STRESS—AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IT (I HAVE NO MAGIC ANSWERS)
IN PRAISE OF SLEEP
Anyone who opts for a creative way of life—being a writer, actor, musician, painter or poet, for instance—is also opting for a life of stress. There is creative stress, which is major just by itself—Can I master my craft to the necessary standard; and then exceed it?—and then there is the stress which comes from the chronic lack of financial stability which goes with the territory—which ripples into all kinds of other problems, particularly where relationships are concerned. It is hard to be a good provider if you are an actor who is out of work most of the time.
Other stresses include the fact that it is almost impossible to explain the creative way of life to someone who has a normal job. Their solution, in almost ever case, is: Give up your crazy way of life. Get a job like a regular person. Which of course assumes that you can.
So how does a creative person cope with stress? Well, if you are a typical American you will opt for either legal or illegal drugs. The percentage of people on legal meds for some reason or other is truly frightening. Essentially, this is a chemically drugged culture.
Drinking is the traditional stress reliever where writers are concerned. This is what Hemingway (see above) commented:
"I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well-being that rum does?... The only time it isn't good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief." —Ernest Hemingway, Postscript to letter to critic, poet and translator Ivan Kashkin, 1935
Personally, I rather like Mark Twain on the subject of alcohol:
"I always take Scotch whiskey at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it." —Mark Twain
I’m with Mark Twain except that I prefer wine. But, alcohol apart, I find there is a great deal to be said for:
- Writing-which is both demanding yet relaxing,
- Relaxing with a really good book
- Exercise – extraordinarily important
- Vacations – the U.S. seems to be constitutionally set against vacations, and almost entirely ignorant of the benefits that result from a long vacation. Europe has a great deal to teach us here.
- Not over-working
- Eating intelligently
Recently, I have gone through a period of intense stress and became seriously sleep deprived. Now the move is over—albeit not the getting organized phase, I am beginning to catch up on sleep.
I have a way to go yet, but it feels wonderful.