Author Self-Care: Sanity Boosters

Being stuck in traffic is not the most productive way to spend one’s time. Being stuck makes me contemplate my sanity, as I notice it dwindling away.

If I’m going to lose my marbles, there should be a more compelling reason, don’t you think? The last time I was immobilized on the freeway, I refocused my perspective on how to improve life. Especially my writing life. Self-care jumped to mind.

When I’m writing, my state of mind can get intense, especially when I’m feeling a different sort of stuck. Stuck because I’m unsure about what I’ve written, I need to clean up a scene, I’d rather be doing something else or… you fill in the blank. Instead of stewing or feeling pressure, it’s far better to:

1. Step away and relax: When I shift direction, I come back feeling ready to roll. The shift can be as simple as dish-washing (Agatha Christie credited dish-washing as, “The best time for planning a book…” or reading or walking or spending time with loved ones (human and canine/feline/even poultry, in my case). It’s because the focus slides away from writing and onto a task that doesn’t require as much mental finesse. The key is finding something to massage and unwind the mind.

2. Say NO to social media: You don’t have to shun it forever, but back off for a bit, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Make sure time spent posting or tweeting is no more than 10-20 percent of the day. And make sure you make it fun. Otherwise, why bother?

3. Exercise: Back to the bit about walking. Scarcely a day went by that Charles Dickens didn’t “flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs.” . Dickens was onto something. Taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of a walk can be refreshing and stimulating on the psyche as well as the body.

4. Eat well: Your mind and your body are the only ones you’ve got. Doesn’t it make sense to take the very best care of them? That includes eating well. I have an urge to snack when writing because…what writer doesn’t love a distraction? Sometimes, I give in and other times I flex my muscles of self-control. When I do cave, I make snacks light and healthy. I can reward myself with more later.

When you find yourself tensing up, no matter what the activity, stop and find a way to switch gears to ensure a positive frame of mind. After all, how can we progress in writing and in life unless we keep ourselves in tip-top shape?

Writing: Self Motivation

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. But if I don’t, I feel lousy, dejected, and dissatisfied. Not writing is not an option. Instead, I take a few minutes to find sources of motivation.

One simple means is picturing myself after I’m done – what a feeling of accomplishment! Plus, I’ll have time to read, garden, and do just plain nothing if I want to. If visualization doesn’t do the trick, I’ll read from the pages of one of my favorite authors. That usually ignites a fire beneath me, making me jump up and get started on my own writing. I love the power of words to create images and page-turning stories. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll hunt down stories of really big authors and how they wrote some of their greatest stories in conditions that were less than favorable.

Take Robert Louis Stevenson, for instance. He wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde one sleepless night when he was suffering from advanced tuberculosis. In his aggrieved state, he wrote the book in three days! How is that even possible?

Unhappy with the first draft, he ripped it apart, literally, and rewrote the whole shebang, again in his ill state, in three more days. That’s 64,000 words in six days. I have to pause right there because even in my well state, I can barely imagine writing as he did. Mr. Stevenson wrote more than 10,000 words…a day. Most writers consider one – two thousands words per day an accomplishment. At my best, I wrote 2500 words a day for two days to complete my first short story. I do know that at least that much is possible by yours truly.

What Robert Louis Stevenson showed us is that:

All we need to do is try. These days, when I sit restless in my chair, and distractions are shouting out my name, I think of Robert Louis Steven and stay put. Thank you, Mr. Stevenson for showing us what we’re capable of accomplishing.


Last May, I was on the hunt for a picture book illustrator after learning that one of my publishers was starting a children’s book division. The publisher needed a book ready to go. I had the text, but no illustrations. I’d nearly given up the search when a talented illustrator turned up right beside me at an author fair. We worked together and, in a very short time, I had a fully illustrated book which I sent off to the publisher.

THE COOKIE EATING FIRE DOG was first written about twenty years ago when I lived with energetic, imaginative preschoolers. Each of my children had a favorite stuffed animal. My older child had a well-behaved purple bunny, aptly named “Purple”. My younger child carried around a dog, a happy-faced, but very naughty Dalmatian named Dan. The Dalmatian was also somewhat sickly, according to my son. When he didn’t feel like playing with “Dan”, my son would inform me that, “Dan was in the hospital,” suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Dan had a lot of action in his stuffed animal life. One day, my child informed me that Dan refused to help the fire fighters when they needed him. I was at the sink washing dishes when I heard about the stubborn Dalmatian.

“Why won’t Dan help?” I asked.
“Because all he wants to do is eat cookies.”

I stopped washing, grabbed pen and paper, and a story was written.

I finished, sent the book out, and got a bite right away from a big name publisher. We went back and forth a few times, but they ultimately declined. My story sat dormant for a while (yep, twenty years!) until the time was right.

If someone had told me I’d be a picture book author, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I’m so glad to be one!