5 FREE Self care activities to get you through the colder months + NEW #GratefulDailies challenge

Image from Pixabay user tomasdelgado https://pixabay.com/en/pilates-stretching-yoga-exercise-1950971/Fall is my favourite season, but it’s hard for a lot of people. An enormous number of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the holiday season is stressful even for people who love it. Depending on where you live you may also lose access to some of your favourite self care activities. Many forms of outdoor exercise become dangerous or impossible the moment snow hits the ground. And even if it’s possible, walking through a blizzard isn’t a great way to de-stress.

So how can you keep taking care of yourself as the cold settles in? Shift your self care schedule to focus on indoor activities!

The best indoor self care activities

Your personalized self care plan should consist of activities YOU love, but some things work for just about everyone. Today I’m going to focus on those: free, simple things you can do inside, most of which only require a few minutes of your time.

Let’s get started!

1. Spend an extra minute or two in the shower

Most of us rush through our mornings. We shower only to scrub ourselves clean before we go to work. We don’t stop to relax and enjoy the water flowing over our heads, the dirt and stress from our night or day washing away, giving us a clean slate for whatever comes next. One of our best opportunities to de-stress is wasted, over and over and over again.

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, spend 2-3 extra minutes in the shower. Do some breathing exercises, letting the steam clear your lungs. Focus on letting the water wash away your stress, not just your dirt. Push everything but the present moment out of your mind, and enjoy the physical sensations of the shower. A bath is even better, but even these 2-3 minutes of deliberately enjoying the water can loosen a lot of tension in your mind and body.

2. Stretch your body

I’m not suggesting you introduce hour long yoga sessions into your days (although that’s not a bad idea), but a little bit of stretching will do you a lot of good. Even a few minutes of stretching at your desk can make you feel a lot better.

Personally I try to do 5-10 minutes of leg stretches in the morning and two sets of wrist stretches, one in the morning and one at night. This maintains my flexibility and reduces the pain caused by my repetitive strain injury. If you’re lucky enough to not already have an RSI, these stretches can help prevent one–along with a myriad of other health problems.

3. Stretch your mind

Learning something new is one of the best ways to refill your creative well, and for us writers, that’s the most important thing self care can do. And you’re already holding the ultimate learning tool in your hand, using it to read this article.

What should you learn? Anything you want. And yes, the vast majority of it can be learned for free, in the comfort of your own home. You can find millions of educational videos on YouTube and thousands of free university courses on Coursera. If you can think of a topic, there’s a free course around it to help you get inspired.

4. Combat Clutter

Fall is a busy time for most of us, and cleaning is often one of the first things to go when we feel overwhelmed. Then our house becomes a disaster zone, and we become less and less motivated to clean it. Eventually it becomes so overwhelming that we MUST clean it, and we spend an entire day (or more) cleaning it.

This procrastination cycle exists for pretty much everything, but house cleaning habits are particularly vulnerable to it. After all, if nobody comes over, who cares what your house looks like?

The truth? You do. It may not be conscious with everything else going on in your brain, but you’ll notice when it’s cleaned. I have a high tolerance for mess (and what looks from the outside like a dis-organization system for my files), but even I feel better when I manage clutter. And even 3-5 minutes of cleaning can keep things in check if you do it every single day.

5. Start a gratitude journal

The science behind gratitude journals and gratitude itself has been proven many times. It helps you notice and focus on the good parts of life, enhances empathy, and builds resilience. And once again, you’ll only need a few minutes a day.

You can buy a structured gratitude journal, use a regular notebook, or create a document on your phone/tablet/computer. Some people even post their gratitude journals on social media, reminding people of the good in the world. The only thing that really matters is taking the time to list three things you’re grateful for every single day. They can be small, like a dollar you found on the ground, or massive, like a life altering trip around the world.

Want to start a gratitude practice with me? One of my self care goals for this fall is to start a gratitude journal of my own, but I don’t accomplish much with social accountability. Maintaining self care goals is particularly difficult, because I’m the only one who notices most of the differences.

So I’m going to make myself accountable, and you can join me! Every evening I’ll post three things I’m grateful for on Twitter with the hashtag “#gratefuldailies”. You can also mark your Tweets with this #GratefulDailies image:

#GratefulDailiesTwitter ChallengeWatch for the #gratefuldailies posts @DiannaLGunn. If I miss a night, I’m obligated to post two the next night–and it’s up to YOU to keep me accountable.

Once you’ve read my post, create a #gratefuldailies Tweet of your own. The only rule is that you must share three things you’re genuinely grateful for, however small or large or silly or serious. Let’s see how many nights in a row we can keep ourselves grateful! To get daily reminders to post your gratitude journal, leave your Twitter handle in the comments below. Reminders will be sent out at 3PM EST via Twitter, and the challenge starts tonight, October 9th. 

Let’s bring a little bit of joy into our lives, each other’s lives, and the Twitterverse!

#Inkripples: Career vs. hobby – where do you stand?

It’s been a few months, but I simply couldn’t resist weighing in on the topic for this month’s #Inkripples challenge, career vs. hobby. For those of you who don’t know, #Inkripples is a blog hop featuring themed posts from a variety of authors. The challenge was started by  Mary WaibelKai Strand, and Katie L. Carroll, and I’ve already participated several times this year.

Without further ado, let’s get into this month’s topic!

#HoldOnToTheLight and shine it into the darkness of our minds

holdontothelightToday I’d like to tell you a story. It happened to me, and parts of it are still happening to me.

Two and a half years ago I happened my way into one of the best jobs in the world. I was doing sales for a web development company, and one day my boss asked me if I wanted to join his new endeavor–a non-profit teaching kids how to make cool stuff. Things like woodworking, tech, web design, and much more. And I would start by photographing a collaboration with the TDSB, a working model of the Ontario power system.

I jumped at the chance, and for roughly 10 months I worked there three days a week. I poured my soul into everything from basic set up to photography to overarching marketing strategies. And I loved every minute of it (well, okay, not EVERY minute but most of them). Most of the time I go out of my way to avoid kids, but watching them discover their creative potential was incredible. Seeing how well my coworkers taught and worked with those kids was even better.

I imagined a bright, wonderful future for myself there. Maybe not forever, but for a few years at least. I would help them reach out to kids in the suburbs and expand their programming into all kinds of arts. Eventually I would teach my own courses there, once I established my skills.

At the end of ten months–a couple weeks before Christmas–I was let go. The conversation was long and difficult, so I won’t get into the details here. All I’ll say is that it ended with us on good terms, but I was still totally heartbroken. And the farewell bonus I received didn’t do much to make it better.

I sank into the deepest depression of my adult life. I knew I needed to find new work right away–the hubby was quitting to retrain in film–but I was incredibly discouraged. What could I possibly do that would be anywhere near as awesome? Where could I find as many opportunities to flourish? I’ve always enjoyed my freelance work, but that job was something more. When I worked there I actually felt like I was making a difference in the world.

Things went downhill from there. There were gaps, two or three weeks long, between work for both of my major freelance clients. I found all kinds of little side work, but it didn’t nearly replace the income. I burned through all of my savings in a matter of months, and with the hubby still retraining, I began climbing into debt.

Of course I kept looking for things, but my confidence and mental health were shattered. I can’t express the number of times I almost turned myself away from an opportunity, thanks to an inherent belief that I didn’t deserve it. Or the number of underpaid, soul draining gigs I took because I didn’t have the energy to search for anything better. I was exhausted by both my hunt for work and my depression.

Every moment of every day I was painfully aware of how broke I was becoming, but I still buried my head in the sand as best I could. And I certainly didn’t talk about it, or the stress it caused me.

This spring things began to even out. My first book, Keeper of the Dawn, came out in April. I haven’t gotten my first royalty check yet, but it’s sold both consistently and well since it went up for pre-order. I’ve got some new, well paid freelance work. There are other exciting things happening in the background, including a couple co-writing projects I can’t really talk about yet. Oh, and I’m writing a setting for the tabletop RPG some of my darkest tales before. I talk readily and openly about the struggles I faced as a teenager. It’s time to do the same with my current struggles.

I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get out of my current problems, but I know one thing: when we let our darkness hide in silence, we give it strength. If we want to defeat it, we must expose it to light, to scrutiny. We must admit our struggles before we can overcome them.

Most importantly, we must face the darkness together. No one person can make it alone.

#Holdontothelight Awareness Campaign

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK),SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to Facebook.

You can also check out my #HoldOnToTheLight post from last year.

Have you ever struggled with depression? Financial woes? I want to hear your stories (if you’re willing to share) in the comments section below!

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Your personalized definition of success

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2 Hi folks! Today I’m once again participating in the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community. In the past few months I’ve focused mostly on the community-building aspect of the writing life, discussing things like Twitter chats and beta readers. Last month I switched gears to focus on the internal side of writing with an article about evening pages. Today I’m going to focus in on one of the most important aspects of a writer’s mental health: our personal definitions of success.

Calling all writers! I need YOUR help building the ultimate #amwriting resource guide

Ultimate Resource Guide Scifi and Fantasy WritersSeptember is here, which means that thousands of savvy novelists are beginning to plan their Nanowrimo 2017 novels. I want to make things easier for them – and I need YOUR help to do it!

The Ultimate Resource List for Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers

Way back in 2014 (doesn’t that feel like a lifetime ago now?) I compiled three massive resource lists for writers:

I then compiled all three lists into a massive PDF and made it a freebie for my newsletter subscribers.

This blog has shifted to focus more on the mental aspects of writing, but craft is still incredibly important–and knowing where to start can take a massive weight off your mind. So I’m bringing the Ultimate Resource List for Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers back! And this time it’s going to be even better. I’ll be adding a Community Building Resource List with 20+ resources.

Oh, and I’ll be releasing all five lists in a bundled ebook on October 5th. Three weeks isn’t the ideal amount of time for planning a novel, but it’s better than one–and I want to spend the extra time making sure this is the best list of writing resources ever compiled.

The book will be available to anyone who subscribes to the BLOG UPDATES section of my newsletter. I may also make it available to non-subscribers for a brief period of time.

What you can do to help

Submit your favourite writing resources to me!

My original Ultimate Writing Resource List was published in October 2014. This means two things: some of the links are dead, and millions of new writing resources have been published. I want YOU to help me find the best current resources so I can update and expand my list.

What am I looking for? Any article, video, or course that focuses on worldbuilding, character development, or plotting. All resources must be freely available to the public. I don’t want to sign up for anything, and I’m sure most of you don’t either.

Other than that, anything is fair game! You are welcome to submit your own blog posts/other writing content. I will personally vet all submissions, but I’m willing to give even the most obscure writing exercises a chance.

Sound good to you? Send the name, link, and one sentence descriptions for all your favourite writing resources to diannalgunn@gmail . com. All information should be in the body of the email.

Submissions must be sent by September 25th to be considered for inclusion.

Self care doesn’t have to cost money

Free Self Care (1)The first section of my self care email course (which you can get FREE by signing up for my newsletter) tackles a variety of myths about self care, but there’s one major myth it doesn’t really get into: the idea that self care costs money. Today I’d like to help you challenge this myth.

How the media encourages us to associate self care with spending

In the past few years–and especially since the 2016 American election–mental health has been brought into the light. The stigma is still pervasive throughout society, but we’ve started having the conversations. And many of these conversations revolve around the concept of self care. I would even go so far as to say that self care has become the most popular conversation related to mental health.

It’s my birthday tomorrow!

Birthday Q and A ad 2017

Hi folks! I don’t have much to say today because I’ve been WAY too busy working on Big Exciting Things for fall – and for tomorrow! Because tomorrow’s my 24th birthday, and I just HAD to do something special with you folks! I’ll be hosting a live video Q&A on my Facebook page tomorrow night at 6PM, and ONE LUCKY PERSON WILL WIN A SIGNED PAPERBACK COPY OF KEEPER OF THE DAWN.

Can’t make it but have questions? Post your question as a comment here or as a response to my Twitter thread and I will do my best to answer it in the video! I’ll then be posting the video on my YouTube Channel, so you’ll be able to watch it whenever you have a chance.

I hope you make it!!

Why you should blog about anything BUT writing

Quill pen with old papers a on wooden surface

Note: This is an updated version of an old  article, part of an effort to improve the educational quality of this website. You can read the original version here.

Starting a blog is a great way to build an author platform and a great way to show potential publishers and clients how serious you are about writing, but your blog shouldn’t be about writing. I’d even go so far as to say your blog should focus on anything BUT writing.

As serious writers dedicated to building a career from our craft, we spent a lot of time thinking about writing. I follow half a dozen blogs about writing and I’ve read some great books on the subject. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo and other writing challenges numerous times. Writing is at the center of my life, so it seemed natural to blog about writing.

You probably feel the same way. If you sit and think about it for even five minutes you can probably come up with a dozen ideas for writing-related articles. You’ll probably even get excited about a few of them. But blogging about writing is often the worst way to build an author platform.

Here’s why you should blog about anything BUT writing:

1. There are already thousands of writing blogs

Every writer who’s serious about building a career from their craft has at some point considered creating a blog about writing. An online presence becomes more important for writers every year, and we all know a blog is a great way to build one.

Still, an online presence has been essential to a writer’s success for a long time. And writers have been blogging about writing since blogging was invented. Some of my favourite writing blogs have been around for ten years or even longer. Many of the most successful bloggers, the ones we’ve all heard of, started back when the internet wasn’t so crowded. The age of their websites gives them extra credibility with Google, and frankly, many of these sites offer fantastic advice.

There are also thousands of writers in different career stages, from the writer who just started their first novel to the writer who’s published a dozen, who blog about writing with varying levels of success. Each one might be able to offer a somewhat unique perspective, but in the end there’s only so much information to be shared about writing.

All of these factors combine to make writing an extremely competitive blogging niche. Deciding to blog about writing is setting yourself up for a struggle. These days there are millions of voices clamoring for attention in almost any niche, but in most other niches your writing skills will actually set you apart. If you’re blogging about writing, most of your competition are also good or even great writers.  You’ll have to work much harder to stand out from the crowd if you start a blog about writing than you would in an industry filled with mediocre writers.

2. Writing about writing means you’ll only attract writers

My blog has always been focused on writing and helping other writers, and in some ways this has served me well. I’ve mentioned before how the writers I’ve interacted with here on the blog have often become my biggest cheerleaders. They’ve hosted me on their blogs, bought copies of my books, and shouted my accomplishments from their virtual rooftops. I am grateful for all of these connections and the support I’ve gained from them.

But your primary audience probably isn’t writers, and not all writers are going to be interested in your books. Moreover, the majority of readers have some interest in your writing process, but they will eventually grow bored of hearing about it. And the last thing you want is bored readers.

Today’s readers want to know who you are outside of writing. They want to know about your favourite shows, movies, and books. They want to know about your hobbies. They want to see you as a whole person, not just a writer. You can post the occasional insight into your writing process, but most readers don’t want to know more than when the next book will come out. If you can give them insight into another area of your life–and maybe even help them with similar things in their own lives–you’ll get a lot more traction from actual readers.

So why do I blog about writing?

As I mentioned above, I started blogging about writing because it seemed like the most logical choice. I also started blogging young, and I jumped right into it without any strategy whatsoever because I’d read somewhere that it was a good thing to do. Along the way I made many mistakes, and starting out with a blog entirely about writing was one of those mistakes. It did a good job of netting me freelance clients, but my readership numbers remained small and my audience consisted entirely of other writers.

Over the years I’ve considered changing my blog’s topic many times. I even changed my blog’s name from “Dianna’s Writing Den” to “The Dabbler” because I hoped to focus on a wider variety of creative endeavors. Unfortunately nothing ever stuck (turns out I’m REALLY boring when I’m not writing). The only other topic I’m passionate enough to blog consistently about is reading, and I have mixed feelings about authors doubling as reviewers.

Eventually I reached a point where I had to make a decision about my blogging: either I would quit and focus entirely on my fiction writing, or I would find a way to turn this blog into a business of its own. I also knew that I really needed to update my subscriber freebie, so I asked my social media followers what they’d like.

The clear winner was a pamphlet called “Self Care for Creative People“. I started outlining this pamphlet and quickly realized the subject was big enough for an entire book–and voila, I had the beginnings of a business! One perfectly suited to the audience I’ve already built here. It will be at least next year before the book is published and I start offering courses on self care, but I have a firm direction, and a reason to pour even more time and effort into this blog than before.

In other words, I kind of did this whole blogging thing backwards, and now I’m working on books for writers to go with my blog. I don’t recommend that anyone take the weird roundabout route to a business that I appear to be taking. It involves years of hard work you don’t get paid for with rather slim chances at even recovering your investment. And if you don’t want to teach writing or write books for writers, the audience you need to be focusing on is readers.

So please, blog about ANYTHING but writing.

Want to stay updated on my progress with Self Care for Creative People? Sign up for my newsletter below and you’ll get FREE access to a 3-part email course on self care, along with regular blog and publishing updates.

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#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Evening Pages

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2
Hi folks! Today I’m once again participating in the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community. In the past few months I’ve focused mostly on the community-building aspect of the writing life, discussing things like Twitter chats and beta readers. This month I’m switching gears to focus more on  the internal processes of writing, starting with something I’ve come to call evening pages.