How are you? I mean that sincerely. How are you?
It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. Maybe you’re cycling through a gamut of emotions that starts with shock or fear then moves through grief, overwhelm, and boredom only to return to shock and fear.
I’ve spoken with many writers who are struggling to make it to the page. When they do, nothing comes out. That’s understandable. The part of our brains that handle the fight-or-flight response is being inundated with frightening messages. We call that emotion center the amygdala. When the amygdala is overtaxed, it’s physically harder to think. On top of that, many of us don’t have the heart space needed for our most vulnerable projects.
Be gentle with yourself.
Writing can still serve you even if you’re not feeling creative.
Keep a daily journal. We are living through a historic event. Record your thoughts, observations, and feelings. Make note of the weather. Collect random thoughts from social media, the news, and things others say to you. The more surprising the better.
If nothing else, your journal will remind you of what happened. Some of those facts could one day make it into an essay, memoir, short story or novel. More importantly, writing down your fears and troubling thoughts helps you let them go. They can live on the page rather than in your body or brain. This can reduce your cortisol level, boost your mood, and give you a sense of creative accomplishment.
Five minutes is all you need. If your mind wanders, no problem. All you’re doing is journaling. There’s no end goal. If you run out of things to write about, you can even write about that.
Practice gratitude. Every day during this crisis brings us a new set of challenges, but good things are also happening. Spring flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. You have access to the internet. Being grateful for what’s going well can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and make life more pleasant.
Here are a few ways you can practice gratitude:
- At the end of each writing session, record one thing you’re grateful for.
- Start a gratitude journal. Write down one gratitude at the beginning of the day, one at lunchtime, and one before bed. The next morning, read your journal then start again. If you’re tech-savvy, you can download the Five-Minute Journal and use it to store your answers.
- Develop a daily thanksgiving ritual: Before dinner, have each person at the table state one thing they’re grateful for.
- Write a letter or email of gratitude to someone who’s influenced your life.
Creativity requires a mind that is active and yet relaxed. This is something few of us feel at the moment. One thing is still true. Your stories have not gone anywhere. They’re just giving you room to cope with your COVID-19 challenges.
If you’re ready to start a gratitude practice, post one gratitude in the comments section of this blog post. You never know who you might encourage. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter and join my daily gratitude challenge.
Be well. Stay healthy. When you’re ready, write on.