Erica Vetsch here: I'm so happy to host Seekerville (And my personal) friend Amanda Barratt on the blog today! I've known her for a long time, and she's as sweet and fun as can be, and we share a love of all things historical! She's got a fantastic new book which you can be entered to win by dropping a comment and talking about her timely blog topic today!
Three Tips to Beat Stress—Writer’s Edition
Being a writer is stressful.
No, let me go a step further. Life is stressful. It’s busy, it’s cluttered, and sometimes, instead of churning words, we just want to curl up with a blanket and eat chocolate and watch Clark Gable movies. I know I’m not the only one. ;)
When we’re stressed by externals, we’re not producing at our full potential. Of course, there are the big stresses—illness, the death of a family member, the loss of a job. During those times, we’re sometimes called to take a step away and put writing on the back burner. Or dig deeper into grace and keep pushing onward with God’s help.
What I’m talking about is the everyday stress—all those little pebbles that pile on top of us and become a boulder. You’ve dealt with them. I’ve dealt with them. I still deal with them on a daily basis. But after studying productivity and how to live a calmer life, I’ve discovered a few tips that, though they don’t eliminate stress entirely, do help alleviate it. Today I’m going to share those tips with you.
1—To-Do Lists—I’m a paper person. I love pens and planners and pretty notepads. Living a less stressful, more organized life means I can indulge my office-supplies obsession to the fullest.
Lists accomplish two objectives. When we take time to write out what we want to do, it helps us see what we’re actually doing, trim away the unnecessary, and zero in on the essential. Also, putting it down on paper eliminates the excuse, “Oh, I forgot.” Unless you lose the paper! Each week, I write out a to-do list for every day. As the week goes on, I edit those lists based on what comes up. A sample list for a Wednesday might be:
1—Write 2k on novella in the morning.
2—Deep clean the upstairs bathroom.
3—Work 3-7 p.m. (Working a part-time day job along with writing makes lists like these essential in juggling everything.)
Notice I only wrote down the things that will take up big chunks of my day, not stuff like make lunch, or do morning devotions. I’ve trained myself to do those other things on auto-pilot, so there’s no need to record them. Of course, you can make your list as long or short as you want. Exercising always makes the list at least 2 days a week, as writing it down helps with accountability. Sometimes knowing I have to leave an item uncrossed if I don’t complete it is my main motivation for getting it done!
2— Clear the Clutter—There really is truth to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s been proven that external clutter also clutters the brain. Trying to write a scene when your office is strewn with piles of papers and last week’s breakfast dishes is going to be more difficult than if your office is clean and organized. Once you have an organization system in place, it’s a matter of maintenance, which can be done in a few minutes each day. I try to tidy my office after every writing session—throw away any papers or Kleenex (I write sad books!), straighten my research materials (I usually keep them in a single stack on my bookshelf or file cabinet), and make sure everything is ready for the next day. I don’t always do this, and sometimes on deadline, my office can go weeks without being straightened. But I put in effort to make the time because my creativity reaps the rewards. I’m also a fan of a minimalist approach in decor, which helps give my brain the white space it needs.
An extra credit tip I’ve found especially helpful is simply this—don’t bring stuff into your house. Toss junk mail as soon as possible. Weed out often, and don’t over-purchase. The same goes for your virtual space. Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails, and have an organization system for your inbox. The more cluttered your spaces are, the more stress you’ll experience, whether consciously or subconsciously.
3— Set Reasonable Goals—A planner is also a great place to set goals and plan writing time. Figure out your deadline (whether it’s self-imposed or the one set by your publisher), and then figure out how long it takes you to produce the number of words required to meet it, plus editing time. For example, if you write 1000 words per day, it will take you thirty days to write a 30,000 word novella. Of course you’re not going to write every day, but calculate when you will. Think of those blocks of time as appointments, and keep them. Knowing you’re going to keep those appointments eliminates the stress of wondering how you’re going to get it all done.
Notice I said reasonable goals. All the time management skills and to-do lists in the world are useless if you’re overextended. When we’re at that place of defeated exhaustion or constant adrenaline, our life and work ceases to have joy. All of us have different levels. Never feel guilty if you’re not as productive as a writer you follow on social media, or aren’t one of those super-moms that has their children in five different extracurricular activities. Being intentional about pursuing writing has meant that I’ve had to say no to many other good things, and that hasn’t always been easy. Slowly, I’m learning to say no, schedule wisely, and carve out time for myself. Which leads to my last point . . .
3—Take Time for Self-Care—Let me start by saying there’s a difference between self-care and mindless activity. The former nourishes the heart and the latter serves only to numb the mind. I’m going to be brutally honest and say that sometimes I waste waayyy too much time scrolling Facebook. While I love social media, it’s easy to get sucked in, and that always isn’t the best use of limited time. So one of my goals this year is to cut down on the time I spend, and use the extra for something else. Figure out what actually brings you joy, and carve out time for those things, even if it’s only a few minutes a day. Something as simple as reading a chapter in a good book, taking a walk outside, or watching a movie in the evening can help you press pause and replenish peace and physical energy. Exercise is also one of the things I do for self-care. Though it isn’t something I necessarily enjoy doing, I do enjoy the benefits, and try to schedule at least two sessions a week.
As Christian writers, the most important thing we can do to feed our souls is to spend intentional time in prayer and study of the Word. Martin Luther is famous for saying “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Seeking God and surrendering our stress to Him will give us a peace that even the most organized life cannot surpass. Giving the first minutes of the day to God in prayer and Bible study goes back to the verse in Matthew that says “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you.” As we commit to spending time with Him, even in the midst of stress, He will be faithful to give us wisdom and strength.
Let’s talk stress and time-management! What areas do you struggle with most? What tips and tricks have you found most helpful?
GIVEAWAY— To celebrate hanging out on fabulous Seekerville, I’m giving away one copy of my latest release My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.
ECPA bestselling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical novels and novellas, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. Her novel My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love, released from Kregel Publications in June 2019.
She’s also the author of My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey, as well as seven novellas with Barbour Publishing. Two of her novellas have been finalists in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.
Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.
Connect with her on Facebook and visit her online at www.amandabarratt.net.
My Dearest Dietrich Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825446058?pf_rd_p=c2945051-950f-485c-b4df-15aac5223b10&pf_rd_r=4TTNQ05KGN2ZEH3RK4PD
Find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/amandabarrattauthor
My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love
A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison…
Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.
Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn't always logical.
Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he's unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.
With their deep love comes risk--and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.
Based on detailed historical research and including photos from both Maria's and Dietrich's lives, this is a true love story at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.