Thursday, January 4

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, January 04, 2018 6 comments
The writing habit can be difficult to maintain when you are experiencing a lot of stress. Creativity happens best in states of relaxation, says Roseanne Bane in Around the Writer's Block (a resource I heartily recommend).

As you might guess from my absence in December, I've been grappling with some hard life stuff, particularly being "the sandwich generation" having to deal with overwhelming demands from elderly parents and school-aged kids at the same time. I feel like I'm emotionally tapped out most of the time. I know that writing can be a good outlet for stress release, but getting back into a groove after the holidays were in the stress-mix is challenging. So I turned to another well-thumbed resource for encouragement, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. One of her best block-busting tips is to write about your childhood.

How we react to stressors in adulthood is to a large degree shaped by childhood experiences. But as Harry Potter learned when trying to conjure a patronus, good memories have tremendous power to protect us from the forces of despair. Recently, I've tried to focus on bright spots in my past when a worry begins to spiral from anxiety into panic. I have to say, it has improved my sleep tremendously.

Here are some prompts to help you go back into your own timeline and find moments of joy, peace, excitement and insight:

  • My imaginary friend
  • My secret hideout
  • My three favorite toys when I was eight years old
  • My favorite subject in kindergarten
  • My cozy spot
  • After school, I liked to...
  • A cool surprise from my mom or dad
  • The wonder of milkweed or dandelions gone to seed
  • My childhood neighbors
  • How I was comforted in a dark moment
  • My favorite after school snacks
  • A special moment with a sibling or cousin
  • A bedtime or campfire story my family invented
  • Games my family played on car trips
  • How my sibling reconciled with me after a squabble
  • My most impressive creation with blocks or Legos
  • The best snow day
  • A sick day when I felt well cared for
  • A surprising discovery about a grandparent
  • My favorite scenario to pretend
  • Given a stack of paper and box of crayons, I would create...
  • The nearby woods
  • The neighborhood park
  • How it felt to go barefoot in summer
  • Learning to swim or skate
  • The book I read again and again
  • My best friend in elementary school
  • My lucky shirt
  • Treasures I kept in a secret spot
  • My favorite stuffed animals
  • The best dream I had as a kid
  • The coolest guest to visit my family
  • Holiday traditions I grew up with
  • My parents' best games or stories
  • Songs I liked to sing in the shower
  • Games I played in the bathtub
  • A time my team won a great victory
  • A special food my parents would make just for me
  • Fun times in choir or the class play
  • The best prank I ever pulled
  • My favorite teacher
  • My playground buddies
  • A school project that turned out especially well
  • My lunchbox or lunch bag
  • My first pet
  • The feeling of mud and puddles

As Anne Lamott says, "Everything we need in order to tell our stories in a reasonable and exciting way already exists in each of us. Everything you need is in your head and in your memories, in all that your senses provide, in all that you've seen and thought and absorbed" (Bird by Bird 181). Visit those memories and sensations, and the words will come.

In times of stress, what helps you relax enough to write?


  1. I hear you! We're dealing with the same kind of situation. Dementia is an evil, evil disease and it takes its toll on caregivers too.

    LOVE this advice! I was smiling reading the list of topics - remembering my favourite hide out for hide and seek in my favourite tree, the fabulous things we did with Legos, and sleeping out on the front porch with my best friend. Great memories - thanks for the tip!

    1. Sorry to hear you're having sandwich generation stress too. I'm glad that considering good memories brought a smile. Hope it can help you stay creative, too.

  2. Hi, Laurel! You have a beautiful blog. I've followed it before. My prayers are with you. It is extremely difficult to care for aged parents and children at the same time. My mother is having trouble with her second hip. The other one is replaced. All this, after just surviving bladder cancer.

    Anne Lamott has some wonderful ideas to help keep writers positive. Thanks for reminding us all to think positive and remember the fun times in life. All best to you in 2018!

    1. Thanks, Victoria. Sorry to hear about your mother's struggles. My husband lost his dad in November and his mom is really not doing well on her own. A lot of hard decisions and changes are on the horizon, so for us, finding ways to relieve stress has been essential.

  3. I LOVE Bird by Bird. One of my favorite books about writing. She's so honest about how difficult it is to manage a writing life while doing things like paying bills and caring for those you love.

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

    1. Yeah, and her advice is so encouraging and realistic. The 1" by 1" picture frame is another idea of hers that I love.