Wednesday, October 12, 2011

That Thing Called Stress

Do you ever have one of those months where you feel like like you're constantly swimming underwater--minus the scuba equipment? Where each time you pop your head up for some air, a big wave pushes you under again? That's been the last four weeks for me.

Some of it--like one of our cats suddenly dying--was out of my control. But, if you're like me, anything out of your control is especially hard to deal with. In fact, the hardest part of the writing business for me, is not the writing or plotting or idea generating. It's the waiting. It's the stuff we leave to our agents and publishing houses. It's the selling of the book. It's everything we can't help. I like being in control. I hate limbo. And that's a post for another time....

So back to the stress. Losing Amelia was very hard, and I'm still dealing with that. Also, in the last few weeks, I started two teaching jobs (one on Sundays with h.s. students and one during the week as an adjunct professor), and my son began Pre-K at a new school. These last three things I brought on myself. Silly me decided that I needed more work outside of writing to take my mind off the writing things I couldn't control. So now I have A LOT of other things to think about. As for the new school, that was my idea too.

How, pray tell, does this all relate to food? Negatively.

I'm one of those people who doesn't eat when she's stressed. Nothing looks appealing. I may grab a banana, but it's a chore for me to it. People often talk about comfort food. Well, when I feel like I'm being pulled under, that doesn't exist for me. In the same way, books don't comfort me either during high stress. I find that I can't enjoy what I'm reading. I read the same words over and over and then get jittery and toss the book aside (well, not really toss; I gently put it away. Not the book's fault I'm a mess).

So what does work? Just riding the wave, waiting it out, slowly lifting myself from the water, rather than pushing up fiercely to be knocked down again.

What else? Meticulous, banal work that I normally would want to avoid. Like copyedits. My next novel, PIECES OF US, is coming out in March, and my copyedits are due tomorrow. I'm almost finished. In the past, I would have already been done, but I don't mind savoring them. With each small correction I fix, I feel a little more in control. I don't have to think much either. Just fix a comment as directed. It makes me feel like I have a better handle on everything else. Who would have thought I would be thrilled to do copyedits? But, these days, they're making me feel accomplished.

Same goes for food. While I won't make a huge pot of mac and cheese, I'll grab a handful of nuts. A box of raisins. Coffee (Ok, not exactly sustenance but I can make an argument in its favor). Little things add up to real plates of food. When I write, it's the same way. Usually, little scenes here and there that I eventually connect to make one big manuscript. Funny how my writing personality and food personality are intertwined.


  1. I like the idea of "riding the wave rather than pushing up fiercely to be knocked down again." It sounds so much gentler than the way I usually approach things--and worth a try! :)

  2. Oh my goodness I cannot imagine not being able to escape into a book! On the other hand, I wouldn't mind being one of those people who can't eat when stressed. I can definitely eat when stressed - especially foods that fall into the chocolate and deep-fried categories.

  3. What's that saying, 'What doesn't kill us makes us stronger'? Not sure about the wisdom there, but I can relate to your stressful month. Most importantly, don't forget to take care of yourself while you're taking care of the rest of the world. So sorry about your cat.

  4. Unfortunately, I am the EXACT opposite. When things get heavy in my house I run for the fridge. I seek that seratonin that can only be produced by Dove chocolate. Such a bad habit.

  5. I cannot eat when stressed either, so I tend to grab "power" food like nuts and whole grains when I do manage to eat. I am so sorry about the loss of your cat. :(

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