Writing with Distractions Without Screaming Like a Banshee


Name that banshee!

It’s pretty quiet in these parts, and I’m overjoyed to tell you there are no rodent adventures to report.  I haven’t spotted any errant hamsters in the middle of the night, nor have rats taken up residence in my new Schwinn elliptical…yet.  

The past week has been Spring Break for my daughters, which means I lost the luxury of quiet chunks of writing time. So I did my best to pretend that I was one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. (Ha!  I wish I had .01% of her talent, but that’s a subject for another post.)

Dy & Madeleine #1

Yep, here we are in 1997 – Madeleine L’Engle, me and my double chins!


No, what I mean by pretending to be Madeleine L’Engle is that during her many interviews she remarked that she could write almost anywhere, with any distractions.  As a child L’Engle was sent to boarding school in Switzerland where she barely had any privacy, even in the bathroom (!). She learned to ignore distractions while writing in her journals, and she further strengthened her concentration skills as a Broadway actress. L’Engle wrote prolifically backstage, on trains, in hotel lobbies…you name it!  

To write, I need quiet or mellow background music. I recently started listening to classical guitar and like it very much. I also tune into the Snatam Kaur channel on Pandora, but that’s risky as that style of music has the potential to put me to sleep. 

I’m also lucky that Lucy the Writing Muse often sits next to me and places her warm, furry flank on my right foot – it’s the sweetest thing. However, sometimes Lucy is viciously flatulent, but that’s the only downside to her company. 


We live in a very small house so when my girls are here, I can barely think straight.  They are lively.  Yes, I have some old, crappy headphones. I don’t like wearing them when the kids are around when an argument breaks out or God forbid someone gets hurt.

Right this moment I’m trying my best to drown out “The Littlest Pet Shop” television show that’s blaring ten feet away.  The uber-peppy, high-pitched theme song will surely haunt me the rest of the day.

imgres 11-43-11

I’ve managed to write more of my book “Birth of a Brain” each day despite the distractions.  It’s trippy and difficult work, as I’m chronicling a few of my hospitalizations and that includes some suicide-related material.  I’m not going into a ton of gory details – there are plenty of books that have done that already.  Those books definitely have their place, and I commend any author who re-visits her darkest experiences and writes about it.   I just am not drawn to writing that kind of book.

The advantage to sifting through my thick folders of hospital records, doctor reports, medication notes, etc. is that I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have “made it”.  I don’t mean to sound smug – I can’t say with absolute certainty that I won’t ever relapse again and darken a unit door. Despite my working my ass off at clean livin’, the fact remains there’s no cure yet. I can work as hard as I can, but fate and my brain might have other plans in store for me.

After hours of reflection during this Spring Break, I still can’t believe that I was never taken outdoors by hospital staff even for a few minutes – yes, that was my experience.  After my last hospitalization, a year or two later I called the unit to ask them why I was kept inside all the time. The woman answered, “You had to get a doctor’s note to go outside.” I was never informed of that policy as an inpatient. I don’t know – it was just fucked up.  Don’t get me started about what the coffee situation was like.

So yeah, I have anxieties, aches and pains, I have “bipolar wrinkles” and white hair. I have belly fat that bugs me despite my working out every day.  But in the writing of my book and in sharing this post with you, I feel a lot better.  Writing can serve as an attitude adjustment, because I’ve been reminded that holy shit, my situation could be a LOT worse!  

On a related note (bear with me – please) aside from Madeleine L’Engle, one of my other favorite bestselling authors is SARK.  The San Francisco-based author and artist has over 2 million books in print, and she has a free “Inspiration Line”.  


SARK has run this line for over 15 years and I’ve been calling it since it began.  (1-415-546-EPIC)  She changes the message every few months when she feels inspired.  SARK talks for a few minutes and then you can hang up or leave her a message.  Lately she has been VERY inspired as she’s getting married for the first time in her life and she turned 60 last year.  Never say never.

SARK has often closed her inspiration messages with the line “My gift to you is….” She’d come up with all kinds of creative, fanciful “gifts” of ways her callers could appreciate beautiful moments in life in a non-throw-uppy way.  (Yes, that’s a word.)

I explain all that because I want to give you a gift, too.  I can’t come up with anything truly SARK-like, as much as I wish I could. Moreover, I don’t have money I can throw your way, but I want to give you the gift of appreciating something today that you might be taking for granted.   

It doesn’t have to be deep – it can be the kind of soda you’re drinking.  It can be the warm socks you’re wearing.  The purring of your cat.  The CD you’re listening to, or the fact that your internet is working.  

It can be deep too. 

What am I appreciating today? The sunny weather. I love it.  When I suffered with bipolar depression for years at a time, I obsessed about the phrase “The tyranny of a beautiful day”.  I felt like such a failure for hating the gorgeous, sunny days because all I wanted to do was to hide in the darkness beneath my blankets – I wanted to fall asleep forever so I could escape the pain.

Now I want to get dressed and go out into that sunshine.  Today.

I don’t take today for granted, and I never will again.

Love to you all,








36 thoughts on “Writing with Distractions Without Screaming Like a Banshee

    • Love you too, Mom! Remember we went to SARK’s Pajama Party in San Francisco? And we got our own private fish? 🙂 SO much fun….my SARK pajamas are torn to pieces but at least the memories are intact. XO

  1. You’re doing it though and that’s the awesome part. Before you know it the book will be done!

  2. I have to draft in a noisy environment or listening to music. Revising requires a lot of concentration for me, so I need silence.

    And hey, I’m a professional fiction ghost writer 🙂

    • Great, great comments Bee! I love “Dyane speed” – can I use that one? I’ll give you credit I’ll promote your new book! (Congrats on its upcoming release – you’re truly amazing & prolific in your writing!) I’m hoping this weekend you’re feeling a little better – your last post was heartbreaking but it was truly beautiful in terms of how you described the sand and the waves & depression…..

      In another reply to a reader I asked her to be my ghost writer, but then I realized why stop there? She can be my “banshee writer” and really scream up a storm while writing the book. Alas, that’s not to be. I guess I’ll have to be my own banshee writer.

      Take care and thank you so much for reading & commenting. I can only begin to imagine how busy a bee you are! XO

  3. Typing on my phone. Hit reply too soon.

    You’ll get there. Slow and steady wins the race. Although there is no race. Just Dyane speed.

  4. I feel your pain. Admittedly I do most of my blogging AFTER the wife and kids are in bed.

    Aside from that, bi-polar or not we all have things physically that we would like to change. I think that is just human nature, so don’t berate yourself too hard on that score. It’s just life.

    Oh yea…dog farts are the absolute worst, lol!

    • Lucy’s gas is in a class of its own. If there was a Dog Fart Olympics she’s place high – at least a Silver Medal! Speaking of competitions, today’s the day your daughter competes and I’m sending her good luck this very moment! I hope it’s a wonderful day for your family.

      p.s. thanks for feeling my pain – you’re smart to blog after the family is in bed. I’m on cuddle duty with the girls at bedtime while Craig watches “The X Files” – the girls keep asking to watch it and he (and I) say “No way!” I still remember that one episode gave me nightmares for sooooooo long – not sure if you’re a fan, but it was the one where some guy in a car would look up in the rearview mirror with the creepiest expression! How’s that for a complete digression? 😉

      • Never was an X-Files fan. Admittedly I don’t really watch a lot of prime time shows. I am more into home renovation and cooking shows, like Chopped or Fixer Upper.

        My daughter just completed both of her group dances. She did really good but I am biased. Should know in a bit how she did.

        Have a great day!

  5. Well alrighty then, I am now appreciating your way too humble ass. Wait, that just sounded sleazy. What I’m appreciating is stuff you don’t seem to appreciate too much. You’re lovely to look at (fugly friends are so passé dahlink) and you write well – and I know the hospital stuff hurts you like hell, but I am looking forward to reading it and getting to know your old and new brainsetter. Also, you’re a damn fine friend. And you’re not a scientologist.

    Btw have you tried probiotics for Lucy’s little problem?

    • What a juicy comment! “Way-too-humble ass” made me laugh….laughs (well, the good-natured kind, duh!) are always super-welcome round here. And I love the compliments & I’ll gladly soak them up like a giant sea sponge. I know you actually mean them too, so that’s the icing on the chocolate cake.

      If you ever visit California we’re going to the truly crazy-sounding $cientologist Anti-Psychiatry Museum in Hollywood, and I promise not to do anything foul despite what I wrote previously. I won’t even mention that! (You’re welcome! 😉 Have you looked at their website yet? I haven’t but I’m going to see if it even exists. They are cagey, those $Freakologists.

      Probitotics have been strongly recommended by a fellow cool bp-ster/bloger/nurse named Ann Preston Roselle. She said they truly help with bipolar symptoms so that piqued my interest…plus there has been a recent study about pro. & bipolar that sounded very positive – wonder if you’ve seen it (sorry I don’t have the study link but if I find it I’ll email it to you) and I’ve been too lazy to get the probiotics, but if they could help Lucy, that will get me off my no-longer-so-humble-but-still-lazy ass & buy some – I’ll need to get human and canine versions I suppose. Her vicious fumes are not that bad, but if she’s suffering tummy woes and not able to voice them, I must do something about it. Will keep you posted. Thanks for mentioning that!!!!

      Much love to you my friend. Hearing from you always cheers me up, no matter what the topic is that you bring up (and we both know what I’m talkin’ about!)

      The Dark Matter of Bipolar Oh Shit I Forgot The Rest – Need More Caffeine!

      • Human and canine probiotics are the same here – humans gets pills, dogs get powder; medical aid pays for them. I, being both bold and broke, use the muuuuuch cheaper canine version. Woof. Yup I saw that study and discussed it with my shrink — who shares one name with your friend :0 *twilight zone music* I’m on them permanently, so is my shrink. Dog gets them every 2nd day is and more if needed.

        TEAPOT, woman, you missed out teapot! !!

        Oh we are so doing that mu$eum. Do you get mixed episodes or nasteh mania? I’m thinking that we should go juuust before I fly back to SA and that I should have a mixed episode and go seven versions of batshit all over their a$$es. No I haven’t looked at that kind of website since I was harshed by the poetry page of a horrifically right wing org here. Let me know if it’s free of sinister pottery and I’ll pack something to throw and join you.

        The dark doesn’t-matter of la folie circulaire

  6. Wow – wow – wow. This sentence says SO MUCH: “The advantage to sifting through my thick folders of hospital records, doctor reports, medication notes, etc. is that I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have “made it”. ” Thank you for being alive, for having made it. I was just BLOWN AWAY by everything in that one sentence. You have no idea how much it says. (Well, maybe you do. I mean, you did write it.)

    Thank you for surviving. Thank you for being my friend. Love you BIG (as my grandpa would say).

    Plus, I’m super emotional. Just watched Monica Lewinski’s TED Talk. She had me in tears.

    • It was very, very cool to read your comment about my sentence describing the hospital crap (for want of a better word!) – thank you, thank you Kitt.

      I haven’t seen the Monica Lewinski TED talk but I’m definitely very curious to check it out after reading about your emotional response to it.

      I love you BIG too – that’s awesome & you must have had a cool Grandpa to coin such a loving phrase. XOXOXOXOXO wishing you a happy day-before-Easter, my kindred spirit friend!

      • Happy Easter and Happy Passover. Both celebrate how much God loves us.

        Thank you for counting me as a kindred spirit. My maternal grandfather was a kindred spirit, as well. He was an orator and a storyteller.

  7. What double chin? I will show you a double chin! 🙂 Glad you are feeling better and that inspirational tele line is so sweet, have to call sometime. I cannot wait to read your book, glad you are working on it as I am cosmically pre-ordering it today.Yep, that’s right, that’s a thing (invented today) lol.

    Hugs and I bet Easter will be giggles with your busy household.Just me and my #1 plus some housemates upstairs, will be mellow but with a special yummy holiday meal. And chocolate… stoked!

    • I bet you’d love SARK’s spirit, Molly. She has been a wonderful influence upon me for over 20 years.

      I loved your line “I am cosmically pre-ordering it today”!!! I’d like everyone to please pre-order the book in the most cosmic of ways. 😉

      Have a beautiful Sunday and be sure to enjoy the chocolate – yum yum yum!

    • Thanks again, Kathi – as I mentioned on your blog, I feel very honored you reblogged this post. You definitely made my day! 🙂

    • Just watched them on the “Old Grey Whistle Test” and the lyrics certainly fit – and your creative suggestion brought a smile to my face. Thanks Cabrogal, and please send my regards to the bunnies – hope they are doing well and you too!

      • Bunnies and me have settled in well.

        the lyrics certainly fit

        Siouxsie Sioux was writing a lot of songs about mental illness back then.
        I always thought that one rang truer than most.

  8. Oh Lady, where was I when you clicked the publish button? It’s like the whole sphere has read and commented on this post before me. poor me whinny the pooh 🙂
    Ok on a serious not………………e, thanks for sharing this wonderful piece. I am a mixed type of writer – I can gather inspiration and even write some amidst boom boom boom (but sure I need to triple edit that later right?); and ok I may need for the better part of writing some meaning or sense, lock myself up in my nest with orders even to the phone to vibrate not a message. I equally love your gift and count you guys out there luck to have those hot and cool lines you can call. I hope I can start one when I relocate to Cameroon in whatever time to come. And now I remember where I was: out there enjoying the moment. It’s been a blissful and sometimes clumsy weekend, with stuffs like visiting and sharing with dear ones and yet clumsily missing my bus, trams and hopping on the wrong train. For all this, I treat myself to the movie Selma this afternoon. I picked out a theatre I haven’t been to, and hope I don’t get lost getting there (will just give myself an hour to find and get there) Me treats are really pleasing me now. Ok I must have verbosed quiet some – not my show here I admit: Pray Lucy bears with me 🙂

    • Hello beautiful Fairy Godmother/Area Lady, thank you so much for touching base here! I’ve been remiss in my Marie Abanga blog comments lately and I beg your forgiveness – I do read the posts while working out on the new elliptical machine, and of course I “like” every post, but I’d like to also comment to make my “blog post trinity” of “read/like/comment” complete – my fingers are crossed that makes sense!

      I hope that you loved “Selma” & that you got to the theater easily! (I also hope it was a nice theater.) Sorry to hear that you missed your bus & trams and got on the wrong train – ooops!!!

      Lucy loved hearing from you as did I and she barked that she’s fine with whatever you write. 🙂

      Am battling a nasty headache and I don’t usually get them, so when I do have one I become a baby. Can’t take regular medication for it conflicts with my other meds….who’s whining now? I use lavender essential oil on my temples and I smell like a lavender essential oil factory as I always use way too much, but it does help with the pain and it’s safe.

      Anyway, I should probably wait to write you back when I’m headache-free and not so out of it, but I wanted to make sure you knew that I was thinking of you! I’m doing a very Marie A.-like activity today as I’m going on a day trip to Carmel. Carmel is a town on the California coast (Central California) and it’s only an hour away so this kind of trip is not a major ordeal for most folks, but it has become a big deal for me. It never used to be that way until my anxiety & PTSD from the hospitals kicked in and lo and behold, Carmel is next to the town (Monterey) where I was hospitalized 6 times and driving in that direction brings back very bad memories. At least the area is very beautiful….Sadly I must leave Lucy behind, the poor hound, but I’m taking the girls and Lucy will be with Craig. So if you read this soon please wish us luck for smooth sailing today. The beach and chocolate will be involved, plus (more importantly) a dear friend of mine who I’ve known for 26 years!

      Sending you lots of love as always and I’ll catch up at your blog this week, my lovely friend.

      • Hohoho, Lady, smile as you drive pass Monterey and note what happens. I encourage you to smile because you wrote in your last post that you were grateful you still be alive right? All the abuse in those hospitals touched your body and probably emotions, but your spirit is still yours!
        I didn’t finally watch Selma because after spotting that damn movie theatre called Adventure, the girl at the desk told me with a smile that 4.45pm was only for Wednesday. How the hell was I to guess? There was bo such infor on their damn website. I didn’t wanna wait 2.30hrs for the next time (7pm ) because that would have meant getting back home by 11pm? I’ll go next time. For now, it’s a ladies’ day out-go paint Carmel caramel 🙂

  9. Today I am thankful for the overcast skies, the kind that threaten rain but can’t seem to make good on the threat. I thrive in cool climates under grey skies.

    I am thankful that my precious daughters got along, played at the park, and did their chores all without fighting. I am especially thankful that the t.v. was OFF all day.

    I am perhaps most thankful for the wonderful bond I have developed with you, Dyane. You are a part of my day every day, whether we get to talk or not. When I’m struggling I imagine you here with me, helping me chug along, understanding without judgement or question. When I’m happy, I think of us celebrating together, appreciating the times when we genuinely feel OK. it will happen some day…

    Thank you, dear friend, for this post, every post, and for being YOU. you are amazing, and even though I can’t be with you to help you chug along, every cloudy, quiet day is sent from me for you to relax and take in all of the beauty that is your life.

    Love you!!!!

    • Your comment is like a piece of the best chocolate ever! I feel the same way about you – check this out…..

      I’ve deliberately put up more reminders of you in my house than I have of my own immediately or extended family – I have your X-Mas photo in the middle of my fridge door (I only have 2 other photos on there – one is of Rilla & Pikachu taken at a birthday party, and there’s an ancient one of Craig! That is it!) I have that hilarious singing b-day card you sent me placed right next tothe pills I take 3x/day, and finally I have your amazing letter in a place of honor on my writing desk.

      What I’m trying to say is that I think of you every day, multiple times a day! :))))))))) And that cheers me up to no end! I am so freakin’ grateful to be connected with you – I adore you and even though I’ve sucked at keeping in touch, that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you because I have those C. shrines to keep me going!

      Much love, my beautiful friend. You are a complete joy and I’m incredibly proud of all that you’re doing – you inspire me!!!! It’s raining today at long last, and I dedicate this much-needed rain, this cool day and grey sky to YOU!

      xoxoxoxoxoxo you always,

      • p.s. please excuse the typos but I was so excited to write I couldn’t help myself! I’m too lazy to fix them but I know you’ll forgive me

  10. The SARK line sounds really cool. I’m definitely going to call it sometime. I could completely identify with your feelings on beautiful days while in the throes of depression. I felt the same way. Often times I still do. I hate having the blinds open, and I love the “cave-like” feel of my house being dark and closed in. Thank you for writing another wonderful post.

    • Lisa, you’ve made my day with your wonderful comment! I think you’d really like SARK – if you’re thinking funky thoughts (as I often do) that’s the best time to call her as she might very well distract you! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to write; your effort is extra-special to me!!! XOXO

  11. Ahh, Dyane, sorry it took me so long to get to this post (never mind all the others I haven’t read yet). If only I could be a lot faster online- seems I spend hours and still don’t get enough done, and my husband’s resentful. In any case, this is about your post, not me. Beautiful!!! You have such a gift. I am in agreement with Kitt about looking over your records and realizing you’ve made it. I feel the same when reading all my journals, especially the ones from hospitalizations. What an amazing feeling, to want to be out in the sun instead of hiding under the covers. So glad we’ve connected and that I am privileged to be witness to your story. Keep ’em coming!

    • Mariah, you never, ever have to apologize when it comes to blog reading. No pressure! I mean it! I’m going to apologize, though for being late in replying to your comment – I have a feeling you’ll forgive me for that sin!

      I know how you feel about wanting to be faster online and then you still don’t get enough done & you get looks from your husband. I feel like I’m frantically treading water all the time when it comes to all of that stuff, and some days I think I should give up social media to lighten the load. Then I worry I’ll feel out of the loop and get FOMO Syndrome. (FOMO=fear of missing out – I didn’t even know about that term until recently, ha ha!) Ahhhhhh!

      Anyway, your comment came at such a good time. Your encouragement truly lifted up my spirits. I can’t thank you enough for doing that and for giving me such high praise.

      I hope this finds you well, my dear. I too am super-glad we’ve connected. I wish you lived a few thousand miles closer to me as I’d come to your special events and cheer you on. Take good care and have a wonderful day, hopefully filled with some sunshine. 🙂

  12. Ah, I love reading your old posts! This got a smile from me–not just because you got to meet a favorite writer, but because I can feel how far you’ve come, too. Here you talk about your weight, but now think of how far you’ve come with Lose It! Here you talk about the struggle with writing while your girls are home, and now you’re editing that book! So awesome. It gives me strength to go on when I can see the mountain you climbed over to get to this point. Thanks for being just as you are. Thanks for being my friend. 🙂 Love to you, my Java Queen SpyDy!

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