How to Handle Pressure

Prickles, the Pressured Porcupine

Enough! I’ve got too much on my plate already. I can’t handle any more pressure.

Have you ever said that to yourself?

I have. Many times.

Pressure is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plagues me as a writer. I’m exploring one a week. This is the second in the series.

Many writers admit to feeling pressured. In fact, I believe most would. I’ve interviewed many writers who said they have too much to do in the time they have available, which causes them to feel pressured or stressed, and that affects their writing.

Reducing Pressure Isn’t the Answer

My husband is a science teacher, and at times Gwynly can be as literal as the TV show anthropologist Bones. I’d originally titled this blog post “How to Reduce Pressure,” but he convinced me to change it, and here’s why.

Gwynly teaches chemistry, and one of his recent lessons dealt with pressure. He’s an excellent teacher, one of those who brings science to life with lots of demonstrations. To teach his students about pressure, he actually lies on a bed of nails.

I asked him how he can do this. He explained that it has to do with spreading his weight over a large area. If there were only one nail in the board, he’d exert 160 lbs of pressure on it. When he lies on many nails, he’s exerting far less pressure per nail, making it possible for him to rest his weight on those prickly points and not suffer pain.

When he explained this to me, I smiled, asked if I could share his picture, and told him I was going to talk about how we writers can reduce our pressure. He gave me one of those looks I’ve come to know, one that told me I was off base scientifically. Not wanting to share faulty information, I asked him where I’d gone wrong. His answer surprised me.

“I really don’t think you want to reduce the pressure, Wifely. That would mean giving up your contract or not writing anymore, and I know you don’t want to do that. What you want to do is to how learn to handle the pressure.”

Gwynly was right. Pressure is part of the job of being a writer. I’m going to experience it. What I need to do is find constructive ways to deal with it.

Learning to Handle Pressure

Dealing with the body – Pressure causes stress and can affect us physically. Thus, we need to find ways to care for our bodies.

  1. Get some exercise. We writers spend hours at our computers. Most of us are sitting. Some have switched to standing desks or even treadmill desks, which help. Those of us in chairs need to plan times to get some aerobic exercise. For some this isn’t a problem. I’m not a real fan of exercise, but I do enjoy walking. Not only does a walk get me moving, but it also clears my head.
  2. Take breaks. It’s important to get out of the chair every so often. Even a trip to the kitchen can help. Taking time to do some stretching is even better.

Dealing with the Mind – In order to keep our creative wells filled, it’s important to get away from our computers periodically.

  1. Spend time with family and friends. Sometimes we need to bid our characters farewell so we can enjoy the company of real people. An evening with a loved one or a lunch date with a pal can be fun and can recharge us, too.
  2. Enjoy other creative pursuits or interests. Some of my writers friends enjoy painting, scrapbooking, quilting, etc. Listening to music relaxes me. And there’s nothing like cuddling up with a good book.

Your Experience with Pressure . . . and a Drawing Prize

How do you handle the pressure in your life?

What is your favorite form of exercise?

What are your creative outlets?

One person who leaves a comment and answers one of the questions above will win the porcupine pictured above. This little Folkmanis finger puppet might seem a silly item for an adult, but it could serve as a visual reminder to keep tabs on the pressure in your life. If you win and don’t want the little guy, you could always share it with a child or grandchild.

I’ll hold the drawing Sunday, February 20th and post the winner’s name in the post published the next day, when I’ll introduce the next of the Twelve Troublemakers.

The winner of Dubious, the Doubt Dragon from last Monday’s post is Bonnie R. Paulson.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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22 Responses to How to Handle Pressure

  1. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    I try to stay away from pressure and stress. And when I can´t avoid it and people or offices etc stress me, I try to find at least one or two hours each day to be away from it, to be away from everybody, from stress, noise etc.

    I go out to the seashore or into the woods alone, breathe the air, listen to the singing of the birds , to the breathing of the ocean, to the happy song of a rushing creek. I watch the geese and seagulls fly and let my thoughts and soul fly with them, I watch the dance of the trees in the wind. I open my heart and think of the stars and the planets beyond the blue or cloudy skies, I really go far away in my mind. I touch the leaves of the trees that are as soft as my lover`s lips or the warm skin of a tree and feel their life mingle with mine. I breathe the beauty of a golden morning or a copper-colored sunset. I lie on the grass or swim in a lake or in the ocean and let myself get carried away. I walk barefoot, even in winter sometimes, and feel the coolness of the water and the soil

    And then all pressure and stress is gone and I can write, sing, paint or compose again.


    • Keli Gwyn says:

      I’m like you, Martina. Getting away from others helps me reduce the stress. I need alone time to recharge. Spending time in nature is a great way to refocus. I almost always return from a walk refreshed and ready to get back to work.

  2. Gwynly seems so COOL!

    I love stress, the more the better. Wierd right?

    Favorite form of exercise? RUNNING! I was a hurdler in school and damaged my knee so biking has had to substitute. ugh.

    And I gotta say, cooking. I express myself creatively with cooking. I was unfortunately blessed with the ability to make ANYTHING and also to LOVE eating. Great. That means I better love to exercise. RIght?

    Great post, I’m so excited for the doubt dragon!

    Thanks Keli!

    • Keli Gwyn says:


      I, too, think Gwynly is way cool. =)

      As he says, stress is necessary. Positive stress is what keeps us forging ahead in pursuit of our goals. I certainly don’t want to wander aimlessly through life.

      I’m sooo not a foodie. Wish I could invite you over to cook for me. What are your specialties?

      The little dragon is packaged and ready to go out in today’s mail.

      • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

        Food is a good thing to help to calm down, and chocolatesd are good for the nerves 🙂

        Positive stress of course can help a lot and make you more creative.

        But negative stress is a creativity blocker, I think.

        Unfortunately there are many people ( at least here in Germany) who create negative stress for themselves and for others. Germany has become a society of complainers and of people who complicate life.

        Music is a good helper against stress, listening to it or making music. Even singing, singing modifies the breathing and changes the oxygene amount in the blood – even if ya only sing in the bath tub or the shower.

  3. Wendy says:

    What a fun picture to demonstrate your point. I was a sad chemistry student.

    You are so right about exercise and spending time with friends and family. (You were about all of it, but those two stuck out to me.) Several weeks ago I messed up my toes and couldn’t exercise for a while. It affected me. I’m back at it and I feel much better. I also was able to have breakfast with a friend last week and it influenced my day as well.

    Great post!
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:


      I got a kick out of that picture and had to figure out a way to use it on my blog.

      I’m sorry you hurt your foot. What a bummer that the injury kept you from exercising. I’m glad you’re back at it again.

      I love having meals out with my gal pals. Spending time in their company lifts my spirits every time.

  4. Your husband is a brave soul. 🙂 And wise. Thank you for a great post on this subject of pressure. That’s a good description of stress. It makes me think of a pressure cooker that builds up steam inside the pot until finally the pressure must find release. If the pressure is not properly released, I hate to tell you what happens next. 🙂

    I handle stress by first doing my best to avoid it by not making bullets for the stress gun. I handle stress better today than in former years, perhaps. I pray and look for the best way to handle it, by being quiet, or, if possible, doing what is necessary to solve the problem causing stress. I walk for exercise. My creative outlet beside writing is cooking. I am learning cooking skills from my brother, a gourmet cook. It’s never too late to learn new things. Blessings to you, Keli…

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Carol Ann,

      Gwynly is wise indeed. I can’t begin to count the times he’s clarified things for me–or helped me deal with my stress.

      I like how you said you avoid stress by not making bullets for the stress gun. I totally get that, since I’m one of those people who can add to her own stress. I’m glad you have outlets such as walking and cooking that help you relax.

  5. Wow. Gwynly is a genius. Seriously. A very simple, but profound truth. We don’t want to get rid of the pressure, just learn how to deal with it. Great tips, Keli!

  6. Gwynly is one smart guy! I don’t LOVE pressure but it does motivate me to keep going and balance my time. So….as long as I find my balance, I can be very productive 🙂

    I handle pressure by letting myself take a break from other things. If I don’t get the house dusted one week because I’m busy doing a writing project, I try not to stress. It also helps that I have a very supportive family who picks up the slack. As far as exercise, anything outdoors for me is enjoyable, especially walking and hiking. And I LOVE doing almost anything creative. I’ve been making a lot of cards lately, I enjoy music a lot and I even picked up my guitar a few days ago to sing with the kids. It’s amazing how much joy a little music can bring!

  7. candidkerry says:

    Hi Keli,

    What a great analogy of pressure by your hubby! I’m married to a science-minded guy too, and I always learn new things from his thoughts and answers. 🙂 I love how God puts us with spouses who are so very different, but it helps to round us out and teach us new ways of thinking.

    And what a great point your hubby makes — you don’t want the pressure all gone. Certainly our lives come in waves too, which helps., but that pressure keeps us moving forward (to quote one of my favorite movies, “Meet the Robinsons”:).

    I’ve always loved to exercise, whether it’s walking, jogging or swimming. I enjoy bike-riding, too. I just enjoy being outside, even if it’s swinging with my boys out the playset! 🙂 Exercise definitely clears my head and many times, cause the creative ideas to flow!

    Praying and staying in God’s word is also a creative outlet for me. I’ve often experienced creative ideas during prayer and time with God, especially when I give my writing back to the Lord. He is the great idea provider!

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder, through your hubby, that pressure is necessary and we can learn to deal with it.

    Have a great week!

    God Bless,

  8. Susan Mason says:

    Hi Keli,

    Great topic. I don’t handle pressure (or stress) well at all. As an unpublished writer, I think that’s one of the biggest fears – what if I heap too much pressure on myself and fold? Right now dealing with two teenagers, a very active husband who isn’t around a lot, an aging mother, two pets, a part-time job and running the house, I handle a lot of pressure. I’m thinking that maybe my time to be published is after a bit of this load lessens! Who knows.

    I wish I liked to exercise – but I don’t. I have to force myself to go to the gym once or twice a week. I’m not big at walking outdoors by myself either. Need a walking buddy (not a dog – thank you very much. I’m a cat person. Too bad we couldn’t take them for walks!) My escapes are TV and reading, and of course, writing (because right now it’s a want, not a ‘have to’).

    Thanks for all the suggestions!


  9. Erin says:

    I like what you said about dealing with the body. I tend to spend a lot of time dealing with my mind and my stress and forget about the physical aspects of pressure. This is a great post.

  10. GREAT post, Keli! Thank you (and Gwynly) for this information on pressure. I like your suggestions too, and think it’s so important not to stay at the computer for too long at a time. (Actually I don’t have to worry about that, because my physical therapist has given me strict orders NOT to stay seated for more than 30 min. at a time, LOL). ~ When I feel the need for a break from my writing, I usually do my phys. therapy exercises, walk outdoors if the weather permits, read, or do needlepoint. I LOVE needlepoint, and all those years I was a busy mom and kindergarten teacher, it seemed I never had time to work on a needlepoint project. But now I do, and it’s a wonderful “creative diversion”! 🙂 Blessings, Patti Jo

  11. Great topic, Keli. There are so many different stress factors in our lives… some are useful (smart Gwynly), but a lot of them not. My favourite activity is walking, altho’ my arthritis doesn’t let me do a lot of it. Instead I go out and wander around the garden beds. The fresh air is invigorating, and the little bitty signs of early growth are encouraging. I come back mentally refreshed and raring to go again.

    I offered a few suggestions on a recent blog about what to do when creativity gets bogged down: — I think we all hit that wall at times so it’s good to think about ways of handling it *before* we encounter it.

  12. Tamika says:

    I love your husband thoughts on pressure, I will hold onto this on the days I feel ready to buckle from the load! It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve started exercising, and my energy is already stretching.

    Above all, stepping away for a few hours does the trick. I feel rested and less anxious and the words aren’t stuck in the folds of my frustration:)

  13. Great post. LOVE the picture. I bet he is an awesome teacher. I have found my best way to deal with stress is to stop, breathe and evaluate.
    Stop before I fly into a full fledged panic attack.
    Breathe (yoga cleansing breaths 🙂 )
    and evaluate. Is this situation worth the importance I am giving it over the pressures of my life? As your husband said, am I putting 160 pounds of pressure on one nail?

    When I was a teenager and would be in the middle of adolescent drama, my mom would always ask me, “Six months from now, what is still going to be important in this situation?”

    Works pretty well as a grown up too!

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