Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dr. Myra's Prescription: Get a Life!!!

Hey, you! Yes, you there, with your nose glued to your computer screen. I see you browsing blogs, posting witty comments, updating your Facebook profile, Twittering, checking e-mail. Okay, I'll accept that in between all that Web stuff you’re actually adding to the word count of your wip. That’s great. All this stuff--writing, networking, staying in touch--it’s all part of a writer’s life.

But do you have a life outside of writing? Even beyond your “real job” if you’re otherwise employed? Anything that would come even close to being called living?

If you’ve been in the writing business for any length of time, you can’t have missed the old writer’s adage (or is that “adage for old writers” ;>)): Write what you know. Or its addendum, Write what you want to know.

But if your main “hobby” is surfing the 'Net or perfecting your skills at typing bon mots with your thumbs, baby, you aren’t really living. And real life--the day-to-day experiences and adventures that make us who we are--is where some of the best story ideas come from. I mean, how many successful romance novels feature a heroine who sits at a computer all day long? How, pray tell, is she going to meet her hero? (And don’t tell me on an Internet dating service or in the comment section of her favorite blog.)

An amazing and inspiring man spoke at our ACFW chapter meeting on Saturday. Chuck Sasser, author of God in the Foxhole and more than 50 other published books and something like 3000 magazine articles, told us his childhood goal was to “live many lives and write about them.”

And he’s done just that! According to his Website bio, Chuck has “solo-canoed across the Yukon; sailed the Caribbean; motorbiked across the continent; rode camels in the Egyptian desert; floated the Amazon River; dived for pirate treasure; rode horses across Alaska; motorcycled Europe; climbed Mount Rainier; ran with the bulls in Spain; chased wild mustangs...” and a whole lot more!

We may not be diving for pirate treasure or running with the bulls, but all the Seekers are "living out loud" and loving it! Lest you think we're just soaking up the island sun while we pound out our spectacular prose, here are a few examples of what we've been up to:

Mary Connealy enjoys boating with her family on the Missouri River. She also has a lot of, um, interesting stuff happen around the farm. If you need to be convinced, read a few of her posts over at Petticoats and Pistols. (That's Mary on the right, hiding behind the boat.)

For Ruth Logan Herne, life in the kitchen is part and parcel, whether at the bakery making gorgeous cakes and sumptuous desserts for the betterment of mankind, or prepping for Bethy's wedding like in this pic. Ruthy also raises the cutest puppies! You can see pix here.

Janet Dean rubber stamps greeting cards and enjoys the fellowship with her stamper friends. She says, “Stamping reminds me that anything worth doing takes time and effort and all is not lost if I don't get it right the first time.” She also golfs and spends lots of time enjoying her grandkids. (That's Janet lookin' glam in the zebra-striped top.)

Sandra Leesmith RVs all over the U.S. She recently visited Yellowstone, and last we heard, she's somewhere in Washington State about now. Here’s a snap of Sandra with Glynna Kaye. Glynna lives a busy life in Arizona amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in the US.

Audra Harders lives the ranching life! She’s active with her local 4-H club and is 4-H secretary at the County Extension Office. Here’s a shot of her old goat! (Sorry, Audra, got this from the Seekerville archives since I didn't hear from you before uploading today's post.)

Cheryl Wyatt has been busy recently assisting neighbors with storm cleanup, dragging downed limbs and the like. “And cleaning up after that strange, epic inland hurricane which contained four tornadoes...or should I call it a hurrinado?” Is this fiction fodder or what???

Debby Giusti holds a birthday party every year for a friend from church who was injured in a terrible automobile accident a number of years ago and is paralyzed from her neck down. They celebrated last week with presents and a cake. Debby says, “I'm always inspired by her courage and optimism. My problems seem petty in comparison.” Here's Debby (left) with friends Pat Rosenbach, Terri Clark, and Joan Rorabaugh celebrating Jeanna Sugg's birthday.

Myra Johnson (that’s me!) began horseback riding lessons in her late forties and even competed in a dressage schooling show! She and her hubby volunteered with a therapeutic riding center before leaving the Houston area and hope to get involved with a similar program one day soon.

Pam Hillman works full-time, serves as ACFW treasurer, and is learning how to be a long-distance mom to a son in the military. As a pastor's wife and busy mom, Missy Tippens is on the go pretty much nonstop! The other Seekers--Camy Tang, Tina Russo, Cara Slaughter, Julie Lessman--have plenty keeping them engaged with life as well--just ask them!

What’s the most interesting thing you do to stay active and involved? Have you found ways to work those experiences into your manuscripts?

To paraphrase Chuck Sasser, get involved with life, wherever your interests are, and draw on all of it as ideas for your writing.

Do things. Don’t just watch other people do things!


  1. Myra--I'm laughing right now because I begged God to give me a man who would keep me 'involved' with the outside world. And He sure did! Sometimes I have to remember I asked for the ends-of-the-earth experience I'm getting. First Germany then China. And I've always been a homebody!

    You're absolutely right. If we're not multi-faceted people, our writing is going to dry up fast. I love the fact God uses my life to aid my writing as well as my writing to push me deeper into Him. It all comes full circle!

  2. Wow, you guys are doing some amazing things!

    My husband and I are mostly raising children right now. They're active in sports, music, and 4-H so we are out a lot.

    About everything we do and observe goes into the writing somewhere. From the young man who is in track breaking all the records and looking like a Greek god doing it--long blonde hair flowing, bronze, muscular body in motion--to the kids of all shapes and sizes training their sometimes stubborn and/or frightened dogs for 4-H.

  3. Janet--I just read your post from yesterday. I loved the suggestion to make your setting interact like one of the characters. I can see how that would definitely help a scene where a character is processing thoughts alone. Thanks!

  4. I love reading about authors and what they do besides write! What a varied group you have here. And why is Ruth so slender when she is baking yummy things all the time. Soooo not fair!

    I work in an elementary school in the office, so I get LOTS of interaction (some I could do without!) and I am a pastor's wife with 4 kids...3 teens still in the house, need I say more?

    But I try to get out with my girlfriends for movie night, having people over for games, and even did stamping/scrapbook not too long ago. So I do try and get out of my shell, but don't really think of it as fodder for my writing. Maybe I should...

  5. I teach 5th grade. I chase my 7 month old son around the house. Today we're going swimming for the first time... for him, not for me... I've been swimming before.

    Sometimes I wish I could be a million different people at once... only not like Sybil, more like cloning. I wish I could live on a ranch, be a firefighter, stockbroker, president and CEO of a fortune 500 company, doctor, architect, missionary, Pastor's wife, circus clown, travel through Europe, Africa, South America... all so I'd have tons and tons of real-life experience for my stories. Real-life experience is so much more fun than research. Bleck... me not likey the research.

  6. Good morning, Seekerville! I bought coffee, Earl Gray tea, fresh fruit and my favorite apple fritters.

    Myra, fun post! I loved seeing my Seeker sisters in their activities. Mary, you need a captain hat! We may not use what we do in a book, but getting out and living feeds our spirit, renews our energy and hopefully enriches our lives, and those we have contact with, in some way. Ruthy's calorie packed goodies are enriching lots of lives. :-)

    Ayrian, glad my post yesterday gave you an idea for your writing. I love that God gave you what you asked for...an exciting life!

    Sherrinda and Cathy, your kids keep you hopping! Fun times. Hi


  7. Loved your post, Myra! Very thought provoking. I had to think to come up with activities not involved with writing. I babysit for my grandson Damian (that's almost a full-time job) and my husband and I and sometimes Damian go camping. But I usually take my computer.

  8. Good advice, Dr. Myra! And isn't Debby Giusti such a doll? She is so SWEET!

    I was just complaining--to my cyber friends, of course--that I don't get involved, I just sit at home at my computer all the time! Well, that's not entirely true. I do things with my 10- and 7-year-old daughters. I went to about 50,000 softball games during the spring. And I spent three days and nights at Kids' Camp with them and 150 other kids a few weeks ago. I USED TO scrapbook, and I still do every now and then. And right now I'm about to go to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Does that count?

  9. MYRA!!! What a clever and fun post!! But I have to admit that I was heavily convicted by your advice to "get a life." Regrettably, with a 3rd (and final, per my editor) extension on the deadline for book 4 looming before me, I haven't had much of a life lately (just ask my daughter and husband), but I hope to remedy that soon.

    Life is WAY too short to spend 18/7 behind a computer ... and can get really, really boring!! :)


  10. Myra, thanks for a fun glimpse behind the scenes in Seekerville!

    And isn't that Glynna Kaye a total fox????? Oh, mylanta, woman, if only I were thirty again.


    Janet, thanks for the fruit. Loving it. And I'm a big believer that the more life throws your way, the stronger story-lines you can create.

    And did anyone else notice that Myra looks REALLY, REALLY good on that horse??? Holy Macaroni, girl, what a great shot!

    Therapeutic riding sessions are great for special needs kids and people with mental health issues. Horses can make a believer out of most anyone, can't they?


  11. Oh, and Cathy, waving, one track mom to another....

    I've spent so many years at track meets, road races and cross-country invitationals that it's second nature now. My kids have made life-long friends of teammates and competitors alike. Nothing like a runner to respect another runner.

    Mind you, I do not run. Not now. Not ever. That is solely a gift from their father.

    If I have to, I can run to the refrigerator for another stick of butter. Or a jug of cream. Or bacon.


    Ruthy (a Northern girl who LOVES Paula Deen's cooking philosophies... If one stick of butter is good, two must be better...)

  12. Janet, trust me I do NOT need a captaim hat. I am NOT the captain. My husband actually has a t-shirt that says Captain...in the unlikely event anyone ever forgets.

    The kids got it for him for a gift to persuade him to get rid of his old boating T-Shirt that said, "Back Off. I can kill you five ways without using my hands."

  13. Good morning, everyone! Thanks for stocking the buffet table, Janet. I'm just finishing my pot of Earl Gray green tea this morning, and it sure goes nice with those apple fritters!

    Oh, Ayrian! You really have been all over the world! Living overseas or traveling is another great way to expand our horizons. I've been to Israel, Egypt, Germany, Turkey, and Greece (and have set foot into the edges of Mexico and Canada). My little granddaughter was born while her parents were stationed in Egypt so she's already a world traveler!

  14. Cathy and Sherrinda, being moms more than qualifies you for "having a life." I started writing when my girls were around 10 and 11, and I got sooooo many story ideas from them! (I was writing for middle-graders and young adults back then.) Swim meets, band trips--it never ended! Fun, fun, fun, but oh-so-exhausting!

  15. I should have included Melanie and Katie in that last comment! "Grandma" Cara, too!

    I'm with you, Katie--wishing I had a few more lifetimes to experience all the things I'll never get around to in this one. And if I could be guaranteed the courage and stamina to try some of those things, so much the better!

  16. Mary, you may not be the captain, but you are one very classy first mate! Sort of reminds me of that line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding--if the husband is the head of the family, then the wife is the NECK!!!

  17. An excellent reminder.

    Currently I'm a company bookkeeper, homeschool mom, and care giver for my MIL.

  18. Thanks for the great post, Myra. How fun to get a glimpse into the real lives of the awesome Seekers.

    My life the past year was filled with my daughter's senior year activities, completing all the college application documents and facing the fact that our one and only will be heading to college in the fall. My page count suffered, yes, but I made real life memories.

  19. Erica, I really admire moms who homeschool. My daughter has been homeschooling her #1 son for the past year or two and is about to take on all three of the boys next year--high school, junior high, and elementary all at once! Ouch!

    Keli, getting a daughter out of HS and into college is no small thing! I have great memories of those years with my girls. Enjoy them while you can!

  20. Hi Myra,

    I like your post and agree with it! There is definately more to life than work. In addition to working full time and writing, I enjoy sewing and quilting but they are still solitary activities. For some time now, I've been exploring ideas of doing something that gets me out of the house and around other people for at least one night a week or month.

    Now, I will be activly perusing the community colleges summer activities/classes.


  21. Hi, Rose! College classes are a great way to expand your horizons and meet other people--good idea! Even joining a Bible study group, church choir, or book club gives you a chance to interact with other human beings and gain from their perspectives.

  22. Mary, your hubby must have a wild sense of humor too. Unless of course he meant every word on that t-shirt. :-)

    Besides stamping, I enjoy hostessing. Not so much the preparation--that's just work--but having people to our home.


  23. I love posts like these because they reminded readers and aspiring writers that published authors are just like them. Real.

    Love the pic of the goat!

    Hubby and I are raising three very active sons. We used to pastor a church but right now we're seeking direction for what's next in ministry (not that that does anything to volume of phone calls from folks in need of a word of encouragement). In the meantime, we both work full-time and we have a large family.

    Still, I sometimes have to remind myself to put down my writing (or the book I'm reading) and get down and dirty with the boys. Just yesterday we played indoor bowling at home in our pjs. What fun!

  24. My part-time job and eighteen-month-old son keep me busy. Plus my husband and I are involved in our church, hosting a small group, mom's group, etc.

    I got to a point where I was tired of having my arms, legs, ears, and any other appendages you can think of stretched to the limit. So I took my Blackberry calendar, mapped out each week an hour at a time. Granted, I hardly ever follow the schedule to a T. But it at least helps me carve out Time w/ God, Playtime with Kids, Writing Time, Time w/ Hubby, etc., and I can do each thing 100% now instead of trying to do it all at the same time at 50% effectiveness. My husband is much happier now too (I've been accused at times of loving the computer more than him. Yikes.) :-/

  25. My real hope for boating these days is that my daughter and he husband will come up to boat and I'LL BE STUCK BABYSITTING.

    Uh, yes, I feel bad about missing the boating to play with sweet, chubby little Elle...sure I do.


  26. What a TOTALLY FUN post.

    My hobby is creating furniture out of pop cans. No really. Hey I am serious. I have a new line of comfy office furniture coming out soon.

  27. Hi Myra:

    Wonderful post. I think the ‘reading experience’ is much enhanced by knowing about the author’s life.

    What I found to be very ‘life-rewarding’ over the years is to take a bus tour of a foreign country where you are with that same group of people for a week or two. It helps if your tour companions are from all over the world. English speaking people are very fortunate in this respect. My wife and I have been on tours of Europe with fellow tourists from Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even Brazil and Argentina where those folks wanted to tour with English speakers. We have friends all over the world now because of this travel. One couple from Australia even stayed at our house in Tulsa when they toured America. And this is to say nothing of what you see and learn on the tour!

    My advice is to travel as much as you can (make a lot of book signing tours) and if your are young travel to places where it is uncomfortable to travel to first. (Take the easy tours when you are old.)


  28. Janet, you're so blessed to have the gift of hospitality. I bet you're a wonderful hostess!

    Patricia, glad you're making time to have fun with your boys! My daughter has three active sons, too, so I bet you two could have fun comparing notes!

    Sarah, I don't think I could ever be as organized as you, but I'm glad you've found a way to give 100% to whatever you're doing at the moment. Great strategy!

    Mary. Are you bragging about your cute little granddaughter AGAIN????

  29. Okay, Tina, we want pix! Now!!!

    Vince, I am already too old to travel to anyplace "uncomfortable." I think I've been too old for that since I was about 3 or so. But even though I'm not a good traveler (MUCH prefer my own bed and pillow), it really is a great mind-expander. There are many places in the world I still hope to visit before I get too old to enjoy them.

  30. Hubby and I have our own business, so that takes quite a bit of our free time.

    We also have four grandchildren and that keeps us busy at other times.

    Hubby bought a harley and wants me to ride with him. I've managed short trips and am not real thrilled with numb butt syndrome.

    We're hoping to do some camping, not in the tent or camper shell anymore, but in a trailer. After years of rain storms sitting in flapping tents, shivering while my back cried from sleeping on the hard ground, I can commiserate with you, Myra.

    My husband and I do gardening and love to build. We're talented rednecks,(He's form Georgia, I was born in Miss.) we built our garage and we've added three addition to our trailer (finally pulled the wheels off) and are now considering another.

    Our children say we should just buy a house, and have thought about it, but no one can deny that this house has a character all it's own. And I'm not talking about the characters that reside there.

  31. Sounds like you have a very busy and productive life, Tina P! I could probably do trailer or RV camping, but that's about as close to "roughing it" as you'll ever find me! And I just can't imagine getting beaten to death by the wind while clinging in terror to the back of a Harley! Oh, and I don't look too purty with bugs in my teeth.

  32. Oh Myra, Myra, Myra,
    Bugs in your teeth can be quite colorful, and they give you a snack for later.

    Although picking them out of your teeth is a pit.

    While I'm not into the whole harley mama (or grandmama) thing I try to remind myself that people actually want that wind blown look. Makes me look like a model.


  33. I got a kick out of hearing about the doings of fellow writers here. I'm a sahm and have kids living at home. Like Keli I've been so busy with my last child's senior year. Just the college application process has been so consuming since last Sept. I'm looking forward to 3 wks. in England soon wiith hubby and visiting friends and family there. We won't be talking writing. Pat

  34. Chuck Sasser is an amazing man! I'd love to try half the things he's done!

    Myra, love the horse pic! Don't cross, Ruthy! She knows how to use that knife, too : )

    Hey Cathy! You go, girl! 4-H is awesome! Most of our family life experiences came about because my kids wanted to be involved in everything 4-H!!

    I had a friend who once told me *you spend too much time with your kids. Yes, they're only young for a short time, but you're only young once too.* Quite honestly, her comment made me stop a think for a few moments. Then I decided I wanted to grow old WITH my family, not independent of them.

    Thanks for showing my old goat, Myra. LOL!! thank goodness that wasn't a pic of my DH!!

  35. Great post, Myra!

    When one has kids, I think having a life beyond the computer happens whether we want it or not. My oldest playing football gave me an opportunity to talk to Holly Jacobs about a non-writing thing. And I highly appreciated her insight into youth sports. Like minds think alike.

    About two months ago, I was reading that month's edition of Real Simple magazine. I'm confident the editors asked Russo what her idea magazine would look like, and Waalaa!

    Well, one article caught my attention.

    Have a Reduce, Recycle, Reuse Party!

    Invite 3-20 friends/acquaintances. Each brings up to ten gently used items to "exchange" and is given a poker chip for each item. Only limitations to what can be brought is NO clothing/shoes or children's stuff.

    Party guests then take turns selecting one or two items at a time from the treasure trove. No one has to choose an item for each item brought, but neither can anyone choose more than the number brought.

    While teams are choosing items, the remaining guests enjoy the fellowship and the munchies.

    My idea was to invite a few ladies I knew well from church and a few ladies I barely knew but would like to get to know better.

    The cool thing with a party like this is you could use it to introduce your non-church friends to your church friends.

    Life was too crazy in May to do my party, but as long as nothing unexpected arises, I'm planning on hosting my party in July.

    Another fun way to have a life is to take a class at a local university. Costs are pretty reasonable. I want to enroll in few cooking classes. Most clasess are about $50-75.

  36. You are so right. Life is to be lived. Thanks for the perfect post this week.

  37. Oh, Pat, don't remind me of the "joys" of filling out college apps and financial aid forms!!! Soooo glad those days are behind me! Have a wonderful time in England. That's at the top of my list for places I really want to see.

    Audra, I don't think it's possible to spend too much time with your kids. When they grow up and look back on their youth, they'll remember exactly how much or how little time you invested in them! Believe me, your involvement does make a difference!

    Gina, what a great idea for a party! You'll have to let us know how it turns out!

    Thanks so much for visiting, "prayerthegate"!

  38. Very Nice! Glad to see I'm not the only one with a plethora of hobbies. I think some times I have TOO many. I work full time as a bookkeeper for a health food distributor, but I also do photography, graphology(handwriting analysis), scrapping, songwriter/singer, Sunday school teaching... the list could go on and on. It has helped several times in my writing though. The graphology especially was helpful for my second novel. Now to convice an editor of that... :)

  39. Great post, Myra! I enjoyed seeing those pictures. lol

    My MIL loves to grill for the family, and that's always fun. My fil just bought a paddle boat for the kids...and I need to try that out.

    Right now, I'm writing lots of letters to the soulja boy!

    And, one of these days I'm going to get brave enough to get on a horse again. My 16 yo assures me it's safe to ride Tricity. Ya think?

    And I visit my friend in the nursing home every Tuesday night.

    Oops, gotta run!

    We're having Subway sandwiches tonight. Yum!

  40. Ooooh, handwriting analysis! Interesting, April! I shudder to think what mine would say about me! I could imagine all kinds of ways you might work that into a novel, especially mystery/suspense!

    Subways, Pam? And here I sit avoiding the daily "what's for supper" dilemma. A paddle boat sounds fun! Good exercise too! I've just been surfing the 'Net again for therapeutic riding centers in my area. Nothing really close, but maybe one of these days we'll go visit a couple. They would be hard pressed to live up to the center we were with outside of Houston.

  41. Wow, I'm back online. Storms in the area (I'm about 100 miles from St. Louis) knocked out electrical power last night. All we lost was TV. That was back on this morning, but I've had no online connection all day.

    Been there, done that with the kid things--ballgames, concerts, etc. Also had a son in Iraq for a year.

    Besides being a bookworm, I have always had a passion for music. I'm retired from teaching now, but I still accompany the high school choir for contest. I'm an amateur ventriloquist, and I do vocal, piano, and trumpet solos for church, along with being the pastor's wife.

    All these things are drawn from in my writing. The oddest thing in the critiques I've gotten is when I've written scenes based on actual experiences and been told that they were unrealistic, while totally fictitious scenes were fine.



  42. Don't worry, Myra, everyone has something shudder worthy in their handwriting. It's human nature. I do find that I tend to type more than write much anymore. I think it's too avoid all the things I see glaring off the page. :) And it does seem to work well for my suspense novel. At least I enjoy it.

  43. What fun! And I am with Vince -- travel now. When we went to Israel years ago we noticed most of the country is basically not handicapped accessible.

    Waving to Myra ... I volunteered at a therapeutic riding stable for years.

    Right now I help DH on the farm and all three kids are into all kinds of stuff.

    Two of our three are in Little League, so we are meeting a cross-section of the community.

    The kids are also in 4-H. Cake decorating, fine arts, models, sports, dairy and tractor driving. This is a light load compared to some of our friends' and neighbors' kids!

  44. Dr. Myra, You clever chicky you. Chuck is an amazing role model--makes my life look pretty pathetic.

    HOWEVER, we're off on a long weekend as part of our "get a life" plan.

    Loved all the pictures. And sorry I'm so late posting this--it's been an interesting day.

  45. I thought I was busy until I read your blog about what other people are doing. In fact, I looked around my office just to make sure there isn't a camera tucked somewhere in a corner. Great blog! Thanks--hugs and blessings

  46. I agree that writers need to get out and live before they can write effectively. With my 32 hour/week job and training for a triathlon next month, I'm presently a bit stuck in my fixed routines.

    I keep thinking I need to get some variety in my life but for now I'm only thinking and not doing.

    I'll remember what you've written here and when time permits, I'll start living.