Not sweating it

On our way home from the desert last weekend, we stopped by the Palm Springs Book Festival. This event isn’t anywhere near the scale of the Los Angeles Festival,* but it was still a lot of fun.

We had front-row seats at the forum where Valerie Bertinelli talked about her new memoir, Losing It, And Gaining My Life Back, One Pound at a Time. Her book is about food and weight loss, yes, but the overarching theme is Valerie’s spiritual quest for a lightness of being.

Valerie’s an engaging speaker – casual and honest, sometimes to the point of being raw. I especially enjoyed the Q&A session, where her personality took center stage. And although I would have enjoyed a deeper response, I got a kick out of her pithy answer to my ponderous serious question:

Me: Being on Jenny Craig probably meant comfort food wasn’t an option. So what coping mechanisms helped you work through, and then write about, the most painful parts of your story?

Valerie: Sex.

What do you do, when you’re writing difficult scenes? How do you shake off the painful elements when your writing session ends? I’ve always enjoyed working in the garden, but I’ve recently rediscovered aerobic exercise as a way to release some of my emotions. When I’m doing interval training on the Precor, sometimes the tears start flowing…uninvited but not unwelcome. At first, I wiped them away quickly, but now I just let them flow. Most gym rats probably mistake the tears for sweat, anyway. And even if they don’t, how much does it really matter?

*Yes, I know, I still need to post my notes. Next week, I promise… 


  1. Exercise is good! I find that walking one of my dogs helps a lot. Being outside is quite theraputic for me! When I was away last summer on a week-long residency to work on my 1st book, I got incredibly emotional about a particular scene (very hard for me to write) – and I would work on it, then go outside and walk around the garden until I felt grounded enough to continue. So – for me, getting outside and being in nature is my therapy.

    • Ah, we’re kindred spirits like that. Being re-grounded outdoors in nature really does help me keep my footing.

      Oh, how I’d love a weeklong residency in which to work on my book among other writers…

      • Actually – it wasn’t that kind of residency. Although I would love to go to one where I was in the middle of a group of writers!

        I was at the Mary Anderson Center, which is on the grounds of the Mount St. Francis Friary. I was the only novelist there. There was a poet, a clay artist and a non-fiction writer sharing the space. Here’s their website…

        So, I was quite alone, except for seeing the other residents in the halls. I really loved it. No responsibilities, except my writing – that was it. It was heavenly! There was just a fabulous feeling of creativity – and, for me, I loved the hourly chimes from the chapel. It reinforced (at least for me) that creativity is a spiritual venture. 🙂

    • But what about those times when the writing (i.e. topic) itself is stressful?

      Yeah, all that BIC time can lead to BIG rear end. That’s where the exercise comes in. 🙂

  2. I actually do my best to avoid scenes that get me too emotional…I can write about emotional subjects, just not things I’ve personally struggled with — which is why I admire so much memoir writers 🙂 Your willingness to put yourself through these things again…well, I’m awed by it.

    When I’m still buzzing (either in a good way or bad) from scenes I’ve written, the gym definitely helps! Especially because I read while I use the ellipticals, and getting a different story in my head helps me let go of the emotion from my own.

    • I’m too klutzy to read and exercise at the same time. Truly. The words get all blurry, and I tilt to one side whenever I have to turn the page. One time I slid off the back of the treadmill…I was so engrossed in the book that I forgot where I was. 🙂

      • LOL — I don’t know if I could read on the treadmill, either…oh, who am I kidding? I used to take books on hikes with my family;) I can read anywhere!(except in the car now that I’m older — sadly, it makes me sick to my stomach).

  3. “Sex” lol!

    I eat when I’m writing difficult scenes. Sigh. I’ve got another book to finish and I’m determined not to pack on the pounds like I did when I was writing Revealers–

  4. Being outside and connecting with nature has always worked for me, especially gardening. There is something about getting your hands dirty and connecting with the earth that puts everything into perspective. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas while spreading compost and manure…wonder what that says about how I work? 😀

  5. Oh that’s great that you are letting them flow. I always stop the tears which of course is NOT the right thing to do.

    I do the garden thing too, though we don’t have much of a garden yet. But I go refill the bird baths and water the plants in the courtyard and then go back and try again.

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