“It’s not the life you see on TV” / Clarissa Draper

DSC_0403Clarissa Draper, a Canadian currently living in Mexico, spends most of her time composing, planning, and writing code-based mysteries. Although she has written from an early age, she started writing full time in 2006, and is currently writing her third mystery in the Evans/Blackwell series.  Thank you to Colleen Story, for this fascinating interview with Clarissa on her Writing on Wellness blog. We are reprinting it here with permission.

Physical Wellness

When I write, I feel the urge to eat. Perhaps it’s because my brain is crying out for nourishment to feed the creative demons. Whatever it is, that urge to eat coupled with long hours of sitting causes me to gain weight if I’m not careful.

I’m not on a diet, but I find healthy snack and drink choices are crucial.  I stay away from alcohol, juice and soda. I drink my coffee and tea black. I also like to drink water with a squeeze of lemon. Also, I try to keep snacks like nuts nearby. I can eat a few and it takes the cravings away. I also love vegetables, so snacking on baby carrots and tomatoes are no problem for me.

I don’t have a routine for exercise, but what I’ve started doing this year is not sitting for long periods of time. Every twenty minutes or so, I like to get up and walk around. Perhaps I’ll just take a jaunt around my office or I’ll take my dog for a walk. Walking does get the creative juices flowing.

Emotional Wellness

Like most writers, I suffer from self-doubt and the stress of promotion and motivation, but I think the biggest emotional challenge I suffer from is depression. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed and when other stressors also appear, it does threaten to derail my writing goals. It’s hard to concentrate on the world I live in, nevermind the worlds in my head.

I cycle between two states: boredom and stress. Boredom (or the feeling I’m not accomplishing all that I can) causes me to feel depressed, so I often try to pack a lot into my day, which then leads to stress and exhaustion, which causes me to cut back, and soon I find I’m bored. The cycle starts all over again. Finding a balance is always a struggle.

Writing is an art form that, while it’s difficult enough to challenge me and keep me from boredom, certain aspects (like the deadlines, pressure to promote, and handling the voices and worlds) cause me stress.

For me, it’s important to stay healthy emotionally. I take natural forms of medications to help me cope and I have taken therapy that has taught me amazing coping techniques. Also, having a dog and a son has really helped me get out of bed.

I need to get out of the house. I can’t stress that enough. I have to force myself to be around people, to interact with the real world. Writers can often become reclusive, but it’s not a good thing. I force myself to step out of my comfort zone for my own sanity.

The Darkest Moment

A few months ago, my husband left my son and me. I had to move out of my home, get a job and deal with a large debt, all in a matter of weeks. This, of course, caused me stress. And I found it hard to keep up with writing deadlines.

How did I get past it? I’m not past it yet, but I know I’m coping better, now. Actually, having a job helped me to schedule my time better. I had to focus when I had time to write. I couldn’t waste time like I did when I wrote full time. I also used the emotional upheaval to charge my novel. I understand more what others go through in similar situations.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

It has to be the characters in my head and the deadlines. The deadlines keep my writing consistent, but the voices, the characters, and the stories keep me writing. I have to tell their stories. There are times when I take a break—sometimes even imagining I won’t write ever again—but, I’m always called back.

Advice for a Young Writer

Oh, this is a difficult question. I would tell him it’s not the life he sees on TV. It’s not glamorous and probably won’t make him rich. I would tell him to work hard at his craft. Never stop learning. Grab hold of anything he can that teaches him about life and writing.

Also, find support from other writers, whether it be through writing groups or through blogging. They’re about the only people who understand what other writers go through on a daily basis.