Monday, March 9, 2009

Writing and Stress

I've discovered that for me, writing stress comes as two different hats.

The first one is the kind of hat that denotes a professional. Like a chefs hat, or "toque blanche." It's still stress, but it's the kind of stress I love. My writing is going well, I've got the next few scenes plotted and I'm on top of my game. There's no pressure to clean or do laundry or cook. Time belongs to me and my work. The only stress is that at some point I must stop and take care of other things. Sleep, for example.

I wouldn't say I'm manic about my writing when it's flowing as smooth as buttah, but I am engaged. Like good roux, I'm ready to create something magnificent. The toque sits square on my head or at a jaunty angle, and I'm confident it won't fall off or be snatched away.

The second hat isn't really a hat. More of a hood. A dark, scary, lurking kind of hood. The Ghost of Christmas Future. (Did you ever connect it was a writer who came up with this?) This hat is all tied up in stress resulting from anxiety when I've not written for a period of time. Bony fingers poke me in the chest and tell me with a foul-smelling whisper that the jig is up.

This is the kind of stress that can become paralyzing. And paralyzation, or cessation of writing, is the only way a writer truly fails.

It's wonderful to have experienced both. Yes, really. With a hood looming and waiting, I don't get over-cocky when the toque is front and center. And when the hood is laying claim, I know that once I get the recipe fixed in my head, and the ingredients out on the counter, there won't be any time left for subterfuge or sabotage.

For a long time now I have tried to simply write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.


CR: The Chameleon's Shadow by Minette Walters. (Interesting aside . . . the paper in this book is noticeably thin, and the ink lighter. Just an FYI.)

It's all better with friends.

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