Monday, December 20, 2010

Rain powered writer

Guest Post by Carolyn J. Rose - with FREE Book Contest
(Enter a comment below and you're entered to win a copy of HEMLOCK LAKE).
Writing through the dark days of winter – 
How to be a precipitation-powered writer

Rain. It’s a fact of life in the Northwest.

If you live out here, odds are you’re going get wet—either because you forgot your waterproof jacket, figured you could outrun a shower, or failed to check the warranty expiration date on your roof.

In early October of 1989 my husband and I came to the Northwest on a job search/vacation. We experienced a full day of sunshine before the clouds rolled in. “It will be lifting soon,” Mike and I told each other every morning and again before we went to bed.

On day six, drenched and depressed, I interrogated the waitress at a diner in Florence, Oregon. “When will it let up?”

She took a quick peek out the window at what looked more like a stream than a street, tore the check off her pad and said in a tone that implied I’d asked the dumbest question of the decade, “April.”

The joke was on her. I got a job at KVAL news in Eugene and moved to Oregon anyway.

Right away I found that the perception of participation was far different than it was in Albuquerque or in the Catskill Mountains where I grew up. Back there we’d had rain, thunderstorms, and occasionally drizzle. But out here there are many more words: rain, mist, drizzle, showers, storms, thunderstorms, sprinkles, drenching rain, continuous rain, and intermittent all of the above. There was, I discovered during the years we lived in Eugene, also lot of fog, and beyond that, freezing fog. Sometimes there was snow, especially in the hills.

But my first Northwest winter was filled with new experiences and so, as I got to know my way around, I scarcely noticed the weather. My second winter, however, was marked by deep depression. Fog moved in not on little cat feet but like a cougar driving a bulldozer, and it hung around for weeks. I made it through by eating too much chocolate and spending too many hours in bed, propped up on a pile of pillows, indulging in comfort reading.

The next year I decided I wouldn’t give in to depression, wouldn’t allow myself even a few hours of the blues. I vowed to write through the winter and focus on the weather in my fictional settings instead of outside my window. So, in late September, I sat down and made a list of what I would do to prepare for the onslaught of Pacific storms. It worked. By spring I was halfway through a novel and hardly noticing the hammering of thick drops on the roof.

If you want to power your own writing through the dark days of winter, here’s my list:
  • Drench yourself in Ds. Step up your vitamin D intake during the dark months.
  • Turn on more lights. Full-spectrum bulbs are good. But any kind of extra light is a bonus.
  • Stay away from greasy foods and heavy meals.
  • Don’t overdo coffee and caffeine. Sure, it wakes you up on a dreary morning, but too much can mess with your sleep patterns.
  • Cut back on alcohol. The buzz might feel good, but remember that it’s a depressant and will bring you down later.
  • Escalate the exercise. It’s easier to get depressed when you’re sedentary, so keep moving.
  • Get out and confront precipitation. Walk in all weather.
  • Splurge on high-quality waterproof winter wear.
  • Two final words: cute boots.

If you have tips for powering your writing through the winter, please share them in the comment spaces. I’m always looking for ideas to add to the list.

Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She teaches novel-writing in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

She is the author of Hemlock Lake, Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death, and the co-author of Sometimes a Great Commotion, The Big Grabowski, The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, and The Hermit of Humbug Mountain which will be on sale as a Kindle during December.

Visit her virtual home at

Editors Note: Leave a comment to be entered to win a FREE copy of Hemlock Lake by Carolyn J. Rose.

Carolyn J. Rose was my teacher for Novel Writing Boot Camp I and II. Out of that experience sprang an incredible critique group that has produced two Pacific Northwest Writing Association winners, Melanie Sherman and Pam Stanek. PNWA has noted on my entries, "Really good writing here," which is reward in itself, and I continue to claim, "I can criticize anyone to success."


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