Archive for ‘Health for writers’

August 25, 2013

Bruschetta for writers

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

I have wonderful memories of cold winter days made warm by the company of good friends.

Once a week, we met together to talk, work on projects, watch chick flics and allow our young children to run around in the immense back yard of one particularly wonderful lady.  While they wore themselves out in the snow, we rejuvenated our minds and hearts.

Here I found willing readers for my first attempts at fiction, encouragement when I accepted challenging nonfiction assignments and dedicated discussions about books. We talked about books we were reading, books we loved, books we hated, plot lines and characters and what made certain books original. I found several new favorite authors this way.

A larger group of us met once a month for lunch. In the summer, we often picnicked at parks in and around the Bismarck area. During cold weather, we met at restaurants.

One February day, we met at Olive Garden, where one of my dearest friends introduced me to Bruschetta.

I’m busy chopping fresh garden tomatoes today, content with the idea of Bruschetta for dinner.  It’s like dining with a friend.

I’m inclined to believe that all writers need friends.

Author Janet Sketchley recently put it this way:

We may do the actual writing alone, even if we do it best amid the background chatter of the local coffee hangout, but it’s the writing community that lets us thrive.

I’m nodding my head here. Writers need a strong network, for emotional health if for nothing else.

I haven’t been able to attend a slightly geographically-distant critique group for months now, but the few times I was able to attend saved my sanity during some rough times.  I’m hoping to get back to it this fall. I loved it.

Likewise, I love the local writing group that I attend more regularly. I love chatting with my daughters about their own works-in-progress, and I love that some of my writing friends I’ve left behind will call me two or three times a week just to talk writing with me.

I do, however, think that writer’s friends can—and should—extend beyond other writers.

Like my Bruschetta friend from North Dakota, and my daycare-crib-keeper friend, my German party friends, my do-it-yourself home decorator friend, my librarian friend, my running friends.

Those friends are now joined by my dessert club friends near my non-North Dakota home—the one who takes in pets for the animal shelter, the one who creates beautiful beaded hair  clips, the one who knows how to make gum paste flowers for wedding cakes and the one who enjoys Dr. Who and Monarch of the Glen.

Every person is amazingly unique, and yet it seems like any time I get together with friends, we talk about stories of some kind. I learn something from each interaction with them. Usually, I learn something about myself.

I believe that transfers directly to my writing. It makes me both a better person and a better writer.

These moments with friends are like the basil in my Bruschetta—they make something ordinary like garden tomatoes into something completely wonderful, something worth savoring and worth sharing.

April 17, 2013

Rome goals update

Although I do usually edit by computer alone, my favorite way to edit still involves paper and a highlighter :)

Although I do usually edit by computer alone, my favorite way to edit still involves paper and a highlighter 🙂

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blogging friends on my Rome Construction Crew goals. Here’s what’s been happening in my happy but somewhat hectic writing life, and life in general:

  • With the change in my schedule, I’m getting quite a bit more done on my book. Although I will only get through a solid rough draft in April, I have set a tentative release date for June 1, 2013. We’ll see if I can meet this one. If I can, it’ll be a lot of hard work, but that means fun, too.
  • Exercise has been a little bit tougher. Although I’m exercising every day, there have been a few days I haven’t met my two hour goal. I’ll just keep working on that. I still hope to be in shape enough to start the Couch to 5K program again in May.
  • As far as the volunteer editing projects go, I think I’ll be able to finish them up this week. I’ll see one author tomorrow evening, and I’ll give him my comments and suggestions then. I’ll be able to pass comments on the other manuscript to the author next Tuesday. It feels good to be able to help people who do so much for others.
  • As part of a separate project, I committed to edit the pirate book by June 1. If I’m going to meet my deadline for getting the sequel to the Night Ones Legacy out by then, I may realistically have to switch editing projects. I’ll just have to see how it goes…but more about that in May. 🙂

Thanks again to Bradley Corbet at Green Embers for setting the Rome Construction Crew up.

Writers have to rely on a network of people to get their books in the best shape they can before publishing them, and then they rely on networks of others when they start marketing and promoting them, as well. It only makes sense that we need a network to help us achieve goals in all areas of our lives. It’s part of the writing lifestyle.

This is just a  great idea, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Looking forward to running!

Looking forward to running!

April 5, 2013

Building my Rome

Silly Teenager Gwen--no matter how much I change outside, I still feel like this on the inside

Silly Teenager Gwen–no matter how much I change outside, I still feel like this on the inside

Thanks to Green Embers, I’m going to be trying something new. I’ve chosen a personal goal to work on publicly through his Rome Construction Crew.

Actually, I’ve chosen three goals–a health goal, a writing/marketing goal, and a volunteer/service goal. He’s asked that we share the stories behind these goals. If I get too personal, please forgive me. I do that sometimes.

Health goal and the story behind it:

Nearly twelve years ago now, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. It’s benign, but it causes all sorts of discomfort, mostly related to rampant hormones and their effects on the rest of my body.

Since then, I’ve discovered I have an amazing ability to develop benign tumors in other places, as well, and I have a not-so-hidden talent for gaining fat.  I once thought this was life-threatening and that I was going to die an early death from it. I’ve since learned that although it’s not fun sometimes, I don’t have to be miserable over this. I have become a much more jolly soul because of it, and that’s a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

There are things I’d like to change, though. Because of the hormonal imbalances, it’s very easy to gain fat and very difficult to lose it. I’m currently about a hundred pounds overweight. Only a few things seem to help control this: balancing the hormones, which involves doctor visits, MRIs, blood tests and other yucky lab work, and medicine that doesn’t always fit into our budget; a low carb diet, which is very hard for me to stick to; and at least two hours of exercise a day, which is also hard to fit into my schedule.

I’d like to say I could lose five or ten pounds with combined efforts in April, but I don’t have confidence that it would happen even if I did everything right (I’ve had trouble with this before). Instead, I’m going to focus on the goals themselves. I’m hoping to be able to start the Couch to 5K program in May, and in order to work up to it, I’ve been walking two hours a day. I intend to keep doing that until the end of April.

Of course, I’ll be working on my eating habits at the same time, but my Rome Goal for April will be the two hours of daily walking.

Writing goal and the story behind it:

The Night Ones Legacy has been poking and prodding me for the past two years now, and it’s past time I do something about it. I set a goal earlier this year to get its sequel out by the end of April. I’m beginning to see that I probably won’t make that deadline, so I’m setting a different but related writing goal: I have to work on this particular book at least ten hours a week in April. If I can’t manage my time well enough to make it happen along with the walking goal, I may not take any more journalism assignments until I complete this draft.

That’s good motivation, right?

In the meantime, I’ll also be working on the edit of the pirate story–but that’s another goal for another time. 🙂

Volunteer service goal and the story behind it:

My life is always better when it includes people, and it’s even better when I’m doing something nice for them. I love to see other people smile.

However, in the offline world, I tend to be introverted, shy and awkward, and it takes some work to bring me out of my shell.

With that in mind, my Rome Goal for April is this: I will complete my comments on two manuscripts that fellow writers here in Utah have asked me to look at, and then, instead of e-mailing them, I’ll deliver them in person.

Now, a quick note (probably more like a disclaimer):

I tend to be way too optimistic about what I can get done in a day. For that reason, I’ve learned to love setting goals, but I’m not very good at following through with them. Sometimes they’re just not realistic enough to fit into my life.

These three goals are my attempts to take baby steps toward my dreams. If I reach them in April, I’ll set new goals for May. If not, these ones will be extended.

Either way, I intend to have fun with them. It’s another fun game! And maybe I can win!

I’m counting on everyone out there to cheer me on. 🙂


January 10, 2013

Writers can improve fitness with little bursts of exercise

My somewhat worn-out running shoes

My somewhat worn-out running shoes

I discovered a few years ago that I felt better when I take breaks to run up and down my hall. It’s become a habit to do this every time I have something in the printer.

It’s not much, I know, but writing and a sedentary lifestyle often go hand in hand–and even a few minutes jogging in place makes a difference to my energy levels and ability to think. That’s got to be good for anyone trying to write.

At a meeting earlier this week, I heard a speaker briefly mention that exercising for more than an hour is counterproductive. My first thought was An hour? Who’s got an hour to spend, anyway?

I realized I’d love the luxury of spending that much time taking care of myself.

And then, it hit me–I have these little moments when the printer is running. I can take advantage of all of these kinds of times.

I came home, opened up my laptop and began researching little bursts of exercise. Here’s what I found:

  • The Ten Minute Workout, Times Three–apparently running for three short bursts of ten minutes each is more effective at reducing blood pressure than a longer, more consolidated workout is. From the article:

As it turned out, exercise was helpful in controlling blood pressure, but breaking up the workout into three short sessions was significantly more effective than the single half-hour session. “The fractionized exercise led to lower average 24-hour blood pressure readings,” Dr. Gaesser says.

  • That same article mentions other studies. One of those studies indicates that children and teenagers exercising in bursts of five minutes have lower cholesterol risks, better blood pressure readings and better waistlines; another found greater aerobic fitness in previously sedentary people.
  • Here’s another article: 30 minutes exercise ‘better than an hour of training’ for weight loss

Adults who exercise for shorter bursts of time can lose as much weight as those who work out for up to twice as long, a study has suggested.

I think maybe I’m on to something here.

I’ll be adding to my ‘printer sprints.’ So, even though I wasn’t going to make any fitness-related New Year’s resolutions, I guess I am, after all. Here are my ideas:

  • After forty five minutes of intense writing and editing work, I HAVE to go roughhouse with my boy for at least five minutes. We can play ball, tumble across the living room floor, chase each other, and generally drive his toy tractors up and down the kitchen floor on our hands and knees. That’s got to count for something.
  • I’m a fan of the couch-to-5K program, but it’s hard to find a big block of time to make it work. I can do this, though: I can take ten minutes every few hours and walk, run, walk, run down my long and narrow basement hall. In the summer, I’ll take it outside.
  • Yoga as a wind-down–I don’t have to do a full routine, but I bet one or two poses at the end of my workday would help me relax and transition more easily into the cooking-dinner part of my life.
  • And, of course, there’s my stationary bicycle. I’m going to try to use that more when I’m spending time with my family in the evenings.

Well. There you have it…I’ve made a commitment now. Hold me to it. 🙂

December 23, 2012

Biking down Imagination Lane

This is how I bike down Imagination Lane

This is how I bike down Imagination Lane

Of all the things that take up space on my office floor, the compact stationary bicycle I borrowed from my sister is the most inspiring.

I can’t type while I’m using it. Even though I keep it under my desk, my knees hit the table when I use it there. I have to pull it out and turn my chair slightly to get any good spin of the pedals.

This doesn’t mean it’s a nuisance. On the contrary, it gives me more reasons to enjoy my thinking time as well as work on my health as I work at home.

I assume that every writer has a thinking time. For me, this is the time when I hit writer’s block, and I desperately want to DO SOMETHING, but I know if I leave my desk I won’t come back for a very long time–or, if I do come back soon, I’ll come back with an open bag of chocolate chips. Not a good thing.

This little bike has already had several impacts on my writing.

First, it keeps me active. Even if it’s a half a minute at a time while I wait for something to print or a half hour, off and on, while I sketch out a plot, movement is movement.  It means more oxygen for my brain, which I believe translates into better thinking and hence, better writing.

Second, it uses up nervous energy. When I’m overloaded with work, I mentally chain myself to my desk. I become so absorbed in my work that when night comes, I can’t unwind to sleep. If I use my bike more on those days, my life seems less hectic, somewhat balanced and manageable. Because that movement allows me to unwind, I sleep better and then work better the next day. That makes it a time-saver.

Thirdly, it seems to stimulate my imagination. If I sit on my chair, close my eyes and cycle, I can muse on possible plots or character development in my fiction projects, wording and organization and even who to contact and what to ask with my nonfiction ones.

Overall, that’s what makes this little bike so inspiring. I love thinking, but I especially love seeing efforts for my thinking. If I’m thinking and holding still, it’s too easy to fall asleep.

Staying active while trying to work full-time at home means I have to put a little extra effort into my down time. The bike comes in really handy for this. It’s become the guardian of my feet (I can’t get away from my desk without noticing it’s there) as well as my ride through Imagination Lane.

December 13, 2012

Building a better office snack

Several years ago, a writing instructor told me writers should do all they can to stay healthy. He ran every day. Me, I run around every day. That’s not the same thing at all.

Snacking is where I have the most trouble. I seem to manage my stress best when I have something to munch on. The problem is, I don’t often choose snacks that energize me and help me feel healthy.

Chocolate chips and I get along too well. If I don’t watch myself, I can eat them by the handful–and that’s not good when I spend so much time at my desk.

I’m trying to build a set of better office snacks, things I can grab quickly out of the pantry that don’t cost much and that aren’t harmful to me. I’ll be adding to this list over the next few weeks, but here are the first things I’ve tried:

  • Almost any kind of nut–Almonds and cashews tend to be my favorite.
  • Dried cranberries–They just taste better than raisins. Also it’s almost Christmas, and they look beautiful and merry. They’re even better when mixed with almonds. I also recently discovered dried pineapple, and that may make it into the mix later this week.
  • Bitter chocolate–I love bitter baking bars. I keep a few of them in my pantry. When I’m feeling sorry for myself because I have no chocolate, I can break a square off and let bits of it melt slowly in my mouth. It curbs my chocolate craving completely for a few hours.

Here are the things I’ve been thinking about but have yet to try:

  • Celery chips–I imagine these would taste great with dried cranberries, too, and they wouldn’t be so water-heavy that I couldn’t set them by my computer.
  • Cabbage wedges–I especially want to try tiny slices of purple cabbage. It’s just so pretty.
  • Cherry tomatoes–I love tomatoes. This couldn’t be a bad choice, ever.
  • Kale leaves–This is something I want to eat more of anyway.

Somehow, I’d love to sneak in navy beans, pinto beans and black beans, but I’m not sure yet how to do it.

Of course I could opt for not snacking at all, but I’ve done that before. I don’t like the feeling of deprivation. The jittery feeling I get when I know I”m trying not to snack isn’t much fun, either. For the time being, I’ll stick with snacks, but I’ll try to make healthy choices that will keep me thinking  and writing better and longer.

I have a lot of work ahead of me if I’m going to build a better office snack system–but I love the opportunities I have to keep trying.

December 4, 2012

Salad bar lunches for writers means love

Our nineteenth anniversary gift to each wishes for each other's health!

Our nineteenth anniversary gift to each other…a very nice cutting board and best wishes for each other’s health!

About a year and a half ago, when my husband was considering a job in northern Idaho, I perused the classifieds for jobs I could do, as well. I found an announcement for a web content writer. The environment sounded fun, lighthearted and friendly. The company provided a salad bar lunch for its employees every work day.

Since then, the idea of a salad bar lunch has both intrigued and eluded me. Although I dreamed about the simplicity and variety, I knew I could never stick to that way of eating by myself, and I doubted I’d be able to finish a head of lettuce before it went bad.

I recently convinced my husband and my teenage daughters to try it with me. It’s been two weeks now. My sweetheart munches on nuts in the morning, has salad for lunch and says he’s not too hungry in the afternoons–and that’s already a big change. My daughters have fun helping pick out and prepare the toppings. They feel pampered (and thus motivated to stay healthy), and that makes me feel like a wonderful mother. Even my baby boy–who was on his way to being a picky eater–is beginning to try and enjoy more vegetables.

Our overall analysis: we love it.

We love it so much that my husband and I celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary this way: we purchased an exquisite cutting board (made by a multi-talented friend from my writing group), and we went to the store together to buy more vegetables.

Well–I admit we had a fast food lunch that day. That was enjoyable, too, but the salad bar lunches are more romantic. It’s kind of a symbol. It stands for our commitment to stay healthy for each other. And that means love.

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