I should rethink the phrase “eliminate” the stressor. As a writer of mystery and suspense, I could be accused of suggesting a reader “kill” the stressor. If the source of one’s stress is a human being, for instance, my advice would not be socially acceptable.
Speaking to and about writers, however, I suspect most stress originates in the writing process, is self-inflicted due to procrastination, perfectionism, or stupidity, and can be eliminated without killing anyone or destroying anything.
I will hold myself up as an example. I finished the first draft of a suspense novel early in the year and went to work on revisions, hoping to have a finished manuscript in time to pitch to an agent at the Northern Colorado Writers’ Conference next Saturday.
Next Saturday. Yep, one week from today. Is my manuscript ready? Nope. Will it be ready by next Saturday? Nope. Have I continued to feel pressured because I had an insane notion in the back of my head that I would somehow magically find the time to finish? Yep.
This is a form of writer insanity.
Procrastination. We do this kind of thing when we submit to a publisher, get accepted, wait for months for the editor’s instructions on revisions and editing chores, fiddle around for a while, then frantically work a few long days and nights to finish by the deadline.
Perfectionism. This one causes us to revise and rewrite a manuscript over and over. For years. Without ever submitting to agents or publishers. Eliminating fragments (even the ones that work), removing adverbs, rearranging chapters…forever.
Stupidity. I’m taking this one as my own. I gave myself a deadline which might have been semi-reasonable if I was an anti-social hermit living on a deserted island. I had plenty of time to get the job done, provided I didn’t cook, clean, go to the grocery store, talk to people, attend critique group meetings or writing classes, do the taxes, or watch my favorite shows on television.
So to eliminate the stressor, I will give up the idea of pitching Dead Wrong a week from today.
The good news? I have another manuscript that has already been revised umpteen times. It’s called Wishing Caswell Dead. Maybe its time has come.
See? It was that easy. Stress gone. Big sigh of relief. Now we can focus on the income tax return.
Ouch. Just felt a pain in my neck.