Archive for the 'Healthy Writer' Category

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Stress will kill you

Or so my doctor tells me. She’s pretty smart, so I guess I should listen to her. As I take an inventory of what is causing me stress and figuring out what I can eliminate, I am thankful we are finally at the end of another political circus. That’s the worse.

I don’t know about you, but man I am so glad this election season is winding down. I don’t care who you wanted to win any of the zillions of offices, amendments, or initiatives. I just glad we can turn our attention to de-stressing and simplifying our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I have deep and detailed political opinions, but I just don’t want to churn through those for a while.

Today, I’d like to discuss something that has been praying on my mind under the cacophony of political rhetoric and posturing. I want to talk about stress management.

Most writers I know have to have day jobs to make ends meet. Working full-time with a family, as I do, adds to the level of busy. Then adding a writing career in whatever time is left takes the last vestiges of rest and relaxation you can possibly muster.

So, you start burning the candles at both ends, skipping not only sleep, but generic down-time which your brain and body so desperately need. You drive toward deadlines, real or self-inflicted and before you know it you hit a wall and burn out sets in.

I have experienced this more than once in my life and it’s debilitating, frustrating and counter-productive. When you sit at the keyboard and try to produce words and nothing happens because your brain refuses to move out of neutral, it’s time to assess the situation and make a change.

That change may be as simple as getting some exercise (you should always be exercising), make sure you are eating a healthy diet, and take some down time. Naps are good. Reading is wonderful. Watch a movie, go for a walk, do a puzzle, veg in front of a video game. All of these are very helpful in resetting the creative switch in your brain.

Forcing yourself to produce at this point is frequently counter-productive and can lead to even longer periods of inactivity if you do not take the proper care of your mind and body.

I’m realizing as I write this post that this has been a rather stressful year for me. I’ve written posts here that relate to this problem from different aspects. I think it’s time for me to get back to the gym, take a few things off my plate, and make a promise that I will stop over committing and guard my free time with vigor.

After all I have novels to finish. Apparently some of you want to see book four in the Sarah Beauhall series sooner rather than later. I’ll go catch a nap and watch a show. By this weekend I’ll be back in the saddle and working on Hearth & Home with a distinct urgency.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Trust the mirrors

While most people will agree that writing is a solitary endeavor, I’d like to point out one very important aspect of your social network.

My friends and I call it trusting your mirrors.

Due to human physiology, we cannot see out the back of our heads, so we can never truly see behind ourselves.  We can’t tell where we’ve been with a clear view.  But if you have a group of trusted confidants, then you can not only see behind you, but you can get the old “objects in mirrors appear larger than they are” aspect of it and really get a good look at what you’ve been doing.

Take a new story, for example.  You write it, and if you are like most writers I know, you immediately think that it sucks.  It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh off the hotplate of creation, you know, deep down, that it has negative value, you’ve wasted your time, and that this is the last thing you will ever write. Mainly because someone will finally figure out that you are a fraud and the entire house of cards will come tumbling down.  Or, you know, worse.

Not everyone goes through this roller-coaster of self-doubt and recrimination, but let me tell you, I know veterans with thirty years of sales who still think like this when they finish something new.  We are all meat puppets with a chemical soup battery in our heads that controls our emotions and our thoughts.  Who can blame us for panicking and expecting the worse.  It’s survival instincts.

But, if you are a very lucky person who has enough good sense to find like-minded individuals as well as a diverse base of support, than you can trust them to be your eyes in the back of your head.

They become your mirrors and they can show you a view of yourself that you cannot see.  This is an amazing gift, let me tell you.  Finding someone who you can trust to be honest and who has your best interest at heart is worth more than a Hugo, a Pulitzer or even a NY Times Bestseller slot.

Because you will always have to write the next thing and the world is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of place.  A single success or failure will not define your career.  If you surround yourself by good souls and put in the hard work you can maximize your success and minimize your pain.

Trust the mirrors, watch when things are larger than they appear and don’t forget to let those around you protect your flanks.  It’s what friends and family are for.

If you are not careful, you may end up having a very fulfilling life with good friends, good writing and high expectations.

And probably some wine, but that’s a different post.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 by Sasha White
Around the Net for Writers.

Check out Roni Loren’s post about using pohotos when you blog, or so on…You CAN get sued for using images

The Renegade Writer talks about using her short attention span/ADD in ways that help her writing.

50 Habits of Highly Successful People by LifeHack.

And lastly, to get your imagination going and get you revved up. check out 21 Really Stunning Photoshopped Photos for Creative Inspiration.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 by Sasha White
Healthy Writer

I had to work yesterday. Not writing, although I do that when I get home from work, but work, at a job, outside the house. I started it 2 weeks ago, and am quite excited about it. It’s a retail job, nothing special or different, just something to get me out of the house, and interacting with real people more often. I’m not going to lie and say the money from it won’t be nice, but I will tell you the money isn’t the main reason I went looking for a job outside the home. Depression is.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with depression. The Dr. prescribed some pills, and recommended seeing a therapist. I took the pills for about three days, and saw the therapist once, but that was it. See, I was raised to believe in mind over matter. That you could do anything if you set your mind to it, and that included ‘thinking yourself happy‘. I’d told my Mom, who is my best friend, about the pills and such when it happened, and we talked about it.

We talked about how I’ve always been a pretty moody person,(creative/artisitc people often are, right?) and how I was always happier when I was working out regularly, and traveling, and keeping busy. And she’s right. I have always been happiest when I’m busy. Having two or three jobs, was normal for me, and that had changed after I moved to Alberta. Anyway, I didn’t like the headache the pills gave me, so I stopped taking them, and moved on with my life. Keeping busy and focusing on thinking myself happy. :)

It worked, for a while.

When I quite working to write full-time, things changed a bit. I live alone, and I’m single. I’ve always been single(90% of the time anyway), and I’ve always loved living alone. This was no different. I wasn’t working three jobs, but it didn’t matter because I was writing a lot. I mean, a lot. (as in three or four books a year, as well as short stories.) I was busy.

The obsessive part of my personality paid off in building the career, but worked against me when it came to my health. I was super focused on writing, to the exclusion of almost everything else. I stopped going out with friends, and since I live alone I basically became a hermit (Although I did make many online writer friends). I stopped going to the gym, and I gained a lot of weight, and soon… I started to hate writing-especially sexy romances when I felt like I might never have a man in my life again. I burnt myself out.

So I took a break from writing and went back to work at the pub. But it didn’t help like I thought it would. I felt different, I was different. I was a 39 year old woman working with a bunch of 20 year olds in college. I had fun, but I didn’t feel able to connect. My writing friends slowly but surely disappeared because I wasn’t writing regularly, even though I was totally open to critique for my partners still and talk writing.

I have to say that really hurt. I’d thought of many of them as true friends, not just co-workers, and it was sobering to notice that when I took a break from writing/promoting/selling, they had nothing really to say to me. It didn’t happen with everyone, but it was the majority.

Last year I tried to get serious about writing again. I left work, to stay at home and write full time. It worked for about two months, then it slowly became clear that no matter how many deadlines I gave myself, or how many promises I made to get something done, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get my health back on track, or my writing. And it was frustrating, because I had no other real pressures or job or anything.

Two casual writer friends, who, strangely enough, were not super-close friends when I was on the bestseller lists or ever critique partners, and I got closer. They were having some issues of their own, and we talked a lot about the industry and market and pretty much anything. We formed a bond, trying to help each other get ourselves back on a track we wanted to be on. It was those two who pointed out that I seemed to be struggling more than I should, and that maybe something was wrong. At the beginning of 2012 I was once again diagnosed with depression.

This time, it was a relief. This Dr was a blessing. He talked to me quite a bit, explained I’d been depressed for a while-as in years, and that it wasn’t a “toughen up buttercup” type of thing. It was chemical. It was physical. And if I didn’t deal with it, it would continue to get worse. I started taking anti-depressants, and it was like flipping a switch. Seriously, if nothing else could convince me he was right, it was that.

Things are slowly, but consistently, getting back on track for me. I went job hunting because it was time for me to get myself back in the world physically. I’ve become a hermit, and it’s not a natural thing for me. Anyone who’s met me can probably attest to the fact that I am a people person. I love to chat and hang out, and just be with people – which is also why I love to live alone…for that ‘me time’ everyone needs. However, having ONLY me time, isn’t healthy.

So, while I’ve blogged about health issues of writers before, and I’ve seen others do it too, I’ve yet to see someone talk about the mental health issues of the job. Sure there’s stress, like any job, but we joke a lot about living in our own heads so much, but I know I can’t be the only person who’s had to deal with being a bit overwhelmed by it.

Let me clear though….Writing did not cause my depression. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that even though we toss around words like “balance” and talk about how important physical activity is because this is a job where we sit so much, these things are important to more than just our creativity. These things are important to our mental health….and our mental health is important to our life…and our writing. It’s so very easy to narrow our focus so much that only the work matters, and I just thought I’d share this part of my story to show that if you narrow your focus too much, losing your way can become an issue.