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.

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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,








Just Don’t It – Redux



Hello friends!

I wrote a different version of this post a few months ago. I decided to revise half of it and added a section about “micromovements”, a concept created by the bestselling author SARK.

What’s a micromovement? you may ask.  (Hint: it’s not a tiny bowel emission! 🙂

Read on and you’ll learn what a micromovement is and how to incorporate one into your life…

During the 1980’s a trendy Nike campaign caught the world’s attention with the tagline “JUST DO IT!”  Nike’s message was loud and clear: when it came to exercise, there were no excuses.  I think it was a brilliant campaign as it motivated countless people to work out.

The catchphrase is just as true today as it was a couple decades ago.

To me, Nike’s slogan holds a special significance.  As a teenage long-distance runner in the 1980’s, I wore Nike running shoes long before I’d be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder.  Since my diagnosis I’ve experienced a marathon of seven hospitalizations.

I tried over 20 different medications, and when my father died I was desperate and demanded ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which brought me out of the suicidal state I was in. I finally reached stability with the right meds and self-care program, and to say I’ve been grateful for my recovery is a massive understatement!

However, just because I became stable (the International Bipolar Foundation even profiled me as a “2014 Story of Hope and Recovery”, an honor I frankly never thought would be bestowed upon me in a million years!), life has been a daily challenge and I know it always will be that way.

The past few weeks have been particularly rough ones. An unexpected family crisis popped up that tested my hard-won stability.  The good news is that I’ve gotten enough sleep each night thanks to my antipsychotic medication Seroquel. (This medication has been key in keeping me on the straight and narrow path of mental stability.)

Even so, I’ve struggled with some unhealthy habits I call “JUST DON’T ITS!” that could potentially affect both my mental and physical health, and it’s time to kick them out the door. (I wonder if any of you do these nasty bugaboos too?)

Here are some of my “JUST DON’T ITS”:

1) Yelling too much at my family members. (I often have bona fide reasons to raise my voice, but I’ve been overdoing it.)

2) Eating an entire pint of gourmet (a.k.a. ultra-high fat) ice cream far too often. This is a biggie “JUST DON’T IT”! As a former certified personal trainer, I should know better than to do such a heinous thing to my body. I definitely don’t recommend consuming this much ice cream if you want to maintain your overall health and specifically, your weight!

3) Spending too much time on social media at the expense of my other projects and duties. It’s fun, but I want and need to cut down. Facebook has become my social media version of gourmet ice cream. (I can see you mumbling “Hunh?”)

4) Feeling intimidated to ask friends I’ve helped over the past year (i.e. providing them with childcare) to please return the favor once in a while. It’s hard for me to ask for help, but it would lessen my stress if I had some child-free time to do errands or have some quiet time to relax and recharge.

This is an incomplete list, but you get the idea. It’s better to have a short list to focus on anyway, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

Now, as far as “JUST DO IT!” is concerned, Nike was right all along in their message to cool it with excuses and take a very simple step to break a sweat.  One of my favorite bestselling authors/artists SARK (“Inspiration Sandwich”) calls these tiny steps “micromovements”. The author of over 2 million books in print, SARK uses micromovements with her writing, but micromovements can apply to many other actions.  I’m sure you’ve heard different versions of her concept, but I like her approach best, which she describes in some of her books.

For example, if you want to take a walk, tell yourself you’ll walk for half a block.  Yup, just half a block.  As you begin your stroll, you might surprise yourself by going just a little further than that half  block.  In your next walk, you can continue to build upon your initial success to go a slightly further distance. (Walking can totally reset your mood for the better, and it’s an ideal way to try out micromovements.)

If you’ve been putting off paying an intimidating stack of bills like I do, commit to paying just one bill.  Once you start writing the check, see where your energy level is after picking up (and moving!) your pen – maybe you’ll find that you can pay one more bill on the same day!   

This all may sound overly simplistic, but micromovements are really a great way to “JUST DO IT”! It feels so good to accomplish a small thing; for those of us who live with bipolar disorder, completing a mundane chore can be profound.  Recently I’ve used micromovements in cleaning our one bathroom (an always odious task) and with our incredibly messy dining room table/office.  I had partial success with both tasks, but there was definite improvement (i.e. clean toilet, half the table was clear) and I can try again.

When we experience days when we’re depressed, if we take on a seemingly “little” task such as making a bed or taking a shower, that action can shift our energy and attitude the lasts longer than one would think!

I’ve followed SARK’s micromovement advice during both good days and bad ones, and I’ve found that even if I don’t do a whole lot, they definitely work to shift my attitude.  

I wish you strength in getting rid of some unhealthy habits of your own and I hope you incorporate the art of micromovements into your life.

Thanks for reading!


p.s. What single “JUST DON’T IT” would you like to phase out of your life this fall?  I’d love to know!