Thursday, March 13, 2014

Writing 101: It's Not Always Emotional, It's Physical

Start looking online, and you'll find hundreds of articles and blog posts that detail the emotional toll of being a writer. You're going to get rejected. You're going to get bad reviews. You are going to get your feelings hurt, and it's going to be really hard. But even if you think you're handling these dark emotions well, there may be something you've overlooked: stress can cause physical complications, too. Even if your mind can handle the trauma of being a writer...can your body, too? 

A Gut Feeling

I began to experience extreme pain in my abdomen last summer. It became chronic, an everyday affair, so I began seeing doctors. I'm a woman, and being a woman always muddies the waters no matter what the hell you're attempting to do. And when you're a woman experiencing pain and there is no immediately obvious cause, everything is more complex because now all your female parts have to be studied under a microscope, along with all the usual pain-causing suspects in the anatomical lineup. 

The point is, I saw different doctors and took several extremely invasive tests over the course of 8 months. I very nearly had major surgery that would have removed a somewhat vital body part, and then at last I discovered the source of all my discomfort and my big "mystery" ailment: stress. 

I've given myself a permanent condition as a result of too much stress and it can't be cured, but don't worry about that because it can be managed with diet and I'm a professional when it comes to dieting. All those times I threw another rejection letter away or blinked away the tears created by a stinging review or harsh criticism...may have gone directly to my stomach instead. I don't throw myself on the floor and cry hysterically when I get rejected. I always just move right along and send out more letters or start editing again, or whatever. I always thought I really handled the emotional aspect of being a writer very well. 

Until my body fell completely apart. 

It Takes Guts...

Stress may be getting to you even if you don't know it's getting to you. My stress isn't solely caused by writing, either, so I'm by no means a cookie-cutter example. I tend toward worrying as a general facet of my personality, but being a writer certainly isn't the most stress-free career choice I might have made. I could have spent my life baking cakes, and how relaxing does that sound? 

But I digress. It boils down to this: stress can get to you in a variety of physical ways. As a writer it's part of your job to learn how to relax to keep it from getting to you. Stress may literally eat away at your insides otherwise. So don't think that you're feeling totally stress-free because you're not an emotional wreck. Stress may be getting to you in other ways that you don't even realize yet. Learn to relax, and try to avoid stress in other aspects of your life. Start managing it now so it doesn't become a bigger problem later.

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