(COVID) Times, They are A’Changin’… For Writers

Sac free library

Little Free Library, Sacramento, CA

The New Normal

Times are changing, for sure. Life is most certainly different as a result of this pandemic. Same ol, same old isn’t anymore. Everywhere I go, I hear the phrase “this is the new normal.” We all have been changed by this virus, internally and externally, personally and globally. How it affects writers has been nothing short of upheaval, including the sad news of a huge loss to the writing world. Last week we lost Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a prolific writer with an uncommon knack for vivid storytelling. His collection of books, including The Shadow of the Wind, (which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog) excited and intrigued me in a way I’d not experienced since I’d read the Neither Wolf Nor Dog trilogy. I recently re-read that book, devouring every page with gleeful delight; it is now a permanent part of my home collection.

I discovered the slightly ragged copy in a Little Free Library in midtown Sacramento. The box in the pic is where I actually found his book, among many others that have provided me with amazing trips down Imagination Lane. Best idea ever, these Little Free Libraries (littlefreelibrary.org for a location near you). For writers, it’s free advertising!

Welcome to The Digital Life

Where are we headed? Into new territory, for many, but familiar for others. Social distancing has forced writers to find new avenues for marketing their works. Some of the safe-distancing options are digital (eBooks), audio (Audible), podcasting (storytelling and reading to audience), and FB groups (among other popular SM).

For those of us not quite comfortable with the digital life (that would be me), I have to think about how to be creative in this new world. Instead of pushing the book itself, I recently decided to turn it into an online course so I can teach the concepts in the book. What better way to get people excited about their health than to actually have me walk them through the information? Since my book is a non-fiction, it’s a no-brainer. I’m a lively speaker and reader, so I know students will enjoy learning along with me. Better retention and they’ll feel they got their money’s worth; win-win.

Oh, The Choices

Options for fiction works may differ; for example, poets can offer a poetry class. Have you considered whether you could teach someone else how to write something? Do you have a degree in Journalism, English, or Communications? The digital life is now in full swing as millennials and many others take advantage of not only the social distancing aspect but also prices for online classes – they’re greatly reduced and there’s a multitude from which to choose.

Maybe you need to brush up on your MLA style or grammar and syntax in your sentences. Maybe you need help with plots and characters. Or writing a mystery. Or a comedy/farce. Whatever your need as a writer, online classes can surely fill it. Lots of experts out there so find classes taught by people with experience and know-how. Yes, we are smart to learn from our own experiences but it is the wise (wo)man who learns from the experiences of others.

Times are certainly changing; adaptability is key to not getting caught behind. Survival of the fittest, Darwin postulated. Change can be a good thing, if you’re willing to go along for the ride.

All That Jitters

Fear Emotion5 clipart MS Office

In this current, and hopefully soon-to-be post-COVID atmosphere, anxiety and fear have ruled many lives around the globe. With good reason. Anxiety and fear about people’s health, futures, finances, etc. are keeping many people up at night and jittery during the day. While anxiety is a normal human emotion, it becomes pathological when it interferes with our daily lives in such a way that is considered beyond the norm. Which begs the question: how does one cope?

With Chinese medicine.

You Have Options

Acupuncture has repeatedly proven its ability to mitigate and dissipate the emotional and spiritual (seen as inseparable in CM) imbalances brought on by just this type of global disaster. In CM, these imbalances are understood to affect one’s shen, or consciousness/spirit. Emotional imbalances affect organ function as well. Chinese herbs, as posted in a previous blog, are a time-tested option for reducing anxiety and associated symptoms like insomnia, rumination and nervousness, without the side effects that often accompany pharmaceuticals.

In his article Anxiety: The Unsettled Shen, Mark W. Frost, L.Ac., writes:

According to TCM theory, the emotions of fear, pensiveness, grief and anger cause the Qi to sink, stagnate, dissipate, and rise respectively.

The Seven Emotions

In CM, the Seven Emotions are: joy (Heart), anger (Liver), pensiveness/over-thinking (Spleen), grief (Lung), fear/shock (Kidney). The emotions that combine to create anxiety are fear (of the unknown, loss, for one’s security/safety), pensiveness (rumination), grief (sadness, loss), and anger/resentment (loss of control over one’s situation).

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

Anger is the emotion controlled by Liver in CM. Liver controls the flow of Qi throughout the body. Anger constricts that movement as does rage, resentment, frustration and bitterness. Chronic constraint (stagnation) of Qi creates Heat internally, which agitates shen/Heart (Liver nourishes Heart in the Five Element system) and fails to anchor shen within the Heart. This can result in disorders of psyche and soma.

The opposite of joy (Heart) is sadness. Sadness, while a normal emotional response to loss can, when extreme or protracted (over longer periods of time), stagnate Heart and Lung Qi, which leads to a Fire deficiency (this can affect overall or various components of bodily functions).

Pensiveness (aka over-thinking/rumination) leads to both stagnation and deficiency, setting up a chronic imbalance in digestive functions (in CM, Spleen controls digestion). This stagnation (excess) and deficiency (reduction in function) bring about the formation of Dampness (wet mucus) and Phlegm (dry mucus), and combine with Heat. Combined with constraint and anxiety, it can manifest as “knots in the stomach” or “butterflies in the stomach.” Depending on the individual, digestion and elimination can be seriously increased (seen with anxiety) or decreased (seen with depression as it causes constraint).

Grief is the emotion associated with Lung in CM. It is similar to sadness in that a prolonged state of grief will cause constraint in the Lung/Heart relationship and likely lead to a deficiency.

Fear is the emotion associated with Kidney in CM. While fear is healthy and keeps us from doing foolish things, it, too, can become protracted as a result of fright/shock (think PTSD and other anxiety disorders). 

When there is an imbalance, fear can foster a general insecurity about life. A deficiency of the Yin aspect of the Water element, the calming, receptive and grounding portion, can manifest as agitation, insecurity, and anxiety (combination of nervousness and fear). (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, D. Thunderhawk, L.Ac., 2016.)

In Conclusion…

This has been a nerve-wracking experience for many around the globe. Meditation, solitude (easy with the shelter-in-place orders), compassion, in conjunction with holistic healing methods (acupuncture, herbs, Reiki, medical Qi Gong, healing hands, etc.), can ground us and reduce, even heal, our anxiety, our jitters. We must continue to move forward no matter what tomorrow may bring. Remember that adversity makes us stronger.

May you find peace and strength to ease your minds and nourish your spirit. Namaste.

 

 

 

Stuck At Home? Make Lemonade From Those Lemons!

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Source: Pixabay

Lots of folks stuck at home right now, including writers. That may be a good thing – for writers, anyway. Sheltering-in-place is providing us all with much needed down time and an opportunity for writers to catch up on writing projects. Some folks might think it rude to market one’s book during such a serious time. I say business is business and this outbreak will eventually subside (hopefully sooner rather than later) but your business won’t. A lapse in marketing now can have negative effects later on. 

Marketing Your Book During a Crisis

Sure, some people are home because they’re sick, but many are home as a preventive. And with the Internet, we can maintain connections with loved ones as well as fans/readers. It’s a great time to reach out to others, whether for a well-check or for marketing your book/s. Use this down time as an opportunity to reach out to people but haven’t had the time. Cuz now you do.

Acknowledge But Don’t Apologize

Don’t apologize for continuing to put your book out there in front of potential readers. Sure, you can acknowledge the current atmosphere. Maybe your book is relevant to this viral outbreak: science/clinical; nutrition; ways to stay safe in a crisis (i.e., how to put together Go Bag), etc. Here are a few suggestions from an article at booklaunch.com on how to tie your book/marketing into what’s going on:

  1. Start a social distancing book club with people (that includes your book). You can have daily/weekly meetings on Zoom or Skype to discuss. This will give isolated people a way to connect.
  2. Run a “boredom promotion” where people can get your books at a discount.
  3. Partner with other authors to promote a box set of all of your books.

I’m running a ‘stuck at home’ deep discount for readers who want to shop smarter in the grocery aisles. Personally, I like the idea of a ‘boredom promotion’; takes their focus off the negative and puts it on something positive. You’re helping people through your book.

Something New

This is also a great time to start a new marketing angle like podcasting. You can host your own show or be a guest on another podcast. Check out radioguestlist.com if you need guests to interview or wish to be interviewed. Great way to get the word out on you and your book and it won’t cost you a dime.

Yeah, we’re all cooped up in our homes but there are ways to invite the world in so it doesn’t feel so lonely. Remember the old saying: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” 

Shelter-in-Place Discount

MB nutrition book-card

 

Please share this with friends, family, and others who may benefit from nourishment…

Because so many of you are sheltering in place, here’s a way to help you get & stay healthy through these troubled times. For a short time (at least until end of March, perhaps to mid-April), I’m offering my nutrition book at a DEEP DISCOUNT (40% OFF!).

Because my book is printed with Lulu Press, there should be little to no delays in the shipping process (unless otherwise noted by Lulu Press). Please, let me know otherwise.

Staying in gives us more time to read, learn how to cook, write more articles, etc. Use this down time as an opportunity to strengthen your and your family’s immune system/s. Eat more fresh food (if you can find it; our grocery stores are doing a fab job in keeping produce stocked), and less boxed food. Use more spices/herbs to help flavor packaged foods. If you can, cook outside on the grill and get some fresh air.

Understandably, in a situation like this, we MUST do with what we have. So be flexible. Be willing to learn how to do something differently. Understand your options and do what you must without inconveniencing others.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

The Viral Effect

Chinese herbs

A Shift in Focus

Okay, so this is going to be one of those occasional, off-topic blog posts I mentioned in my previous post. You know, the one where I discuss something other than writing.

Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is making its way around the globe. In the wake of this pandemic (per the CDC), irrational fears about this virus are just as prevalent. So I wanted to take this opportunity to help ‘clear the air’ on some fears that have gone ‘viral’, especially regarding certain items coming from China – Chinese herbal medicines.

A Long History

Chinese herbs are the most studied herbs on the planet. There exists over 2500 years of empirical evidence (patient-centered treatments and responses) and Western evidence-based trials, though inherently flawed, are increasingly showing the efficacy of many herbs in our pharmacopoeia. Outbreaks of SARS and H1N1 were successfully treated with herbs in some Chinese/TCM hospitals. Chapter 2 of a popular medical text (that got me through four years of herb classes and clinics), Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology (Chen, 2001), is Heat-Clearing and Toxin-Eliminating Herbs. Subsections of this chapter contain many herbs that have either antiviral or antibacterial properties, or both. Several have been tested and show effects stronger than some pharmaceuticals (and without side effects).

There is an irrational fear that anything coming out of China, especially medicinal herbs, is contaminated with the virus. Let me clarify: 1) these herbs must pass muster at customs when arriving in the U.S.; 2) once they arrive at either a manufacturing facility or a large retail operation (in both cases, Kamwo Herbs, located in NYC’s Chinatown, and one of my finest herb sources), the herbs go through a rigorous testing process required by the FDA. These companies are in regular contact with either the CDC and WHO to continue providing safe, efficacious medicines.

Extra Precautions

According to several emails I’ve received from some of my professional accounts, herb companies are currently taking extra precautions when it comes to testing. They’re also reassuring customers that there are no health concerns at this time for the transmission of COVID-19 on packaged goods (traveling far, changes in temperature, etc.). Even the CDC advises that because of poor survivability on hard surfaces there’s a low risk of the virus spreading from packages shipped over days or weeks due to ambient temperatures. 

Seek Out a Professional

One of my concerns is people rushing to order herbs online to treat this virus without first consulting a TCM physician. Another is if you don’t know what you’re ordering or aren’t familiar with the company you’re ordering from, my recommendation is don’t do it. In school, we’re taught to look for specific certifications, such as GMP standards (Good Manufacturing Process) and other certifications. Certain companies (like MinShan) follow GMP standards, while some in China do not (and their formulas may contain questionable substances, including Western meds). It’s important to know the difference.

Also, if you’re not familiar with medicinal herbs, you may inadvertently buy herbs or a formula that is incorrect for your symptoms. This may lead to unnecessary side effects (i.e., loose bowels due to Cold nature of antiviral herbs), no effect (because they’re not the herbs you need), or an interaction (positive/potentiate or negative/inhibit) with other medicines you’re taking, whether plant-based or pharmaceutical.

If you’re interested in going the holistic/plant-based route, seek out a licensed, trained professional. Individual diagnosis is paramount to prescribing the correct herbs in the correct dosages, all in one formula. This will save you money and give you peace of mind, knowing that the herbs you’re taking are safe.

Be careful, and be well.