Category Archives: Health

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

Beautiful You!

Hello Dear Scribe’s followers,

I’m here today to talk about beauty! I’d imagine that most of our readers are women, but even if you’re a guy, I’m here to remind you that you are a beautiful person. Each of us as individuals are unique, special, and multifaceted. We are not simply the sum of our parts, but a whole entity, imbued with gifts, talents, and a human spirit that makes us who we are…and that is awesome!

When I say that you are beautiful, I’m not talking about just the exterior “earth suit” we inhabit, but the intrinsic goodness that lives within each of us. I suppose one could argue that there are evil people in the world who are truly ugly because of who they are on the inside and the things they do to hurt others, but let’s leave them out of today’s discussion and save them for a “celebrate villains day” should we care to delve into the darker side of humanity. For today’s topic, let’s focus on what makes us beautiful. Why, you ask?

boaw-logo-2015-originalUntil March 1st, I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman blogfest, where writers from all over the globe share their views on beauty and take time to celebrate women! That’s something I can totally wrap my head around! I even posted a “Dear Teen Me” letter to myself over on my blog  if you care to stop by and check it out. Leave a comment there to be entered to win a copy of ON THIN ICE, and make sure to drop by the events page of the Blogfest to enter to win some great prizes! You’ll also find links to some amazing and inspirational blog posts from some truly beautiful women.

So what is this thing we call beauty?

Can we all agree that it isn’t about having long legs, symmetrical features, or a killer body? Although those are all things to admire, let’s agree here and now that they are NOT what makes a person beautiful. I’ve met some beauties who, through their words and deeds, would not be considered a beautiful person in my book.

pj at age fifteen png (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC)
PJ at age 15

To me, beauty comes from the light that shines from the soul of a truly good person. Qualities such as compassion, kindness, generosity, and loyalty make someone beautiful to me. The old woman with deep laugh lines and crinkly eyes from years of sharing her love with others who smiles through crooked teeth…is beautiful. The child who touches the hearts of those around them while they themselves are suffering the ravages of cancer…is beautiful. Any person who would lay down his life for others…is beautiful. Even the teenager who struggles to find something to smile about when tears are just beneath the surface…is beautiful. I could go on and on about what makes someone beautiful to me, and it would have nothing to do with appearances.

So today, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if you showed up here to support our little blog or share your thoughts with me, you are beautiful! Thank you so much for being part of this crazy writer’s life.

If you had to sum up what makes a person beautiful in one word, what would it be? 

 

Funk-ytown

Hey, all. Suze here. Are you digging the new Scribes format? Personally, I love it!

th[1]So I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a couple of weeks now. I’ve got a very long to-do list, and a number of things on it are time critical (including an April 1 deadline to turn in book 2 to Berkley!). Yet I find myself procrastinating on even the simplest of tasks. Really, Suze? You can’t even pick up the phone and make an appointment for a desperately-needed haircut and color? (Okay, I promise to do that as soon as I finish this post)

Is it the weather? We’ve got a couple of feet of snow on the ground here in New England. I’ve never minded the snow or the cold (other than my heating bill), always thought it was beautiful. And since I’m fortunate enough to have a healthy husband and teenaged son, I haven’t had to shovel a single flake this year. But now that I’m working at home, some days I realize at dinnertime that I haven’t even left the house. Not good. Maybe I just need some sun. I vow to get some today, even if it’s not on the Aegean Beach where I’d like to be.

Anyway, my experience with funks is that there are two ways to get out of them. One, you can wait it out. If you’re not clinically depressed and you don’t have some chemical imbalance going on, they do go away eventually. (If you suspect your funk might have some physical origins, do see a health practitioner. Don’t mess around with this stuff, please)

Second, you can de-funk yourself. It’s gonna take some effort to get over the initial hump, but you can do it. Here are my methods for defunkification:

1. Get up a little earlier. If you find that you’re hitting the snooze button too many times, you’re going to be behind all day. I know it’s hard to leave a warm bed in the wintertime, but you can make it easier for yourself by keeping a warm robe and slippers near the bed to make transitioning easier. If you like your coffee first thing in the morning, like I do, set up the coffeepot the night before. If your machine has a timer, even better! It’ll be ready for you when you get to the kitchen, and the aroma may help you roll out of bed. Trust me on this one: you can accomplish a lot first thing in the morning in only an extra fifteen or twenty minutes.

2. Make sure basic housekeeping is under control. Now, everybody has to decide for herself what basic housekeeping is. For me, as long as the beds are made, the dishes are done, and the laundry is more or less caught up, I can live with some dust until I can squeeze in a few minutes with the Swiffer. Other people may have higher housekeeping standards. So determine what the absolute minimum is you need for your mental health, and make sure those things get done. In that extra fifteen or twenty minutes in the morning, you can easily throw in a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. Most things take less time than you think they do.

3. Do you know what you’re making for lunch and dinner? I’ll assume you don’t need to plan out your breakfast since most people eat more or less the same foods (oatmeal, cold cereal, egg, smoothie). But especially if you work outside the house or have school-age kids, you need to think about lunch. And dinner. This is actually a step best performed the night before so you have less to do in the morning. Make a loose meal plan and try to stick to it. You don’t want to come home from work in a panic, staring at unidentifiable frozen lumps in the freezer and hoping for a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to magically appear.

If you’re just getting started on your defunkification, it’s perfectly acceptable to plan to order a pizza or support your local grinder or Chinese take-out shop for dinner. You need some time to get things rolling and you may need to shop for groceries once your loose meal plan for the week is made.

4. Take a shower. Casey touched on this recently in her post on working from home. Shampoo, shave, moisturize, and put on some clean clothes (you know, the laundry you did?) and you’ll feel ready to take on the world.  Being IN a funk doesn’t mean you have to SMELL funky.

5. Make a list. Yeah, I’m an inveterate list-maker. I don’t always DO the stuff on my lists, though, and that’s where I start to get into trouble. I have both a paper list for daily stuff and virtual sticky notes on my computer screen for longer term stuff, like future writing projects, and things like investigating a new cable provider and shopping for a new stove.  But in that extra few minutes in the morning, or while you’re enjoying your first cup of coffee, take some time and look at your list. Determine which of those things is most important that you get done that day.

I recommend adding a couple of less critical tasks to your must-do list (such as making that hair appointment) and, if the tasks require only five or ten minutes, do them first. That’s right, NOT in order of priority or importance. Because the satisfaction of accomplishing even a five minute task (and making a hair appointment is more like a one minute task!) and crossing it off the list gives you confidence and momentum.  And those are the keys to breaking the funk-cycle.

6. Determine the little things that are driving you crazy and add them to your list in a different section. Example: my sock and scarf drawer is a huge, jumbled mess, resulting in my not being able to find the items I want. Or the plastic storage container cupboard is out of control, and avalanches every time the door is opened. See if you can take a few minutes a day to work on these small, nagging things (maybe while you’re waiting for your significant other to get out of the shower, or while dinner is in the oven). Fixing small problems like this is another great way to start feeling good about yourself and your capabilities.

7. Do something for somebody else. No, I don’t mean take on a bunch of extra responsibilities like volunteering to organize and run your town’s winter carnival–that’s the last thing you need right now! But reach out to a friend who’s in a bigger funk than you are. Bake some banana bread and take a loaf over to your elderly neighbor. Drop five bucks into the donation can the school kids are shaking outside the grocery store. Get outside of your own head and think about somebody else. Guaranteed to make you feel better!

8. Finally, eat healthy food (order yourself something healthy along with the take-out, above!) and get a bit of exercise. Seriously, nothing makes you feel better than putting nutritious food into your body and doing something as simple as taking a walk around the block (or around the mall, if the weather is bad). So veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish, lean proteins, and lots of water. And a walk. Keep repeating to yourself that it’s not that hard. It’s not that hard. And eventually, it won’t be.

How about you? When you find yourself slipping into a funk, what are your methods for getting out?

 

Holiday Happenings!

Merry Christmas Eve!

PJ Sharon here, there, and everywhere, currently coming to you from the coziness of my living room.christmas tree I’m wrapping last minute packages and the smell of fresh baked cornbread is wafting in from the kitchen. I hope you’re all taking some time off during the holidays to spend with loved ones. I’m grabbing a few days off, but since writers are never totally on vacation, here’s what I’ll be up to until the end of the month.

For the past ten days, I’ve been part of the Sleigh Bells Ring, Are you Listening, giant audiobook giveaway hosted by Rita Award winning author, Wendy Lindstrom. Today is the last day to enter if you want to be in the running for a chance to win some awesome audiobooks, an MP3 Player, or even an iPod Nano! Just click here to bring you to the Sleigh Bells Ring are you Listening contest page where you’ll find a Rafflecopter entry form. It’s super easy, and only takes a minute, I promise!Sleighbells ring promo pic You might even win an audiobook of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES.

I’m also participating in the Awesome Indies Holiday Book Bonanza, where dozens of e-books are on sale for only .99 cents between December 26-30th.aia_holidays (1) If you aren’t familiar with Awesome Indies, it’s a great organization of Industry professionals who read, rate, and review books by Independently published authors. They have very stringent criteria that have to be met, so you can rest assured that approved books are top notch! I’m proud to say, WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT made the cut and are now listed on their front page! For my writing friends out there, check out their website at http://awesomeindies.net/ for some invaluable resource material (check out their criteria for submission info).

While WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael is only .99 cents, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the trilogy is up for FREE from December 26-28th.

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

 Bookmark this page and come back during the sale for easy links to the books on Amazon or find links on the Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza Book sale page. With all those new Kindles under Christmas trees everywhere, I couldn’t think of a better time to offer WESTERN DESERT up for FREE! If you’ve got teen readers at home or enjoy reading YA dystopian romance yourself, here is your chance to get both books for less than a dollar. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Please help me spread the word about this great opportunity by sharing this post on your Facebook page, twitter, or other social media. Simply click on the social media button of choice below and add a note of encouragement for friends to download WESTERN DESERT for FREE from Thursday to Saturday this week. Promotions like this are the best way authors can give back to readers, and readers can show their support of their favorite authors by spreading the news, leaving reviews, and chatting about the books with friends and family. As always, your support is greatly appreciated and means the world to me. May you be blessed with good health, peace, prosperity, balance and harmony in the coming year!

So that’s where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to for the next week or so. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays, squeeze in some “healthy” food choices, and plan a nice hike for after your Christmas dinner.

I’m making our traditional spiral ham. How about you?

Top 10 signs of Writer Burnout

It’s coming up on eight years that I’ve been writing toward publication (averaging 40 hours per week above and beyond my 30 hour per week day job). I recently moved my Massage Therapy business closer to home and have had to work at building a new clientele (since my day job is still supporting my writing life). I also just celebrated my two year Indie Publishing anniversary in September (sometimes logging as many as 80 hours per week between writing and marketing). I’m not ashamed to say that these past six months have been a struggle to keep all the balls in the air that are required to run two businesses, stay healthy and fit, and keep my generally happy disposition. PJ Sharon here, and today, I’m talking about BURN OUT. 

Whether you’re already published (indie or otherwise), or you’re working toward publication, this writing life is not easy, is seldom glamorous, and let’s face it, is anything but a healthy lifestyle. We sit too much, work into the wee hours, turn more often to chocolate than celery sticks, and our to-do lists make Santa’s naughty and nice scroll look like a grocery list. It’s no wonder there is such a high incidence of burn out among writers. But how does one know when enough is enough? And what do we do about it?

Here are the TOP TEN signs you may be suffering from burn out (according to me):

1) You spend an entire weekend watching re-runs of The Walking Dead marathon for the third time and call it “research”.

2) You spend more time standing in a hot shower “thinking” about your story than writing it.

3) You would rather be in a dentists chair or at a gynecological exam than preparing for another blog hop.

4) The word “marketing” becomes synonymous with “kill me now”.

5) When you take a rare night off and go to dinner with your spouse, your to-do list spills onto your napkin and you start adding notes to the palm of your hand so you won’t forget to add to your list when you get home.

6) You swear at your computer in a disgusted rage as your inbox populates itself with the 400 e-mails that come through daily.

7) When the word “deadline” gives you that sinking sense of doom that immediately makes you want to procrastinate.

8)  You would rather clean the toilet, vacuum, or wash dishes than work on revisions, update your website, or plan your next marketing strategy.

9) You feel so overwhelmed that you want to quit your job, quit writing, and move to Costa Rica to sell pottery on the beach (or some other idyllic life that is not your own, because everyone seems happier and saner than you).

10) You’re exhausted when you go to bed, and equally as exhausted when you wake up, and you’re not sure if you care whether it’s a Monday or a Friday.

Please forgive me for making light of an all too common and serious condition. Chronic burn out can lead to physical, mental and emotional health problems and genuine signs of burn out should not be ignored.

So what’s a crazy writer supposed to do?

1) Find a good therapist. I’m serious. A good counselor can help you put things into perspective (when you’ve clearly lost it and are convinced the world will end if you miss a deadline), support you without judgment, and assist you in discovering coping strategies that your addled brain cannot come up with on its own. Sometimes, even medication can help. I tend to lean toward the natural approach, but if someone’s got a pill that can improve my patience with the new Windows 8.1 upgrade, I’d consider taking it.

2) Let go. Just let go! If you’re in the writing business for the long haul, pacing yourself is key. None of us can do it all and do it all well, all the time. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! So instead of beating yourself up or making yourself crazy, decide what is most important to you. Creative success, peace of mind, and happiness, or business success and constantly feeling like you’re losing yourself to the work? When all else fails, go back to what you loved in the first place. Write your stories and stop reaching for the brass ring. If it’s meant to come, it will come, but losing your mind trying to do it all is not the answer. I have to believe that if we simply keep writing quality fiction and putting it out there, something will eventually stick. (I’ve heard that it takes Indies 10 books on their cyber-shelf before they find steady growth in their readership.) Jeesh! I’m glad this is my retirement plan for fifteen years down the road. Baby steps, grasshoppers!

3) Take care of you first! I know we have a responsibility to our families, but if we are overwhelmed, tired, grumpy, and never present, we are no good to them! The answer…nurture yourself first. Get some rest, eat something healthy, drink plenty of water, and get some exercise and fresh air!

For example, I’ll be celebrating the upcoming solstice with a few of my women friends of the earthy-crunchy persuasion (yogis, massage therapists, and energy workers). My husband has agreed to play host, bless his heart. We’ll have a nice healthy pot-luck buffet followed by a bon fire–complete with drumming. Connecting to the earth is a powerful tool for healing–both for us and for the earth. If this seems a little too “pagan” for your liking, I highly recommend finding time to observe some holiday rituals that feed your soul and your spirit, parts of us that are often abandoned to our “online” lifestyle. Yes, I’ll be celebrating Christmas with friends and family, but it comes with it’s own kind of stresses as most of you can attest. Gathering with like-minded women to share our love of nature has such a different energy and I’m really excited for the opportunity to reconnect with my “heart-centered’ community.

The point is, find something to get excited about that has nothing to do with your writing life.

4) Prioritize and organize. I don’t know about you, but my desk space can quickly become overrun with paperwork, notes, notebooks, and bills. As all the clutter encroaches, I can feel my stress level rise. It’s worth it to take a half a day and just clear the debris. Get your space organized and start fresh on a new to-do list. Anything that has been put off from your previous lists must go at the top. I know this is a challenge because there are so many more pressing issues than re-designing and ordering new bookmarks. But trust me, those insignificant naggers will weigh you down. Clearing out the bottom of the to-do bin gives you a sense of completion. What you find there might also prove to be the tasks you can hire out or ask for help with from some creative type in your tribe.

5) Lastly, try to remember the joy of writing.

You know that quitting isn’t the answer. The characters talking in your head that want their story told will never allow that. But if writing everyday is making you miserable…stop. If you love writing but hate marketing, don’t do it for a while. Give yourself a week or a month away from promoting your work or forcing yourself to write. Yes, sales may suffer, but try not to focus on that. The numbers will come back around when you publish that book you’re working on. Do what you can do, do it to the best of your ability, and keep breathing. Be a part of the life that is happening around you, and be gentle with yourself and others through the holidays.

Peace and blessings, friends.

PJ

How many of you are suffering or have suffered from burnout? What did you do to treat it?