Tag Archives: Kerry Schafer

The Worry List

The Worry List – by Kerry Schafer

It’s hard to write when your head feels like the kitchen junk drawer. You know the one. It’s the place for random elastic bands and those little plastic things from bread bags. Coupons you’re going to use some day. The screw that inexplicably dropped out of the bottom of the kitchen table that you will definitely put back in. Soon.

Mine also holds three kinds of tape, scissors, flea medicine for the dog, and a roll of stick-on Christmas present labels.

Don’t judge.

If you don’t own a drawer like this you are probably still a good person, and you are welcome to borrow the image of mine for the duration of this analogy.

Anyway, let’s agree that your head is stuffed to the point of spilling over. So when you sit down at the computer to write about a galaxy far, far away, instead you find yourself thinking about the drooping plant, the car that needs a brake repair, finances, not spending enough time with your family, laundry, what are you going to make for dinner and OMG – that blog you should have written for RMFW days ago but somehow forgot.

Panic ensues. Now you really can’t write anything at all because you’re much too upset and you need to dip into a container of ice cream first. Or have a drink. After which bed is the logical choice because things will look so much clearer in the morning.

And you manage to fall asleep because you truly are exhausted, only to be awakened by a crushing list of things to do or worry about. Sometimes the LIST takes on the qualities of Terry Pratchett’s Luggage (if you haven’t read the Discworld books and don’t know what The Luggage is, you should definitely add reading these books to The List right now).

One of the best cures for worrying that I know of is to actually give The List full focus for a space of time. It really doesn’t make it bigger, believe it or not, and it can actually make it more manageable and let you get back to getting things done.

Allot whatever time you can to this. I recommend clearing the decks for an hour in order to fully concentrate your attention on worrying, but I recognize this may  not be possible. If so, you can complete the tasks in stages.

  1. Collect your supplies. You’ll need blank paper (a notebook is good), pen, different colored hi-liters, and a beverage of your choice. If at all possible, clear your space of children and spouses and maybe even cats. (I hear you calling me delusional. This is unkind, but possibly very true)
  2.  Start jotting down the worry items, one to a line, in no particular order. This is a free writing activity. No item is too “trivial” to be included. Even if you know this is not a rational worry, write it down. If the problem of Goldfish Doesn’t Wear Socks came into your head, then it deserves a spot on your worry list. Keep that pen moving and keep on jotting down all the things, either until you run out of worries or your time is up. (New items may pop up later – just add them onto the end if they do.)
  3. Now here’s the fun part. Take a pen and cross out every item on that list that is not worth your worry time. That goldfish who doesn’t need socks, for example. Eliminate them.
  4. Next, read through and cross out all of the things over which you have absolutely no control. They may be very important personal or world problems, but if it’s something you know you either can’t or won’t take any action to fix, cross it out. BE RUTHLESS.
  5. Still with me? Now it’s time to begin categorizing the items that are left. Pick a hi-liter color for items that must be dealt with TODAY and mark them.
  6. Choose another color for the things that need to be dealt with this WEEK.
  7. Choose another color for the things that need to be dealt with this MONTH.
  8. If you’re an organized or compulsive sort of person you may feel the need to go on marking things for every month of the year. This is the point where I just choose a color and designate everything else on the list as “to take care of sometime.” I just can’t focus out more than a month at a time.
  9. Create an action plan for the things of today, promising yourself you’ll do the same again tomorrow for the next day’s needs.

Hopefully now you feel a little lighter, a little less cluttered, and can get on with the very important business of writing. Or sleeping.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. Next month we’ll tackle a bit of the psychology involved in Writer Procrastination.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2013 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on January 28, 2014. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. She is a bit of a hypocrite who does not always practice the relaxation she preaches. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books

Managing Writer Stress: Body Scan for Deeper Relaxation

By Kerry Schafer

It’s 5 am and I’m settling into the hour of morning writing time I’ve carved out of my day. In the back of my head I’m wondering where I’m going to find time for all of the other things on the list. Here’s the Coles Notes version:

1. A day job that eats about 50 hours of my week.

2. A house to maintain, complete with a dog, two cats, and a couple of fish. This week, add in a Viking on home vacation.

3. My second novel, WAKEWORLD, releasing at the very end of January. I need to be scheduling blog tours and ordering new book marks. Page proofs will be showing up any day.

4. Three e-novellas in edits, with talk of getting them produced and into the wild by the end of October.

5. Preparation for the RMFW Colorado Gold conference this weekend.

I spin a lot of plates. I like it that way.

But it can get overwhelming.

In my last post I touched on some of the many moments in a writer’s life that can be stress inducing, and using breathing techniques as one way to relax. As promised, today we are going to talk about taking relaxation one step further: the body scan.

Let me be clear that by body scan I do not mean that uncomfortable experience inflicted by sadistic people at the airport. Nope. This is a simple relaxation exercise that will take about fifteen minutes of your day.

I know fifteen minutes can seem like a lot when your life is crammed full of All The Things. But the truth is, when your mind is less cluttered and your anxiety level is lower, you’re able to be more efficient with the time you do have.

Preparation: Find a 15 minute stretch of time in which you can at least hope not to be disturbed. I dare you to silence your phone and all other electronic devices. If it’s important, they’ll call back or leave a message or instant message you later. The text messages will hold.

Process: Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Either close your eyes or use a soft gaze that is not really focused on anything. And then walk yourself through the following steps.

1. Breathe. Take those three deep breaths I talked about last time, and then settle into a regular, comfortable breathing pattern.

2. While continuing to breathe, focus your attention on your head and face. You are an explorer, not a critic. At this point you are not here to make changes. Just notice what you feel. Are your muscles tight or relaxed? Is there pain or discomfort?

3. Remember to breathe, slow and steady, in and out.

4. Now shift your attention to your neck. Again, you are just here to observe, not to change anything. Keep breathing, and just let yourself be aware of what your body is doing.

5. Taking your time and remembering to breathe, move down to your shoulders. And then your arms and hands. Upper back, lower back.

6. Attend to your chest. Be aware of the rise and fall as your breath goes in and out. Notice whether you can feel your heart beating.

7. Move down to your abdomen. Remember to keep breathing, slowly in and out.

8. Continue down your body – hips, thighs, lower legs, feet.

9. Once you have scanned your whole body, go back to your breath. Pay attention to a few breaths – in and out, slow and easy – and then imagine that you can send your breath wherever you want it to go. Think about a part of your body that felt tense or uncomfortable. When you breathe in, send the warm energy of your breath to that place. When you breathe out, let your breath carry away the tension or the pain.

10. When you are done, take another deep breath, and let your eyes come open, soft and easy. Take a minute just to be quiet and at peace.

And there you have it. An easy meditation exercise that really does help to ease muscle tension and calm your mind.

Next time: The Worry List

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2013 and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on January 28, 2014. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. She is a bit of a hypocrite who does not always practice the relaxation she preaches. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books.

Managing Writer Stress – Breathing

Author, Kerry Schafer

By Kerry Schafer

The writing life is hard.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to write, and I’m full of gratitude every day that I’m lucky enough to be a writer. Well, okay most days I’m grateful. There are times when I want to shout “what did I ever do to you??” at all the powers that be. Because as you’ve probably already noticed, sprinkled liberally throughout the wonderful life of a writer are moments of angst and sometimes outright terror.

Give yourself one stress point for each item below that has ever happened to you:

  • Lost at least one page of a manuscript due to computer malfunction
  • Lost at least one page of a manuscript due to human malfunction
  • Lost at least one page of a manuscript due to a feline with evil intent
  • Faced a completely unreasonable deadline (bonus points if author procrastination created the problem in the first place)
  • Realized pages of your manuscript needed to be trashed
  • Realized your entire manuscript was too horrible for even a mother to love
  • Realized you really have no affinity for words and should have been a bee keeper or an accountant or maybe a mastodon hunter in a pre-book time period
  • Submitted a query to an agent
  • Clicked send on an email query to an agent before it was ready to go (as in – wrong agent name, horrible and possibly obscene typo, forgot to paste in sample)
  • Had an agent submit a proposal to a publisher
  • Sent in revisions or edits to your editor (or your agent, your critique group, or former best friend)
  • Realized your book was about to be published and people were actually going to read it
  • Endured a bad review

How did you do? If you’ve been writing long, chances are you’ll recognize at least a few of the moments on the list.

So how does one cope with all of this stress, other than drinking constantly or going on some sort of insane rampage?

There are a lot of different ways to calm a case of the nerves, the easiest of which is readily available and easily carried with you whenever you leave the house. It’s something you already do (yes, if you are alive and reading, you perform this action many times a day.)

If you guessed breathing, you’re right. Wait! Don’t pooh pooh this and click away to a different article just yet. The whole “just breathe” cliche is not a cliche at all. The breath is intimately connected to the nervous system, and how you breathe has a direct effect on the level of tension in your body.

For starters, let’s stop to notice how you are breathing at this moment.

Challenge Number One: Take one minute to explore your own breathing patterns. Close your eyes and just focus on your breath. Don’t try to change your breathing right now – this is an observation task only. Note the rise and fall of your chest with every breath. Pay attention to rhythm and depth. While you’re at it, notice how much tension you carry in your shoulders, your chest wall, and your belly. Ready? Go. We’ll be here when you get back.

What did you notice? If you’re feeling relaxed, chances are your breaths are deeper and slower. If you’re feeling stressed, they tend to be more shallow. They might be rapid or you might notice that you’re actually holding your breath. People do this a lot when they’re anxious and guess what – the brain really needs oxygen to help you sort things out.

Challenge Number TwoClose your eyes again and return your focus to your breath. This time, see if you can deepen each inhalation, as though you’re breathing into your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling yourself up like a balloon, and then breath out with your lips slightly pursed. (If you’ve ever been a singer or played a wind instrument, you probably already know how to do this) If you find it difficult, place one hand on your belly so that the palm is centered over your belly button  - see if you can make your hand move when you inhale. 

How did you do? Is this easy for you, or difficult? It can be surprisingly helpful to stop at intervals throughout the day and take three slow, deep breaths. I’ve known people who set chimes on their phone to remind them to do this simple thing, and I’m told there’s even an app for that, although I couldn’t find it.

Bonus Tip: If you find it difficult to draw that deep breath, or just need a little extra relaxation, try this. Think of a smell that you love: fresh bread baking, the scent of the ocean, a pine forest, whatever works for you. Now imagine you are breathing in that fragrance. Did your breath automatically deepen?

Next Time: Managing Writer Stress: Body Scan for Deeper Relaxation

~~~~~~~~

Kerry Schafer’s first novel, Between, was published in February 2012  and the sequel, Wakeworld, is slated to hit shelves and e-readers on February 14, 2013. Kerry is both a licensed mental health counselor and an RN, and loves to incorporate psychological and medical disorders into her fantasy books. You can find out more on her website, www.kerryschafer.com, or find her on Twitter as @kerryschafer or on her Facebook page Kerry Schafer Books.