I am deep into writing a story that is sprouting into a novel, and so I hesitate before devoting my writing time to this instead of that. However, I rationalize the side trip by contemplating that if I help only one other person cope with the current emergency, it will be worth it. If I help several, it’s a cause for celebration. If I help many, well, all the better.
I had better preface this, though, by admitting that I have not always been able to cope successfully with the present circumstances. In fact, I got so low last night I had to call one of my adult sons into my room and unload my bullshit on him. I just couldn’t handle it alone. I had sat down for my evening session of creative work (I spend the day ghostwriting articles to pay the bills) but I was so numbed with discouragement that all I could do was stare at the page. I don’t often get to that state; I’ve got a lot of perseverance and stoicism despite whatever is going on around me. Suddenly, however, it overwhelmed me and I needed help. Once I blurted it all out, I was better and could get back to my writing.
This morning I got to thinking about coping mechanisms and jotted down some notes. Here are some things that help me (usually) stay upbeat and persistent regardless of the situation around me. Take it for granted that my writing is number one on the list. That’s such a basic truth that I didn’t even bother writing it down. My minimum daily creative word count is presently five hundred words, and I manage that six days a week.
One of my principal sources of inspiration and entertainment is reading. I read for an hour to an hour and a half every day and go through a book every week to ten days – depending upon its length, of course. I used to go to the library and browse the new book shelves at least weekly, but now that the library has been closed for months and shows no sign of reopening, I have to look elsewhere for reading material. Basically I have three sources: books on my shelves that I have bought but never got around to reading (I am rapidly running out of these), books I own and have read but want to reread (I still have plenty of these), and books that I order online. Sometimes I spend long periods of time online looking for books to order, and I am always thrilled when I find new titles with potential.
Exercise is crucial to my mental and physical well-being. Three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) I follow a home exercise regimen that I have kept for years. It consists of about an hour of power yoga and calisthenics such as pull-ups and pushups. Additionally, I walk for one and a half to two miles seven days a week regardless of the weather. Lately I have had to walk a bit slower due to my own negligent behavior. Weeks ago I took a five mile walk to a shop, up and down hills, because I didn’t want to risk going on public transport. My poor 67-year-old legs wore out and I am still recovering. So I go slower, but I still make sure that I walk the walk.
One of the best ways to forestall your own discouragement is to spend your time caring for others. Right now I have three of my sons (ages 18 to 28) living with me, and I stay busy (when I’m not writing) shopping and cooking and cleaning our small two-bedroom apartment. There’s not much spare space around here, believe me. One of them is moving out at the end of the month, but that’s not the point. The point is that it is a joy and an honor to help take care of some of the greatest human beings on the planet. (The other great ones are my two absent sons.) I hope you feel the same way about your loved ones and you get a thrill out of offering them service and considering their well-being as important as your own.
Pursuing career goals is critical to me. In my case, I can do it from home because all of my long-term goals are related to my writing. Getting those words done each day contributes greatly to my peace of mind. You may not be as committed to writing as I am, but perhaps there is something else that catches and holds your interest.
Above all else, despite the way that life seems to be throwing shit-storms in our path these days, we have to have patience. We have to remember that historically disasters always eventually come to an end. This too shall pass. Really.
That’s what I wanted to say, but before I close, I’m going to indulge in a moment of shameless self-promotion. Remember above when I mentioned my avid search for new reading material? Perhaps you are looking for good things to read too. I’ve written more than twenty-five books, including novels, short story collections, and memoirs. You can find a list of them and links on my Available Books page. Give some of them a try. You won’t be disappointed.