Living with manic depression and anxiety, the biggest physical challenge for me being a writer is finding a healthy balance between being still, managing anxiety, exercise, and writing.
I also have sciatica, so back strengthening exercise is extremely important. It can painful to sit for long hours at a time.
Walking is My “Writing Meditation”
I usually walk my miniature Australian Aussie a few miles in the morning, which I call my “writing meditation.” It’s like having a flash drive in my brain, which later gets transferred onto paper.
Some of my best ideas come when I’m outside in nature, walking, on an exercise bike, listening to music or observing my surroundings.
I also try to limit my sitting time to two-three hour intervals, after which I get up and stretch or do yoga. Cardio is important for my anxiety, and I try to get to the gym three or four days a week to ride the bike or elliptical.
I find I’m more productive when I am active and get more writing done in shorter, concentrated increments. Swimming is one of my all time favorite restorative activities, loosening the muscles, and mind.
A Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise Have Been Constants in My Life
As a former model, I’ve always been health conscious. Both a healthy diet and exercise have been constants in my lifestyle for over two decades.
Having bipolar disorder and taking psyche medication for the last fifteen years has taken a toll on my body and mind. I developed hyperthyroidism, and sought out the help of a nutritionist.
She’s helped me adopt a non-gluten, low-carb, high-protein, no refined sugar or dairy, green-living diet that includes supplements, as well.
I take a probiotic (Just Thrive) daily as well as a methylated multi-vitamin by Methyl Life. I have a fruit smoothie for lunch every day with Vega Powder and Kefir, and sometimes a Balance power bar. In the evening, a salad and lean meat or fish.
I love alternative medicine and use essential oils daily: lavender for calming, and peppermint for a boost or a headache. For me, diet is as vital as exercise. I do cheat and indulge in a pizza or chips sometimes.
Anxiety Can be Crippling for a Writer
I started writing seriously late in life.
It was my third career, after modeling and being a celebrity makeup artist. Being diagnosed with Manic Depression at thirty-five drastically changed my way of life. The highs and lows of the disease sometimes make it difficult to concentrate to write. Other times I can write for days and days without stopping, which can be creatively liberating, but not super healthy.
Anxiety is crippling at times, and has interfered with my writing goals. I was hospitalized for a month at the beginning of 2016, and spent six months not writing at all, just healing. The third book in The Vast Landscape series has been put on hold for the moment.
I never force a story; it has to feel authentic. I’m also trying not to set goals, and then be derailed or filled with self-doubt. I write the column “Bleeding Ink” with Feminine Collective, and have kept on schedule with two essays a month. Short-term goals feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
If I Stay Present, Healthy Techniques Help
I practice guided meditation, walking the dog, exercise, watching movies, napping, yoga, essential oils, music, and yes writing.
Also, crying can be an emotional stress-releaser. When the world feels too chaotic, or my mind goes too fast or gets too dark, I am hyper aware of what’s happening and usually pretty vigilant about working through my emotions with exercise or quiet time, and writing.
I have been using these techniques for a very long time, and if I can stay present they usually help.
Why The Hell Am I Doing This?
The darkest moment in my writing career is not being an “overnight success.”
I think many writers have the misconception that success happens fast, but for most, that isn’t the case. They work for years and years.
I had no idea the level of difficulty self-publishing and marketing would present. I’ve had enough overwhelming encouragement and positive reinforcement about my writing not to give up.
There are days when I say why the hell am I doing this, and then I remember the soul purpose. If I reach, touch, entertain or help one person through my stories, it’s enough.
I keep going because writing helps me stay grounded, authentic, present, and alive.
Writing is My Soul’s Purpose
My belief that writing is my soul’s purpose, no matter how hard it gets.
I believe words are conduits that carry responsibility and power, and that I am merely a messenger. Writing is bigger than me, and part of my DNA, part of my purpose here on earth.
Advice for a Young Writer: Just Keep Honing Your Craft
Don’t get caught up in the many difficulties you’ll face putting your work out into the world, or the endless rejection letters. Just keep honing your craft and never compare yourself to someone else. That is a recipe for disaster.
Pay attention to everything around you, listen and observe, find your own, unique voice. Don’t try to imitate another writer’s work; it doesn’t ring true.
Don’t listen to the naysayers, critics, or the voices in your head of self-doubt. Take risks, and don’t box yourself into one style.
Keep writing, reading, listening, watching…and you’ll keep getting better. Write because you love it, and can’t breathe without it.
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Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in Brainstorms, Stigma Fighters, the anthologies, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness.
She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.
Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw and heartfelt. Fans of the emotional, soul stirring first novel will not be able to put the exciting sequel, Georgia Pine, down.
Jacqueline writes the column “Bleeding Ink,” with Feminine Collective. For more information on her and her work, please see her website and Amazon author page, or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.
The Vast Landscape: Bold contemporary fiction, The Vast Landscape shares one woman’s journey filled with doubt, mistrust, fame, and self-discovery.
Join Harrison on her quest to find inner peace despite the harrowing obstacles placed in her way. Will she succeed in stripping away her complex armor to unmask the flawed, beautiful, and strong iconoclast kept hidden for so long?
Honest to a fault, Jacqueline Cioffa creates a challenging love story sparkling with narrative originality.
Available on Amazon.
Georgia Pine: The Vast Landscape continues, alive in memory.
The gatekeeper, fixer of Harrison’s family, Georgia Pine. Faint whispers drift from the stars into the evergreen, cottage bedroom. The Cove, a mystic beach, granddaughter’s refuge. The sea, sun, stars and moon welcome their return. The crimson child, with blazing hair and fire belly will do as she’s told, not before she’s ready.
Pyre and brimstone, locks of ginger, gut instinct to guide her.
Fans of the emotional, soul stirring first novel will not be able to put this exciting sequel down. Available at Amazon.