Hello, Seekers! I’m so happy to be back to visit with y’all again. My contributions to the community table are an Apple Spice Coffeecake and Chocolate-Chip Croissants. I always love the menu here, especially when there are items that double as dessert.
Dessert is not only my favorite meal, but desserts spelled backward is…our topic for today.
In roughly the thirty days before I began drafting this post, my personal life took a nosedive. We needed to leave the state for a week-long trip for a family funeral, spent a day in a hospital Emergency Room, and dealt with a family member’s illness and the doctor visits, follow-up appointments, and medical testing that went along with it. During this time, I was working on two complete novels and one proposal, each with its own deadline. While this doesn’t make me an expert in stress, it definitely gives me a good understanding of what it’s like to experience the symptoms.
Here’s a clip of a woman under a different kind of stress, thanks to the ex-husband who has just reappeared in her life. This is from my upcoming book in The Hitching Post Hotel series, Cowboy in Charge:
Layne did the best she could with toothbrush and mouthwash and comb, but it wasn’t much. And it was quick.
The symptoms she had been battling for two days now had gotten worse instead of better, and the short time on her feet showed her just how shaky this flu had left her. She gave thanks that when she had gone to answer the door, she hadn’t been holding the baby.
The last thing she remembered before passing out was the look of alarm on Jason’s face. When she had come to, she found herself cradled like a baby herself in his arms. She had fainted for only a second, he assured her. Still, ignoring her protests, he carried her into the small living room and deposited her on the couch.
Moments later, her stomach had heaved and she had bolted and here she was now, hiding in her bathroom the way she and her friends had hidden in the girls’ room at school when they wanted to exchange gossip about the boys.
The only boy she’d ever had eyes for was Jason.
We all deal with stress at one time or another. Here are some secrets—or suggestions, if you prefer—for ways to get your work done while you’re under the gun. These secrets can work just as well for non-writers, too. Also, they’re numbered for clarity but are in no particular order. I tell you this because if you’re like me, you’ll stress over wanting to do the “steps” in the proper sequence!
1) Play with your process.
When under stress, consider making changes to your writing process. (Note: if the idea alone sends your blood pressure up, skip immediately to another suggestion.)
If you write in the afternoon, try sneaking the pages in early in the morning, before the day hits you and the stress level rises. If you usually do a comprehensive bio for every character in your book, do interviews with just the main characters instead and go from there.
Pantsers might need to give their tired brains the safety net of an outline, no matter how rough. Plotters who normally plan every scene down to the very last detail may find their brains are too scattered to follow their strict process. They may have better luck winging it, at least for a few pages at a time.
2) Be kind to yourself.
This is a no-brainer, especially on those days when you feel you have no brain cells left. Sleep more, eat well, give your body time to relax. Stretch, meditate, take breaks from the computer. Listen to the music of your choice, curl up with a good book, or take your baby or puppy for a walk in the park. Do whatever works to help you unwind.
3) Shake up your schedule.
When you’re under stress, it’s okay to mix things up and even to let some things slide. Have scrambled eggs for dinner one night instead of making the usual meat-veg-potatoes meal. Hit the snooze button once, or maybe twice, and get a few extra minutes of sleep. Skip the trip to the gym one day and jog around the block. While you’re at it, stop to smell the roses.
4) Use your writing time as an escape.
This is a tough one for many of us. As it is, we feel guilty that our writing takes time away from the family/pets/carpool/problems/fill-in-the-blank. And now I’m asking you to use that time deliberately as an escape? You bet I am.
Diving into a work-in-progress will help take your mind off your troubles. If you’re on deadline, whether self-imposed or for a publisher, writing—even a paragraph or two a day, if that’s all you can manage—will keep your head in the story. Watching those page numbers go up lets you see you’re getting closer to your goal. And as you increase your page count, you’ll decrease your stress…in the moment and down the road.
5) Use your experiences as fodder for your book.
Any stressful situation has the potential to be tweaked to fit a scene in a story. An angry phone call to lodge a consumer complaint can translate to an explosive scene with a troublesome teenaged son or daughter. Being pulled over by a state trooper for speeding might spark an idea for a heroine being followed by a stalker.
6) Mine your emotions.
I’m not saying we should whip out a notebook at a wake, but the emotions we feel in that situation could very well be appropriate for a heroine who is losing a parent to cancer. Having to make a speech yourself could provide just the case of nerves you need for your hero who is preparing to ask for a raise.
7) Reward yourself.
While being kind to yourself includes mostly no-cost options, if you have the extra cash to give yourself rewards, go for it. You deserve it. A massage or a yoga class literally, physically, can relieve stress. A movie can act as a mini-vacation for your mind. A new dress—or business planner—may lift your spirits and will still be around long after your stress is gone. Fresh roses or that cup of gourmet coffee are considered aromatherapy!
In this clip from the opening of one of my books, A Rancher’s Pride, I made life extra-stressful for my hero:
Everything looked familiar, except the child sitting on one of the couches.
A beautiful little girl.
The daughter he’d always hoped for, the start of the family he’d never had.
He shook his head. Pipe dreams, for sure. Ronnie had never told a true story in her life. This child couldn’t be his.
The girl’s eyes shone in the light from the table lamp beside the couch. Silver-gray eyes surrounded by dark lashes, a perfect match to his own.
His throat tightened. He felt frozen in place.
She gave him a shy smile.
He’d seen that half-twisted grin in plenty of his own childhood pictures. Not impossible after all. The child was his.
“Hello.” The word came out in a croak. He hadn’t the first idea of what to say and went for the standard opening line. “What’s your name?”
Mom moved up to stand behind him and rested her hand on his arm. “Her name’s Becky,” she told him. “But she can’t hear you, Sam. She’s deaf.”
I hope you find the examples and suggestions above helpful.
Have any of these ideas worked for you in the past? Do you have any other suggestions for us? Answer one of these questions to get your name in a drawing for one of my books!
The winner will receive her/his choice of an autographed print copy of A Rancher’s Pride or The Cowboy’s Little Surprise, book one in The Hitching Post Hotel series. (US mailing addresses, please.) One of the villagers here at Seekerville will draw and announce the winner’s name.
About the Author:
Barbara White Daille lives with her husband in the sunny Southwest. Though they love the warm winters and the lizards in their front yard, they haven’t gotten used to the scorpions in the bathroom.
A larger print reissue of A Rancher’s Pride, book one in Barbara’s popular Flagman’s Folly series, releases in June exclusively from Harlequin. The next book in The Hitching Post Hotel series is Cowboy in Charge, debuting in July 2016, with other books in the series to follow. At the end of 2016, she begins a new sweet romance series for Entangled Bliss.
You can find more info about Barbara and her books at the following locations:
From the cover of Cowboy in Charge, July 2016
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Single mom Layne Slater thought she'd seen the last of Jason McAndry when he chose the rodeo over her and their unborn son. Now Jason's back in Cowboy Creek and just as handsome as ever. But Layne can't give in to those feelings again. She has to protect her children…and her heart.
Jason wants to try to make up for the pain he caused when he left. The least he can do is help Layne while he's home. Before long, Jason realizes he's finally ready to be the husband, father and man his family deserves. But can Jason prove to Layne that this time, their love is forever?