Featured Writer on Wellness: Clarissa Draper

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on September 25, 2014 • views: 3547

Clarissa 2When 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.

Walking Gets the Creative Juices Flowing

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.

Cycling Between Two States: Boredom and Stress

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: Family Emotional Upheaval

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: Find Support from Other Writers

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.

* * *

Clarissa 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.

For more about Clarissa and her work, please see Clarissa’s blog, and Goodreads. Twitter: @ClarissaDraper


Book CoverThe Electrician’s Code: An elderly man with only one leg is murdered and left in a pool of his own blood outside his house. To add to the mystery, a note found in his pocket says, “Why Run Backwards You’ll Vomit.” London Detective Chief Inspector Theo Blackwell can’t understand the motive for killing the old man, or the meaning of the cryptic message. Later, a woman is stabbed on her doorstep. The two seemingly unrelated cases have two things in common: apparently random victims and suspects with alibis. As DCI Blackwell works on solving the cases, he requests the help of code-breaker Sophia Evans, who is battling a personal and tricky case of her own. Available at Amazon and Amazon U.K.

The Sholes KeyThe Sholes Key: All across London, single mothers are vanishing.  Lorna McCauley leaves her London flat in the early hours of the morning to buy medicine for her sick child and does not return. Newly-promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley that first appears to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment. Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings. As Sophia’s case (and her personal life) fall to pieces, she receives a strange envelope in the mail. It contains a picture of Lorna McCauley’s lifeless face along with a daunting code. Now the police and MI5 are forced to work together to stop the murders, and Sophia must find her way into the terrifying mind of a serial killer. Available at Amazon and Amazon U.K.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Ann Best says:

    I have always felt close to you, Clarissa. And though I’m sad about your divorce, as Hilary and you have said, your son and your dog are great emotional resources. And determination, which you have. All you have been through and are going through is giving you crucial experience and will be for your good. I think it was Charles Schulz who wrote (paraphrased) that the growing soul is watered best by the tears of adversity. You really are a strong woman. And keep writing those wonderful murder mysteries. I LOVE them.

  2. susan marsh says:

    Clarissa, thanks for sharing your experience – it’s that sense of boredom that I struggle with when the writing isn’t going well. Then – as you said – I fill up my day with distractions from the writing that isn’t coming well. I tell myself I’m giving myself a break from the chair and getting out for a walk in the woods, but – though that may be true – I come back to the writing desk still bored by the story I am trying to write, and start all over again. In some ways this is part of the process early in the writing of a new story, but it is a very uncomfortable place to be. I enjoyed reading your post and all of the comments. s

  3. Thanks for the great tips! It sounds like you are overcoming your adversity and becoming a stronger person. Writing through pain really does help the healing process.

  4. Clarissa, thanks for your tips on physical and mental wellness. Emotional stress bothers me more than physical tiredness. In such times I resort to meditation and deep breathing. In dark moments I tell myself there are people out there who are worse off than I am. It is important to count our blessings.

  5. A great interview with some useful tips since walking does wonders.

  6. What great advice, Clarissa. I too had my husband leave our twenty year marriage. There’s many dark moments associated with being abandoned, but let me say this. Nearly, twenty years later I can tell you I love who I’ve become. I wouldn’t change my journey one bit. And all crises are fair fodder for the writer. Right?

  7. Chere says:

    Great interview! I share your boredom/stress cycle, Clarissa. You put into words what I have never been quite able to explain! I’m usually on the “stress” side of the cycle because it keeps my depression in check to constantly have something to do. (Otherwise I watch 15 hours of Law and Order reruns straight and can’t get out of bed for days.) I’m sorry that you are going through a tough time right now.

    • Clarissa Draper says:

      Thank you for your kind thoughts. I often have the desire to watch 15 hours of tv or sleep, but I try to fight it.

  8. Hilary says:

    Hi Colleen and Clarissa – what a great interview letting us know your life – it can be a real struggle … I know, but obviously not the trials you’ve been through … I admire your tenacity to keep on going – and your son and dog will be your redeemers, let alone you as you are taking control and dealing with the situation.

    Balance is the key … but you’re using your life experiences in your books and that makes total sense – should be therapeutic too …

    Cheers Hilary

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks, Hillary. So nice to have Clarrisa on Writing and Wellness. So true that balance is key—but always a challenge! :O)

    • Clarissa Draper says:

      Yes, it would be sad not to use the emotions I’m feeling in my books. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Thanks for hosting one of my favourite writers! Clarissa, I agree completely about taking care of one’s physical health. It’s absolutely crucial. And that helps to take care of emotional health anyway, which is just as important. Like you, I’m sustained by my writing. It’s why we do this crazy thing in the first place.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Margot! You’re so right that emotional and physical health go together, and both fuel good writing. 🙂

  10. Mason Canyon says:

    Clarissa, enjoyed the interview. Having deadlines do push us to accomplish more than when there’s free time to write as we please. In my early days of journalism, I had an editor tell me my articles were always much better when I worked on deadline than when I had days to write the story. The pressure helps. Wishing you much success and looking forward to your next book.

  11. Sorry you had to go through your husband leaving you, Clarissa. Just keep taking it one day at a time.
    I drink mostly water and we have a lot of vegetables and healthy snacks in the house. I don’t usually snack while writing though, so that’s a plus.
    Great tips for staying healthy!

  12. Clarissa Draper says:

    Thank you for hosting me.

    • Colleen says:

      My pleasure, Clarissa! Thanks for sharing your insights and tips. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone in these struggles. All my best to you and your son! :O)