Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finding Balance in Daily Life

by Dallas Woodburn

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance. One of my favorite quotes {which I might have shared on here before, I can’t remember} is from the late, great coach and teacher John Wooden. He said the two most important words in the English language are “love” and “balance.” I think that is so true, and yet balance can be really difficult to achieve. Especially in the fast-paced, multi-tasking-obsessed, constant-communication world we live in these days. It’s so easy to get sucked into the void of doing, doing, doing; more, more, more; faster, faster, faster.

Balance is something I am continually striving for. My work ethic is a quality I am really proud about, yet this is something that can easily slide off-balance. When that happens, I become a stressed-out, perfectionist workaholic. That is not who I want to be or how I want to spend my time!

So I’ve been taking some time each day to focus on balance. Find my center. Close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think of all the things I love about my life. I think about who I want to become. The hard work I plan to put in, the goals I want to accomplish–but also the fun things I wish to do, too. The places I want to travel. The fun books I want to read and movies I want to see and concerts I want to go to. The random treasures I want to take advantage of in everyday life: the awesome pinball arcade Mike & I stumbled upon, the nature trail along the river, the plethora of local restaurants we want to try out.

I’ve started to think about balance as a day-by-day thing, something I am working towards each and every day. For me, a good day does mean putting in two or three or four solid hours of work on my thesis draft. But it also means other things, too: relaxing with my sweetie on the couch watching an episode of The Wire; letting my mind wander while I try out a new dish in the kitchen; going for a long walk around the neighborhood; catching up with my family or friends on the phone; laughing till my stomach hurts over a hilarious video on YouTube; making my way through the stack of good books on my bedside table; and on, and on. A truly good day, to me, means a balanced day. I have discovered that I feel the most fulfilled and joyful and content when my life is balanced.

I saw this cartoon in a recent issue in The New Yorker and I wanted to share it here because it seems super appropriate not just to the theme of this blog, but also to the idea of balance. {Many thanks to my boyfriend Mike for helping me when the scanners at school tried to thwart my efforts!}



This cartoon made me smile, but it also gave me pause. I started my new organization blog because I wanted to become more organized in my daily life, while also saving money and time. But I never want organization to become a source of stress, or to feel pressure for perfection. My life and my apartment have become a little more organized in the past few months. I’m making progress. I’m trying new things and cooking more meals at home and flexing my newly developed decorating muscles. But my life will never be perfectly organized. I will never be that woman in the cartoon.

And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m not striving for perfection. I’m striving for balance. To me, love + balance = happiness.

What’s your happiness equation? How do you find balance in your busy life?

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review. Many of her short stories are compiled online here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Get Organized For Less Stress!


 One of my writing friends likes to say, "The dirty dishes never seem so important as when I am struggling to write." I know what she means -- when facing the blank page or empty Word document, or when I'm 200 words into my writing for the day and already feeling as empty as my car's gasoline tank, it seems like anything else would be more appealing than staying there in front of my computer screen typing or pressing my pen again and again to the notebook page. When that time comes, and the dirty dishes call, it is best to ignore them. Stay put. Butt-in-chair. Keep writing. In the writing manual Ron Carlson Writes a Story, he urges that this is when the magic happens -- when you push through the distractions and stay there in the story.

But, after my writing time is over for the day, I'm going to attack those dirty dishes. When I get home, instead of collapsing immediately on the couch, I'm going to take ten seconds to hang up my jacket, put away all the groceries, place my keys in that little dish by the door so I can find them the next day. This year, I am going to get -- and stay -- organized. That is the gift I am giving myself to cut back on stress, to make an already busy semester less hectic than it needs to be.

When my surroundings are neat and free of clutter, my mind feels less cluttered, too. I feel calmer. And the funny thing is, once you get organized, it is easier to stay organized -- it just takes a few minutes every day to keep that way. And really, how much harder is it for me to file that important paper away in my file cabinet than to set it on the kitchen table, where it will continue to take up my mental space before getting lost or buried underneath other stuff, alluding me when I am frantically looking for it weeks later? Answer: actually a heck of a lot easier to just file it away from the get-go.

Today, in between working on my novel, going to the gym, and preparing my lesson plans for the week, I am going to take half an hour to clean out my backpack and purse. I am going to sort through the papers scattered on my desk and kitchen table. I am going to make a list for the grocery store instead of winging it and forgetting something I need.

I am going to get organized, and stay that way! Will you join me?

Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three years in a row and her nonfiction has appeared in a variety of national publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Writer, and The Los Angeles Times. She is the founder of Write On! For Literacy and Write On! Books Youth Publishing Company and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at Purdue University, where she teaches undergraduate writing courses and serves as Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Unlock Your Creative Spirit: Play With Playdough



When was the last time you set aside a portion of your day to be creative?

No, I don’t mean being creative to brainstorm ideas for a work meeting. Nor am I talking about using creative thinking to come up with the perfect gift for your significant other’s birthday. And no, I don’t mean being creative in thinking of new ways to motivate your kids to eat their vegetables or study for the SATs.

What I mean is, when was the last time you set aside time to be creative ... just for the sake of being creative? Simply for yourself and your spirit?

Remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours absorbed with a wad of brightly colored playdough? In playdough world, your imagination takes you to a place where an orange snowman is commonplace and a three-horned fire-spouting monster takes shape before your very eyes.

If you feel like your writing life is stuck in a rut, I have a solution that won’t cost much money or take much time: go back to playdough world.

Grab a wad of playdough and roll it into a ball. Feel its texture between your fingers. Don’t think; don’t worry; don’t question yourself. Enjoy the moment. Just see what shapes and figures emerge from your imagination.

This can help your creativity in multiple ways. You might find yourself making sculptures that relate to your life – maybe you’ll make figurines of your family and friends, or create a visual 3-D diagram of a problem you’re facing. Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated and rolling the clay into a ball, then pounding it flat, will feel like a release.

Visualize your negative energy trailing out of your body through your fingertips into the playdough. Then, pound it away. Do this multiple times until you feel rejuvenated.

Even if you don’t sculpt objects that relate to your life, you’re still allowing your mind to roam free and explore various ideas and possibilities. Just see where your thoughts take you!

A good exercise when you are done sculpting with playdough is to spend five minutes writing stream-of-consciousness style in a journal. Don’t censor yourself; don’t edit; don’t even think too much – just write, for five minutes, without letting your pen leave the paper. You might be surprised what thoughts, emotions, and new ideas turn up!

At-home recipe for playdough:

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups four
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 7 drops food coloring.
Mix dry ingredients with oil. Add food coloring to water and mix together. Add water to flour/salt/oil mixture slowly – about 1/4 cup at a time – and mix together with a spoon. Once you’ve added all the water, knead the dough with your hands until texture is smooth. Enjoy!

Bio: Dallas Woodburn is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories and the editor of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. She has written more than 80 articles for national publications including Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, CO-ED, Justine, and The Los Angeles Times and her plays have been produced in Los Angeles and Ventura, California. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Books "Best of the Web" anthology and has appeared in a variety of literary journals including Monkeybicycle, Arcadia and flashquake. Dallas is the founder of the nonprofit organization “Write On! For Literacy” that has donated nearly 12,000 new books to disadvantaged children. She hosts frequent writing contests, teaches writing camps for kids, and is Assistant Fiction Editor of Sycamore Review while pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Purdue University. Contact her at her website www.writeonbooks.org or blog http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com.

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