Yesterday I spent the afternoon cruising around my favorite consignment shop. As I drove to the store I asked myself why I was taking time off to stroll the aisles for items I really don’t need (I found three, two Vera Wang and one Chico. Whoppee!). If you can’t tell from my delight at what I purchased, retail therapy at a reduced price, is how I de-stress. Yard sales are my other choice for lifting my spirit and reducing my blood pressure. In both cases I love used or recycled items. It means I’m buying what someone else already found enticing enough to purchase at full price. And, no, I do not believe any item I select has been “rejected” by its former owner. That’s my fantasy and I’m sticking to it.
I don’t know how other writers make their days work, but as the number of books I’ve published increase so too do the adjustments I’ve made to the pattern of my day. I like writing. It’s a passion for me, and I don’t want it to become so stressful and unpleasant that it’s no longer fun, so I’ve found I have to be more intentional about how I structure my time. I do know I’m glad I’m retired from whatever that career was before I started writing. This is more fun. I hear about those who hold down full time jobs, raise a family and write. How do they do it? I’m in awe.
When I did programs about writing I used to say I did promotion in the mornings and wrote in the afternoons. Sounds so simple. With two series out already, several short stories, a stand- alone mystery (which I might make into a series), and a three book contract, that simple scheme for programming my day doesn’t work. As I become more invested in my writing, I find I need more ways to get away from it. It sounds odd, but I’m trying to keep this writing thing fresh and creative. Breaks do that.
Writing to deadline as laid out in my new contract creates pressure to produce a certain number of words each day. Once a pantster in plotting, now I’m working from an outline, one I violate on every page, but it still gives me some structure. I truly love my new series, but I want to continue to find my characters and the plot exciting. To do that, I need to push away from it. Here’s what I do to maintain humor and excitement in my work.
1. I walk several miles every morning and go to the gym three days a week for circuit training. I wish I had the time to do more, but I’ve decided not to beat myself up with what I cannot do.
2. My husband and I go out one weekend night to dance and have a few drinks.
3 I like to decorate. We’re working on our house in Florida, replacing the rug in the living room with hardwood. Now I’m repainting some furniture and making curtains. I admit this requires a bit more retail therapy in thrift shops. We recovered some chairs. I’m not real creative, but I can redecorate well enough that no one runs out of the room yelling, “my eyes, my eyes.”
4. We’re taking a long weekend next month and it’s debatable whether we will take our computers (he’s also a writer). We’re also planning a hiking vacation on the Cornwall Coast in England late summer.
5. I like to get out in the field and do as much research there for my books as I can. For my microbrewing series, I “hopped” from brewery to brewery. Because the book set in Florida features a retired preschool teacher turned bartender, hubby and I hung out in a lot of cowboy bars listening to country music and dancing. In the second book in my new series, the protagonist’s uncle is killed on an air boat ride. Yup, I took that trip. I’ll be visiting a hunting ranch for the third book.
To keep my creative juices flowing, I like to keep moving, buy secondhand and engage in interesting adventures. And, oh yeah, there’s that promotion stuff to accomplish. I wish I could say it’s as much fun as writing but we all know I’d be lying, yet I think the same techniques that allow me to write with enjoyment also allow me to promote with some cleverness. At least I hope so.
What’s your formula for staving off stress to keep your writing fresh and imaginative?
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.
She is author of several short stories and several mystery series: the microbrewing mystery series set in the Butternut Valley (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) and a rural Florida series, Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Killed and Chilled (to be released late in 2012). She recently signed a three-book deal with Camel Press for The Consignment Shop Murders including A Secondhand Murder.
For something more heavenly, try her mystery Angel Sleuth. Several of her short stories have been published by Untreedreads including one (Murder with All the Trimmings) in the original Thanksgiving anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry and another (Mashed in the Potatoes) in the second anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping. She invites readers to visit her on her blog and website.
Website: www.lesleydiehl.com and blog http://anotherdraught.blogspot.com
Wow, Lesley, you have me beat. We used to love to go dancing--but now it's out for lunch and the movies. I agree though, you definitely need to do something else to rev up your juices. That was a great post and I learned a lot more about you! Thanks for visting.