day. It comes down to three things: food, fitness, and fun.
In the case of my paper, I had waited until the day before to write it. The one good thing I had going for me is that I had a thesis and some sources already together. It was by no means a full paper, but it did give me some breathing space so I wasn’t completely overwhelmed.
The first thing that I am careful with is food. I’m a stress eater but my body reacts badly to eating lots of chocolate and chips. What I do is make sure that I have lots of fresh veggies in my apartment. They are high in fiber, have lots of water, and I feel full faster from a bag of carrots than from a bag of chips. Since I know I’m a stress eater, I hide all the chocolate. If possible, do not buy or have any of the bad food in the house so then you can’t even be tempted to go searching through the cupboards for it.
Another important thing with food is cutting out the caffeine. In highly stressful situations, your adrenaline is already on high. Adding caffeine to this just wears you down rather than keep you sharp. A great alternative is peppermint tea. It is caffeine free but still gives you that burst of sharpness. Plus, peppermint tea boosts your memory, which when writing is a really great thing to have sharp.
After food comes fitness. This may seem impossible, especially when you know you have X amount of hours before it has to be handed in. Well, I’m not saying go for a two-hour run. For myself, as I get through each stage of writing I take a 5-minute break and do something quick. I find doing 35 jumping jacks really clears my mind and my tiredness. IF you think that’s too easy, try it some time and let me know how it goes. The first 10 are easy, after that you start feeling it. Other things to do are some full body stretches (because you’ve been sitting for hours) or just letting loose to a sick dance beat (for the entire song).
With the food and fitness taken care of, you’re now feeling sharp and powerful as you start working on the writing. But sometimes the project is longer than a day. If that’s the case, then fun becomes the last key ingredient keeping you motivated and writing. For myself, with that paper, I went and had a skype chat with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long while. Talking out my issues and fears with her helped me let go of them and just get down to work. I also called my boyfriend and talked with him and talked about his day. Sometimes a little bit of distraction and a lot of venting can help release a lot of the stress. Afterwards, you feel capable of sitting down and getting it done.
I know a lot of writers have a process they always follow, like wearing high-heels or only writing in the morning. These things can be as much of a help as a hinderance. If you find yourself stuck, no matter what, and the stress just keeps mounting, try these three things out; food, fitness, fun.
In the wise words of my mother, “It can’t hurt anymore trying it than to just leave things as they are.”