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."



Anonymous said...

Loved the book. Got up at 4 a.m. to read every morning. Looking forward to your next book!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I get up to write every morning at 4 a.m. My advice on winterizing writing is to make certain
to get some exercise whether the weather is bad or not. Get a treadmill if you can or join a gym.
I get some of my best ideas walking. And thanks for all the great tips. Very sensible and useful.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Jacqueline: I wake up at 4am, but have not mastered the get up at 4am and write habit. Walking is a catalyst for ideas for me, too. I'm not sure why that is, perhaps we're putting the 'chores-I-have-to-do brain' to rest and letting the creative part open up and pour out new concepts. Thanks for visiting!

Carolyn J. Rose said...

4:00 AM. You are way more determined than I am. 5:00, okay. The dogs insist that's breakfast time and I've learned not to fight them.

DukTape said...

Hi Carolyn! Thanks for the bit about the light. I believe I'll change some dead bulbs. I will mention the cute boots concept to Santa.
While I'm cranking out the words I like burning floral scented candles. Makes me feel less like I'm in a moldering cave. Oh, btw, the man and I have moved up near Seattle because he got a job here. More darkness, more wetness. Oh, joy.
Kathy Gabriel

Mike Nettleton said...

This December seems even drearier than usual. And that's saying something around here. After 42 years of radio, many of them spent doing morning shows, I'm retiring in January and hoping to get into the "writing first thing in the morning" mindset. Right now, on days I don't have to get up at 3:30, it's all I can do to move over and let Bubba crawl into bed beside me after Carolyn has fed them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the winterizing tips. They do help. Another tip might be to hang out in coffee shops like a Beatnik, writing surreptitiously while not drinking any coffee.

Every year by about this time I dream about leaving the Northwest, and this time I'm dreaming about New Mexico!

Melanie Sherman said...

Someone would have to pay me a million dollars to get up at 4am.

Thanks for the tips.

Elizabeth Lyon said...

Carolyn taught me one more way to get through out Writer in the Mist winters: laugh . . . a lot, like a hyena. It helps shake off the deliriums, delusions, and deluges and back to the keyboard you go.

Deb Cushman said...

I've lived here all my life -- rain is in my blood. I can handle the day after day drizzle. When I'm holed up in my office with the sound of water flowing through the gutters, I find that my writing flows with it. What I can't deal with is the ice. It freezes me up and I can't think (or drive!)

Suedenym said...

Cute boots! Love the idea, think I'll get a pair with lady bugs on them. :)

Great suggestions from Carolyn and the other posters. Susan Skipwith

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Mike: a man should never retire before the woman. That's just asking for new chores.

Tina Birch said...

Great post - love your tips, especially the cute boots. Mine have multi-colored polka dots on them.

I love the rain because it forces procrastination of things I ought to be doing (namely yardwork), and I 'get' to do fun, creative stuff inside.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

musicaldogs: I totally agree writers should hang out in coffee shops, as to not drinking coffee that would be difficult at best for me

Carolyn J. Rose said...

OOOOOOHHHH. Polka dot boots. I've gotta go shopping.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Melanie: I would not pay you a million dollars to get up at 4am, but if you WERE awake I would buy you a cup of coffee and we could watch musicaldogs pretend to drink coffee while we pretended to write.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Elizabeth: I am 100% for laughing. I am, however, not laughing at the editing job I have in my hands. Writing is fun. Editing is not.

Kailynn said...

Tip: Write in very colorful markers.

Carolyn J. Rose said...

hee hee hee. Going out now to buy some hot pink and neon green markers.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Deb: what a great visual between the flow of water and writing.

Susan and Carolyn I have found your boots --> Chooka Printed Rain Boots.

Tina: writing is how I get out of everything, namely housework.

Wendy said...

I SOOOO needed to read this! I was born here so you'd think I would know all the tricks, but I get depressed every year! I vow that 2011 will be my year to "shine" in sun and as in "this little light of mine" and "you are my sunshine" and a great coat and Vitamin D! Thanks for the insight!

Wendy said...

Oh yeah...ladybug boots.

Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Wendy: 2011 will be an incredible year! I fully support your vow to turn on your heart light and shine :-)

Abhishek Duggal said...

Thanks for the opportunity!

forsurveyonly at gmail dot com

Jan said...

Hello Carol!

You follow (or did follow) the University Book Store's blog Shelf Life ... and that's how I found you. I've been writing the occasional post for over a year now, and I decided this evening, while at work, that I'd pop-in to see who a few of our followers are.

Liked your entry. Fact-filled, helpful to those suffering from seasonal depression, and well-written. My hats off to you and all the other bloggers out there pouring their hearts out.


Carol Doane #pearlofcarol said...

Jan: yes I followed the University Book Store after a visit to Seattle and a thorough scouring of your bookshelves. Please thank published author, Carolyn J. Rose for this post. We met while she was teaching Novel Writing Boot Camp at Clark College and I was trying to figure out what to do with the reams of paper I had created while trying to figure out how to construct a novel, a good novel, that is. Thank you so much for stopping by! And stay tuned, the winner of the free book will be announced soon.

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