What a Novelist Learned About Themselves in Self-Isolation So Far

I’ve finished my second book for #Quarantineathon and will do a blog about it soon, but the readathon has got me thinking about somethings I’ve realized along the way. I’m still staying home and just avoiding people in general for the sake of my own health. Yep. This is my plan for the long run. It’s mentally and emotionally challenging, but I think it’s the best way forward for me. Just a warning from someone with PTSD and anxiety some of these are probably morbid and deep. Others are absolutely silly and ridiculous. Read ahead, but you’ve been warned.

1. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of suffering.

As my longtime readers know I have an unhealthy obsession with wondering about what comes after death. I’ve had it for years. Not just in a spiritual seeker way either. Like I used to have panic attacks about falling into oblivion. I don’t think I was ever really afraid of dying. I’m afraid of suffering. Hearing about how this virus kills people scares the shit out of me. I’ve had healthy anxiety off and on my whole life. I think this is why. I think it’s pretty common too, but it’s something I didn’t actually put together until recently.

2. I don’t fear not getting to do everything I want in life. I fear being forgotten.

I was born with a TBR list too long to ever read. I want to see more of the world than my bad foot and bank account will ever let me. I’m okay with that. I still have great experiences. What I fear is doing nothing worth remembering. I have friends who tell me I have people who enjoy my books – I’ve impacted a small corner of the world. Okay, yeah, but I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten. One day I will. John Green talks about this a lot. That he fears something similar and one day that will happen no matter what we do as individuals. I’ll settle for cheering up and making as many people laugh as possible for the time I’m here.

3. I am NOT a workaholic. Writing is a coping mechanism for me.

Seriously. I write to explain the world to myself and to better understand the world around me. Something about sitting uninterrupted for hours at a time tapping away at the keyboard soothes my anxious soul. When I can’t or don’t the world is too much.

4. I’m an introvert, but I miss the people at my local grocery store.

I want to know how my favorite and usual cashier’s grandkids are. I want to know how the lady at customer service is doing on weight watchers. I don’t have contact with them on social media and I miss my weekly updates on their lives.

I also miss the old people who always chose me to ask where something was or if I’d help them get something down. I miss hearing their stories and seeing their smiles. I miss the rugrats darting in between carts and laughing. It was never really a personal experience, but as an introvert it was an experience I loved.

People are creatures of habit and I saw a lot of the same folks every week. I miss them. I doubt they’re reading this, but if you’re in a little town in WV and have a customer who always asks about your grandkids -it’s me!!!! lol

5. I don’t get bored of reading.

I always thought there would be a point I got bored of reading. There’s not. I’ve gotten bored of particular books. Don’t give me that look. We all do it. I just haven’t gotten bored of reading.

6. I hate when another person reads to me, but I love audiobooks. I like them more than Netflix.

Seriously, this one through me for a loop. Before this crazy all started I mostly listened to them while I gamed. (Stardew Valley and Sims 3 if you must know). Now, I listen to them while I clean and  cook. Sometimes if I’m overwhelmed by my own thoughts (and it’s not storming) I’ll lay down and just listen to half an hour of one doing nothing else. It’s nice to focus on.

7. I have more of an online support network than I thought.

Now that I all of my social activities are online I realize how many people I speak to every day and how much I enjoy those conversations. I knew I cared about them, but I didn’t realize how much.

8. I love talking about books. 

Okay, so there was a time in my life I knew this. Then I started hanging out with a bunch of people who didn’t read. My reading time shrank and so did how much I talked about books. (Not Harry Potter. Still brought it up every time I could.) Now, I talk about books all the time. I do it on the phone. I participate in r/52book. This is the first month I’m participating in a reading on r/bookclub. (Both are on Reddit for those of you unfamiliar with the platform.) We’re reading Journey to the Center of the Earth. This isn’t a book I’d have picked up on my own. It’s an okay book, but I love talking about it with other people.

9. I’ve been sad for a long time.

I’m good at ignoring sad. I’m really good at it given my early childhood and teen years. I’m okay with being sad, because so much has happened to me over the last few years that has really added to and brought to the surface my PTSD issues. I don’t really ignore it anymore, though. I can’t. It’s me and sadness alone on the computer trying to avoid each other. It doesn’t work.

I’ve cried. I’ve journaled. I’ve admitted to myself how much some people close to me really broke my heart. I admitted and accepted as much as I want to be a stone hearted bitch, I’m not. At times I’m a bleeding heart and that’s why I cut out toxic people so much. I know they’ll hurt me and I just don’t have time to be hurt over and over. I don’t need those people in my life.

10. There is no limit to the amount of times I will watch Orange is the New Black.

Seriously, sometimes I have it on all the time if I’m not reading, working, or listening to an audiobook. I keep going back to it when there’s nothing to watch.

11. Left to my own devices I maintain weight, but don’t lose it.

I’ve been on a weight loss journey for a long time. With being home so much I’ve cut myself a lot of slack. Anxiety messes with my appetite in both directions. I won’t eat all day one day and then only eat dinner. On another day I’ll snack all day. Then the next I’ll eat three meals. This is me when I’m not tracking calories. Somehow over the last month of not tracking I haven’t gained or lost a single pound.

12. I probably should make a twitter account.

I hate drama. So much of what I see from Twitter is drama. Damn it hell, though, that’s also where so many readathons are based. I’m thinking about it, but probably won’t make an account.

What have you learned about yourself during this chaotic time?


Self Care for Writers (7 Self Care Tips I Learned From Living Alone)

Before anyone says it: Yes, I should be working on my novel. I’m 30 chapters into a 42 chapter holiday novel. I just need a little change of pace today. I’m tired. I’m brain dead. (Probably from my attempt to cut the soda. That will be remedied soon.) In the mean time, I thought I’d share some self care tips for writers. Though, most of these will be useful for everyone.

1. Do Helpful Things for Your Future Self

Yeah, you don’t want to wash those dishes tonight. Or maybe you don’t want to put the laundry away tonight. Whatever it is you’re putting off doing before you go to bed – do it now. Future you will thank you. There’s no worse feeling than waking up with chores waiting for you.

2. Make Your Own Stress Measuring Scale

Mine is based on those silly little face charts you see in hospitals when doctors ask you how much something hurts. I measure stress the same way and provide appropriate care. If it’s below five I carry on with the day as normal and just make sure to squeeze in some downtime to myself that day. 6-7 I stop right then and do whatever I can to fix the problem (sometimes there’s nothing. It’s just what it is.) If I can’t fix the problem I take some downtime. For me usually half an hour of reading will level me out enough to get back to work. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. You can’t just stop working and take a break whenever you like. I write full time at home and have this privilege. Anything above a 7 and something has to change big time. Honestly, since moving I’ve only hit a 8 once and just needed to take a step back and get a new perspective.

3.Schedule Your Goals

I know this one might belong more on a success guide, but for me having a schedule of what I need to do every day to make my goals happen keeps me level headed. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy every step or even want to do that piece everyday, but with everything outlined it’s easier to remember why I’m doing it. The why is what makes the world go round.

4. Meal Prep

I recommend this to everyone, but if you live alone and work a lot of hours this can be a life saver. Cook a lot on day and eat on it over the next few days or longer. Your freezer is your friend. Some days I’d skip lunch if I couldn’t throw something in the microwave and chow down quick and get back to work. I know, mindful eating people, that’s not good, but it’s better than not eating at all.

5. Set aside ‘headspace’ time and stick to it.

There’s this meme all over the internet about spending more time ‘imagining’ or thinking about your story than writing it. This is a healthy part of writing and creativity. Though, if you want to do it long term you really need to get a handle on it. Sure, if you’re laying in bed thinking about your story as you fall asleep you’re probably fine.If you sit down at the keyboard and imagine instead of write you’ll only be frustrated with yourself later. Set a time limit on this and write. For me this is a self care tip, because I write to pay the bills and if I’m not writing the bills don’t get paid. If they don’t get paid there is no such thing as self care in my life.

6. Track your time.

I write professionally. Well, full time and it’s my sole source of income. After I moved, I started tracking my time. No, not limiting my activities, but tracking my working hours to see where my time was really going and what wasn’t working for me. As I’ve perfected the schedule I get more writing done than ever. Last week I wrote for 12 hours and 22 minutes and came in at around 26.5k words. Yes, I write faster than some people and I’m not saying you should aim for any certain time. Before that I was writing about 15 hours a week and pulling in about the same in word count (15-17k.) Tracking my time and making sure I had enough time to do all parts of my job (writing, editing, rewrites, marketing, social media, cover work, etc) allowed me to focus on my writing during my writing time. This has allowed me to have a lot more free time to unwind by focusing on one task at a time instead of being in the middle of a sentence and remembering something else I needed to do.

7. Sleep. Seriously – Get Some!

Before I moved work was my number one priority. I’m a classic workaholic and I’m not happy unless I’m working. BUT I’m not happy while I’m working if I’m dragging ass and brain dead. So now, sleep is my top priority. Sure, it annoys my friends that I disappear so early in the evening and turn my phone on do not disturb, but me and my pillows have improved our relationship. Also, from time and word count tracking I’ve discovered the better sleep I get the more I write the next day.


NaNoWriMo Last Minute Prep

I’m not participating in Nano this year, but I’ve participated many times in the past. My life and career also revolves around writing (don’t judge me.)

I know a lot of blogs and videos talk about NaNoWriMo prep in the months and weeks right before the start of November, but what if you’re a chronic procrastinator or decided to participate at the last minute? This doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It just means you have to be creative in the way you plan out your month of writing. If you’re already prepared maybe this can act as your checklist and jog your brain of something you’ve forgotten to do.

Plotting isn’t the end of the world


Yes, I’m mostly a plotter. I swear by it and none of my books would be alive today without it. Plotting doesn’t mean you have to write a novel length outline of your story. Here are some quick plotting methods to help you get started. Remember, you can always tweak and change of the details.

  • The 3 Act Method: Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. These are the components a book cannot exist without. Grab a notebook or open up your favorite word processor and jot down these parts of your book. You can fill in the other details later as you get to it. Having some direction is better than no direction.
  • Follow the hero’s journey format. There’s a lot of information out there about this so I won’t bore you with it here. If you’ve never heard of it before checkout one of this book.
  • Write down all your main scenes on note cards and put them in order. I love this method because you can easily change the order of events.

Keep a writer’s journal

This is one of my best kept secrets. Before I started dedicating a notebook to this I had notes and scraps of paper all over the place and even pinned to the wall. Now I keep it all in my notebook. Ideas, character info, whether John Doe is blonde or a redhead. What Kelly ate for breakfast. Whatever you need to remember for later jot down. This is the journal I’m using right now. You can even put your plot in the journal if you wanted to.

Ask a friend to read your work periodically

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I know long time writers will cringe at this advice. Stephen King even says to write with the door closed and I do, but in my early days of writing I needed that audience. Also, having someone who is ready to read your work at the end of every week will give you extra motivation to get your words on the blank page.


Decide how to track your word count, progress, and work still needed


I use the free version of PaceMaker.

It doesn’t yell at you for being behind like some do and it allows you to customize your writing plan.

Schedule 5 days in November where you will aim to write 5k.

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I know that sounds like a lot of words and for some people it is. I aim for this number almost every writing day. I know it’s not sustainable for everyone, but hear me out on this one.

Five days of 5k words each is 25k words. That’s half your words for the month. Even if you don’t hit those 5k words – you might get a day or two ahead on each scheduled day. Things will pop up that keep you from writing. As someone who writes full time some days I view the world as a series of obstacles between me and the keyboard.


Let me know your favorite way to prep for Nano in the comments.